The alleged forced conversion of a Hindu girl and her subsequent marriage with a Muslim man has triggered protests from her community in Sukkur.
Anjali Kumari Meghwar, daughter of schoolteacher Kundan Mal Meghwar, a resident of Mustafa Abad Mohalla, disappeared four days ago, residents said. Subsequently, rumours surfaced that she had eloped with Riaz Sial, son of Anwar Sial, a resident of Maswan Mohalla. The girl’s parents and community, however, allege that she was kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.
On Friday, Kumari was handed over to the police with help of an influential figure of Daharki, but the boy is yet to be arrested. According to reports, Anjali has converted to Islam at Dargah Bharchoondi Sharif and also recorded her statement under Section 164 in a court in Sadiqabad, Punjab two days ago.
The Hindu community observed a shutter-down strike in the town, demanding the girl be handed over to her parents. The police produced Anjali in the civil court on Friday, but her statement could not be recorded as the court time was up.
An official at Daharki police station said that Anjali is in their custody. Asked why she was not produced in the court till now, the official said this matter has to be decided by the high-ups. The SHO Daharki police station, Qalb Abbas Shah, was not available for comments.
President of the Hindu Panchayat Daharki, Mukhi Namo Mal, talking to The Express Tribune, said that Riaz’s father had been working in his cotton factory as a watchman for the last many years. According to Namo Mal, the girl is too young to take big decisions like marrying or converting to Islam. “We are observing a complete shutter down strike in Daharki and if justice is not delivered, then we will widen our protest.”
Mukhi (chief) of the Meghwar community, Jaswant Meghwar, endorses Namo Mal. “Anjali is just 12-years-old and therefore neither can she marry, nor can she choose another religion of her free will,” he said, demanding of the police to hand over the girl to the parents.
Prominent Hindu lawmaker and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, has recorded protest during the recent session of the National Assembly regarding this case.
The other side of the story
On the other hand, Pir Abdul Khaliq of Bharchoondi Sharif confirmed that the girl had contacted him some days ago and had expressed her desire to convert to Islam. He added that she had filed an application in the court, demanding protection. Pir Sahib further said that “Islam does not allow forced conversion and we do not force any Hindu to embrace Islam. But they do come to us themselves”.
According to him, Anjali had come to the Dargah a couple of days ago and had embraced Islam of her own free will.
He revealed that her Islamic name is Salma Bibi. Replying to a question about Hindus claiming that the girl is under age, Pir Sahib referred to the Rinkle Kumari (Faryal) case, pointing out that her family had also claimed that the girl was under age, but later it was proven that she was above 18 years of age.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2014.