RAWALPINDI: The Hindu community is dismayed at government indifference to their demand of a public holiday on Diwali.
The Hindu community representatives have also demanded a special package on their annual festival, which falls on October 23.
Pakistan Hindu Council Patron-in-Chief Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told The Express Tribune that the government was not willing to accept their demand of a public holiday for Diwali.
Vankwani, who is also a ruling party legislator, said grant of a holiday will help reduce the community’s sense of deprivation.
“We are patriotic Pakistanis and it is our constitutional right to have a public holiday on our annual festival,” he said, adding that he would raise the issue in the National Assembly on Monday.
“No political party is interested in resolving the issues of minority communities in Pakistan,” he remarked.
He said official holiday is observed on Diwali in over ten countries including Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Singapore, Fiji, India and Bangladesh while in Pakistan Hindus are marked absent in the offices on Diwali.
The Pakistan People’s Party-led government had introduced a package of Rs10,00,000 for each Hindu MNA for distributing among their communities on Diwali. Vankwani said the PML-N government should continue the tradition.
“Majority of the community is extremely poor and almost 80 per cent work in sanitation, agriculture sectors or on daily wage basis and they need economic assistance from the government especially on occasions like Diwali.”
He said the government should ask all public and private organizations to offer packages and advanced salaries to Hindus on Diwali.
Scheduled Caste Rights Movement Pakistan Chairman and Director Hare Rama Foundation Ramesh Jaipal that the announcement of a public holiday is a must to make Hindus feel that they are part of the society in this country. He said Hindus were among the most underprivileged groups in the country and therefore needed special attention of the government. “The government should announce an economic package for Hindus on Diwali, as it does during Ramazan,” he said.
“Yousaf Raza Gilani was the first prime minister to congratulate the Hind community on Diwali. We expect it from the incumbent government too,” he added.
A Hindu religious leader Guru Sukhdev G said Diwali gives the message of love and brotherhood. “There is a need to spread this message to ward off the threat of extremism in the country. The government should own this occasion to spread the message,” he said.
He said the government should encourage all communities including Muslims and Christians to participate and share the occasion. “We should all celebrate all the festival in the country.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2014.
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