A gurudwara pockmarked by bullets, a crumbling mandir, a damaged mosque – all these derelict structures speak volumes about realities of a ‘pluralistic’ society in Dera Bugti today.
As a visit reveals, the destruction of not just worship places, but of the area itself, is abundantly clear.
These charred structures are remnants of the 2006 migration of Hindus. In an exodus that commenced in Dera Bugti when Pervez Musharraf ordered the military operation, over 13,000 Hindus had to take flight. Around 10 Sikh families also relocated to other areas of the country. All left behind their possessions, but not the love for their hometown.
According to the locals, the Hindu community still cherishes its hometown. People are desperate to start the process of restarting their businesses and rebuilding their homes.
“The late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was like our father,” says Ashok Kumar. “We will live and die with members of the Bugti family.”
Ashok claims that over three dozen Hindus lost their lives during the operation, which also destroyed their sacred Marrhi Mandar, the holy mother temple. “The military and the FC personnel torched our shops,” he adds. “However, we want to resettle in Dera Bugti. It is and will always be, our home.”
According to Navand, Arjandas Bugti, who once served as a legislator in the Balochistan Assembly and is now settled in India, offered to help settle the displaced Hindus across the border just as the operation started. A couple of families migrated, but the vast majority declined his offer.
Mumtaz Bibi, the chief lady of the Kalpar tribe, reminisces about the late Nawab Bugti’s special affiliation with minorities.
“Several Hindus sent off their families to other cities but stayed back themselves, simply to support Akbar Bugti, just as his ancestors had protected them for over 400 years,” she says.
Akbar Bugti’s grandson has reaffirmed his grandfather’s commitment and assured the Hindus of his protection. He has requested them to come back to their homes. “We will protect the rights of the minorities,” he says, his voice strong. “Just as we did in the past.”
“All shops were destroyed in the bombing,” says Navand Kumar, a former elected representative of the Hindu community.
Before the operation, the town had over 250 houses and 200 shops, all owned by local Hindus and Sikhs.
During the operation a gurudwara, just 30 metres from a bullet-ridden Hindu Temple, was also destroyed. Now, just some beautiful lines, written in Gurumukhi, remain visible, etched on the entrance. No Sikhs remain. They have also migrated to undisclosed locations.
Similarly, a mosque also came under attack, when security forces opened fire. According to Murree Khan Bugti, it was only partially damaged, but worshippers have since then stopped visiting the building.
An unfitting payback
Kishore Kumar, like many others, is frantically waiting to see something being done. Now settled in Quetta, he urges the government to announce a special package aimed at resettling the Hindu community.
“We, as a community, have suffered a Rs10 billion loss, as the shops were destroyed,” he says quietly.
Hindus have contributed enormously to the Dera Bugti and Sui economy. They owned major businesses in Kalat, Jhal Magsi, Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Bolan, Sibi, Khuzdar, Dera Bugti, Mastung, Quetta and Lasbela.
According to Ameed Kumar, a leader of the community, over 13,400 Hindus have been forced to migrate to Rahim Yar Khan, Kashmore, Kandhkot, Quetta and other districts of Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.