Image Courtesy: AFP
It was recently reported that an autopsy report confirmed that a Pakistani Hindu medical student who was found dead in her hostel room in Larkana in September this year, was raped before being murdered. The student was found hanging from a ceiling fan and her brother had insisted that she was murdered as she was neither depressed and there were no signs that she would kill herself. After massive province wide protests, the Sindh government was compelled to order a judicial inquiry and this finding that she was raped is a crucial finding of the on-going inquiry which is supervised by the Larkana District and Sessions Judgeon the directives of the Sindh High Court.
Hindus in Pakistan, the ignored minority
The less discussed topic is of Hindus in Pakistan. The media has for some reason shied away from highlighting crimes against Hindus in Pakistan who are a small minority, and reportedly, nearly 82 per cent of them are lower castefarm labourers. Although such crimes are reported, they do not come to the fore and catch people’s attention.While the exact number has not been ascertained by either the Pakistan government or any other independent study, it is estimated that Hindus comprise of 2% (around 3 million people) of Pakistan’s population. However, in 2019 the All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat (APHP) launched a campaign to collect data to ascertain the number of Hindus in Pakistan whereby it asked Panchayats to gather such data and send it to APHP. Reportedly, Hindus are mainly concentrated in Sindh province where they form nearly 8% of the population.There were also reports that some Hindu families in Pakistan were hiding their identities due to safety concerns and changed their names to “non-hindu” names.
It was reported in 2015 that as per the Indian government, more than 1,400 Pakistanis were given Indian citizenship since 2011 and majority of them were Hindus. The fateful event of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 led to Pakistani Hindus seeking refuge in India fearing threat tot heir lives. That event, perhaps for the first time after Partition, triggered extreme and massive anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiments in Pakistan. Enraged Muslim fundamentalists demolished a large number of Hindu and other non-Hindu shrines and relics. One example is that of a historical Jain Mandir near the famous Anarkali Bazar of Lahore’s old city.
“Hindus in Pakistan particularly felt vulnerable after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. We felt very insecure as there was a spate of attacks on our religious places,” says Sardari Lal, one of the many people who moved to India with his family, after the Babri Masjid demolition. Pakistani Hindus have often complained of destruction of their religious places, forced conversions and abduction of girls for forced betrothal to Muslim men.
Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani is a high-profile leader of the Hindus of Pakistan and is a member of the National Assembly on a seat reserved for the minorities. He claims that Hindus were being subjected to forced conversion in Sindh where Hindus were the second largest minority and also claimed that Because of the state’s neglect, annually 5,000 Hindus are forced to migrate to India.
Reports of forced conversions
There are also reports of rampant conversions similar to the “love jihad” phenomenon in India. However, in Pakistan it seems that the fears are valid. AnOutlookmagazine report of 2006, had reported of many cases of forced conversions of not only Hindu girls but also young boys. In this report, the Human rights Commission of Pakistan had told the reporter that between January 2000 and December 2005 there were 50 reported cases of conversion of Hindu girls to Islam and as per their investigations, most cases were of abduction and forced conversion.
India has also officially raised concerns against such forced conversions and has asked Pakistan government to take stringent and immediate action to tackle this menace. Early this year, Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan had ordered a probe into reports of abduction, forced conversion and underage marriages in Pakistan after two such cases were reported then.
According to Aurat Foundation, around 1,000 women and young girls from religious minorities in Pakistan are forced to convert to the religion of the majority and marry their kidnappers every year. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan believes that more than 20 Hindu girls are kidnapped every month. In October, the Pakistan People’s Party rejected a proposed bill in Sindh Assembly against forced conversions, clearly indicating that Pakistan’s right wing does not deem their minorities problems as social issues at all and has no intention to correct the social evil.
A prima facie look at news reports on crimes against Hindus in Pakistan indicate that one of the major concerns of the Hindu minority in Pakistan is abductions and forced conversions of Hindu girls, sometimes even minor girls and boys. While the Pakistan government has failed to take decisive measures against this social evil, the decreasing population of Hindus in Pakistan, continue to live in country where they are regarded as “napak” or impure and reluctantly exercise their freedom of religion.One can draw parallels between this and similar rhetoric back home where Muslims (who are a more sizeable minority compared to Hindus in Pakistan) are, in recent times, being targeted sometimesbeing lynched under the guise of cow vigilantism and or by having a mandate of refusing to give citizenship to immigrant Muslims under Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Pakistani Hindu student raped and killed, confirms autopsy report
Why Pakistani Hindus leave their homes for India
Campaign launched to ascertain exact number of Hindus in Pakistan
USCIRF report says India saw declining religious freedom conditions in 2018
Silenced histories, razed shrines: The difficult task of rediscovering India and Pakistan’s shared heritage
Pakistani Hindus in India unwilling to return
Sindh’s Stolen Brides
India urges Pakistan to take immediate action over forced conversions
Pakistan PM orders probe into forced conversion and marriages of 2 teenage Hindu girls
Bill against forced conversion