Their logic is hard to argue with: why are Hindu men not converting? Why is it that only young girls of a marriageable age are surfacing in these cases? And if these girls are so keen to convert, why don’t they go to madrassas, learn the religion and then go through with it?
Shaking with rage, Amarnath Motumal of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), asked this barrage of questions at a press conference on Saturday. It was held with the tearful families of victims of forced conversions who demanded that their girls should be returned to them.
“When a girl is converted, why is she married off immediately?” Motumal said. “If she has converted for the sake of Islam, then why doesn’t she join a madrassa to educate herself and spread knowledge about the religion?”
He said that around 20 to 22 girls are being converted every month, but families do not go public as they fear the incident will ruin their reputation.
The family of 19-year-old Rinkle Kumari, who was allegedly abducted, forced to covert and marry a Muslim, claimed that they are receiving death threats.
“Take the case back or we will kill you all,” is the threat the family received on March 8, according to the Rinkle’s brother-in-law Inder Lal.
A frustrated Lal said that if Rinkle had converted and married of her own free will, she would have held a press conference immediately after the court’s decision. “For six days, she was quiet. It was only when the issue was raised internationally, that she came in front of the media.”
After the last court hearing in Sukkur, Rinkle appeared before the media and stated that she was not forced by anyone. But her family has stuck to its stance that Rinkle’s conversion to Islam and her marriage to Naveed Shah was forced.
“She did not even know the person,” exclaimed Rinkle’s father, Nand Lal, who is a primary school teacher in Mirpur Mathelo. “We have no internet or telephone connections at home, so there is no way she could have been in touch with Naveed.” He informed that Rinkle had recently completed her intermediate studies and two days before Rinkle was allegedly kidnapped, she was planning to go to Karachi to shop for her brother’s wedding.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the family provided new information about the alleged kidnapping. “Rinkle’s friend Kiran was the brains behind the plan. She took money from the kidnappers and gave them all the information about Rinkle,” accused Nand Lal. “We wanted to nominate Kiran in the FIR but the DSP refused.”
According to the family, Rinkle was kidnapped by armed men while on her way to the bathroom built in the courtyard.
“If she had planned to elope, she would have taken her slippers and her sweater,” pointed out her family members. “But she was kidnapped barefoot and without any warm clothes in the cold weather.”
The family, who are in Karachi for the time being, asked that Rinkle should be taken to a neutral place for at least eight days and be allowed to meet her family.
Rinkle’s mother covered her face with a dupatta and wept silently as the HRCP Sindh vice chairperson voiced the community’s troubles. “We can’t even sleep at night, wondering whether our kidnapped girls would become suicide bombers or would they be sold off into prostitution,” lamented Motumal.
He said that forced conversion is not a new practice, claiming that extremists are taking advantage of the religion by preaching at madrassas on how to convert non-Muslims.
“When an underage girl is forced to convert, she is not allowed to meet her family. She is told that the people who gave birth to her and raised her have become Kaafirs.”
The press conference was also attended by the family of 29-year-old Dr Lata Kumari, who was kidnapped on February 28 on her way to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in DHA. Her family alleged that she has been forcibly converted and married to Nadir Baig Dhar, the son of a suspended judge.
Lata’s father, Dr Ramesh Kumar, spoke out against the harsh treatment that the family received in the court on March 7. “The police did not even let us meet Lata at the first hearing of the case and they beat us with sticks,” said Lata’s mother, a hypertension patient. “The kidnappers did not leave burqa-clad Lata alone for even a minute. Nadir and his goons would come in front of me every time I approached her. I could not even look at my daughter properly.”
Kumar said that they knew Nadir from before, claiming that the accused had converted five Hindu girls already. According to Lata’s brother Vishal, Nadir works at the quality assurance department of a motor company.
“Lata clutched my arm and asked me to do something for her,” said a teary eyed Joti, Lata’s sister. “Why are the criminals not letting us meet her, what are they scared of?”
Kumar alleged that the signature on the documents were not Lata’s.
Lata, who has an MBBS degree from Larkana, used to live at the Aga Khan hostel and had worked as a medical researcher. Two of her siblings are also doctors and live in Hyderabad, while the rest of the family lives in Jacobabad.
During the press conference, another suspected kidnapping came up. People from Jacobabad said that a Hindu girl Asha Devi, who used to work at a beauty parlour, never made it home from work.
HRCP’s Badar Soomro condemned the forced conversions of the three per cent minority population in the country. “Why are the extremists after the minorities? Let them live freely.”
On March 8, the Supreme Court directed the Sindh police IG to find Lata, Rinkle and another Hindu girl Pooja Devi, and present them at the next hearing on March 26. However, the families were not hopeful. “They [the courts] record statements under section 164 and then the girl is sent immediately with the criminals,” said Motumal. “She is given no time to think about her decision or talk to her family.”
He suggested that the court should give such girls a week’s time to make up their mind, while they stay at the Darul Aman with their mother.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.