KARACHI: The Hindu families living in interior Sindh are planning to move to other cities as an increasing number of their boys are being kidnapped.
When five-year-old Dheeraj Kumar was released by kidnappers after 35 days on Wednesday, all his family could think of was to leave Kandhkot and settle somewhere else. He ran towards an overjoyed father while his mother was busy praying for his safe return at a dargah in Shikarpur.
Dheeraj’s kidnappers had demanded Rs10 million in ransom but had to surrender when the police intervened. While Dheeraj is surely not the only boy kidnapped in Kashmore, as kidnapping of Hindu children have once again taken a toll in upper Sindh, he is definitely the first one to be released without the payment of ransom.
Since the beginning of this year, at least eight children of this family have been kidnapped and released in return of a hefty ransom. Four-year-old Peer Chand was released for Rs200,000, five-year-old Pewish Kumar for Rs330,000, five-year-old Sagar Kumar for Rs170,000, seven-year-old Veeraj Kumar for Rs350,000 and three-year-old Mahik Kumari for Rs100,000.
These are only those cases that have been reported to the police and it is believed that the number of unreported cases is much higher.
Narrating their ordeal, Dheeraj’s uncle, Gyan Chand, said that the boy was kidnapped in front of them on the day of Eid. He was taken to the nearby village of landlord Ali Memon Khoso, which is generally a forbidden territory for the residents.
When around 40 residents followed Dheeraj to Khoso’s village with a resolution not to return without saving him, the police intervened and sent them back, promising the child would be returned soon, Chand recalled.
Later, the police started telling them that Khoso will not let the child go without ransom and that they should make arrangements for money. “It was only after the media and the civil society intervened that there was pressure on the kidnappers to release the child without taking ransom,” he said.
DPO Kashmore Syed Asad Raza Sheikh said that the boy was recovered after a heavy contingent of police confronted the bandits. The Hindu residents insisted, however, that cases of kidnappings have increased due to the weak law and order situation. Chand also pointed out that the crime rate was much lower “when the army had control in Musharraf’s era”.
One of the underlying factors behind these kidnappings is that all these children either belong to one family or have some relations to business-oriented families, said Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child’s provincial manager Suhail Ahmed Abro.
Since the families always agree to the conditions put forward by the kidnappers, their children have become more vulnerable, he said, adding that the criminals target them due to lack of resistance by the victims.
Hindu residents agree that children of other communities are also kidnapped but the rate is still higher among Hindu families.
Dheeraj’s uncle accused the Baloch population and the police of being the masterminds, who have made it into a business by minting millions of rupees from poor people.
Residents have also complained that the Hindu MNAs and MPAs have also failed to protect their community. Since they are not representatives of the community but selected members of ruling parties, “why would they serve their people?” questioned Dr Ramesh Kumar, patron of Pakistan Hindu Council.
Meanwhile, Dheeraj’s father, Shashpal Das, said he is “extremely happy” that his son has returned safely. Too afraid to name the accused, he said that he would take his son to the dargah in Shikarpur, where his mother is waiting to receive him before their gods.
On the other hand, Chand is too tired of the lawless life in his district. “I will go to Karachi and sell channa cholay on a push-cart,” he said. “I won’t stay here now as there is no life like this.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2010.
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