Amid a mounting sense of insecurity, close to 1,000 families belonging to the country’s largest religious minority group, Hindus, plan to migrate to India — a step likely to raise more questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect its minorities.
A group of 171 Hindus has already crossed the border into India after a string of incidents — especially the contentious issue of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu girls.
Prominent Hindu leaders told The Express Tribune on Monday that their plan of migrating to India came at a time when several Hindu families in Jodhpur, a city in Rajasthan state, which shares a border with Sindh, expressed willingness to welcome the migrants.
“Migration tendency in the Hindu community is on the rise in Pakistan,” said the director of Hare Rama Foundation (HRF), a private organisation working for the rights of the scheduled caste of Hindus. “One thousand [Hindu] families have planned this migration,” claimed Ramesh Jaipal, who recently conducted a survey to study “Exodus of Hindus families… a reality?”
Their visas are under process and they are most likely migrating to India in October or November, he revealed.
The migration plans surfaced after Indian authorities extended a soft corner to Pakistani migrants in Jodhpur. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has reportedly assured his full support to Pakistani Hindu families seeking asylum in India.
Some 7,000 Pakistani migrants, living mostly in camps in Rajasthan, will be awarded Indian nationality if they are able to provide proper documentation, Indian media reports said.
A Hindu lawmaker, Manwer Lal, of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, also confirmed the migration of a number of families to India. He, however, rebutted that there was an exodus.
Around 65 Hindus families have migrated from Rahim Yar Khan and various areas of Sindh and Balochistan to India through the Attari border during the last three months, the HRF survey report claimed.
The key reason behind the planed migration from Rahim Yar Khan is said to be the abduction of a Hindu girl, Kiran Kumari, by four people belonging to the Mehar tribe, who are the followers of Pir Pagara, said Ramesh.
In the light of this development, the National Assembly’s standing committee on human rights chairman Riaz Fatiana has summoned a meeting on October 8 where representatives of the Hindu community will brief the panel. “We will ensure safety of all minorities. We will not let them to migrate. Hindus are [a part] of our homeland.”
MNA Nafisa Shah was unaware of any such move from any part of Sindh. According to her, Hindus have social and religious ties across the border just like Muslims do and they therefore are both visitors and tourists. “Our religious minorities are not insecure,” she told The Express Tribune.
President Asif Ali Zardari has also constituted a committee to look into reports of the mass migration to India. Senator Maula Bux Chandio is presiding over the committee which will discuss issues related to persecution of minorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2012.