QUETTA: Suresh Kumar, 31, runs a grocery shop in Mastung district, south of Quetta. His family has lived in Balochistan for almost a century now. But now he wants to migrate. And he is not alone in this desire. Frightened by the rise in kidnappings in which their community is being targeted, many Hindus want to leave the country at the first opportunity. “Most of the people are trying to migrate to India or other areas of Pakistan because of the deteriorating law and order situation,” Kumar told The Express Tribune.
These Hindus are ethnic Baloch and they have been unaffected by the insurgency that is raging in the province. However, with the deteriorating law and order situation, they are now being targeted by kidnappers.
According to the Balochistan home department, 291 people were abducted while eight were kidnapped for ransom throughout Balochistan in 2010. Of this, a large number were Hindus.
It is a common perception that most of the victims were released after paying huge sums of money as ransom to kidnappers. Relatives are reluctant to disclose how much money was paid to the kidnappers, fearing that they will be targeted again.
In Quetta there were eight incidents of kidnapping last year, in which four belonged to the Hindu community. The situation is worse in Naseerabad district where 28 people were kidnapped in 2010 and half of the victims belonged to the minority community.
As a result, five Hindu families have migrated from Mastung to India and six more families are trying to seek asylum elsewhere or shift to other parts of the country, say community elders.
As many as 41 people belonging to Hindu community have been abducted during the past three years, while four were killed as they resisted kidnapping attempt.
Juhary Lal, a well known trader, was abducted some 16 months ago in Naal area of Khuzdar district and his whereabouts are still not known.
The recent incident of abducting a leading spiritual leader, Luckmi Chand Garji, has shaken the community. Luckmi Chand, along with five others was abducted on his way from Kalat to Khuzdar a week ago. The captors released three of them and kept the spiritual leader and Vinod Kumar, the son of a well known trader.
Similarly, an engineer, Nanak Ram, was also kidnapped near Rojhan Jamali and his whereabouts are still unknown.
Having lived in the province for several centuries with complete sense of security, such incidents have left members of the community scared.
Hindus have been living in various Baloch-dominant districts like Nushki, Dera Allah Yar, Mastung, Khuzdar, Kalat, Jaffarabad, Lasbela, Marri and Bugti tribal territories, Kharan, Sibi, Kachhi and other townships for centuries.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Minister for Minorities Affairs Basant Lal Ghulshan said: “Recent incidents have shocked us.”
Hindus are the part of Bugti, Marri, Rind, Bezenjo, Zehri, Mengal and other Baloch tribes and completely live under the tribal system.
But Basant Lal said that incidents of kidnappings are not confined to his community only. “Traders and rich men belonging to other sects or religion are also being targeted.”
In the past, the Baloch tribal elders protected people belonging to minority groups and gave equal respect, Lal said. “I appeal to tribal chieftains to help us.”
When asked about to comment about the exodus, Basant Lal said that some families “might have migrated” but said that he was not aware about the dozens of families who are said to have left for India. He also categorically rejected that some Hindu families have applied for asylum.
Lal says Hindu businessmen are soft targets. “Kidnappers can get ransom easily as the Hindus are business oriented and in a minority,” he added.
DIG Operations, Hamid Shakil, is of the view that criminals target only traders and businessmen expecting money and do not care which community the victim belongs to.
Shakil said that another problem was that the victims were not willing to testify against their captors. “Last time we arrested a group involved in kidnapping of a Hindu trader in Quetta but at the very last time his son changed his statement before the court of law thus kidnappers were released,” he said.
When contacted, Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, denied that any Hindu family has applied for asylum in the Indian High Commission. “This is baseless. A person who is resident in India can apply for asylum not someone who is not in that country.”
But Director of Ministry for Human Rights, Saeed Ahmed Khan said that migration of Hindu community started in 2005 and still continues to date. “I have personally observed that many Hindu businessmen families had shifted from Quetta even during the past five years,” he said.
On ground facts contradict the home secretary’s claims. A 33-year-old Hindu chemist, Vijay Kumar, claimed that more than 100 families are making efforts to migrate from Balochistan to India. Not only because of kidnapping for ransom case but also due to extortion. “Our relatives are there in India thus we, Hindus, prefer to settle India,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2011.
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