Pakistani Hindus who have taken shelter in India, breathe a sigh of relief when Ministry Of External Affairs last month gave extension for their stay to one month. About 590 souls are in shelter homes in Delhi. On November 30, 2011, 145 persons decided not to go back to Pakistan after the expiry of their visas, as they were not safe there.
Nahar Singh a government servant and a social worker, after reading the news item in newspaper, volunteered himself to take care of these people on humanitarian ground and obtained Delhi High court orders for their stay in India. In March 2013, another batch of 483 persons came to India via Jodhpur border on pilgrim tourism visas and joined them. Most of them are from Sindh province. Nahar Singh has accommodated 590 persons including children, women and old aged people in 42 rooms in his two houses in Bijwasan village. He has generated little jobs as daily wagers, vegetable and fruit vendors and engaged them in farming as labors so that they should not be burden on society. Of course, some NGOs and generous donors have been providing food, clothing, and books for these disheartened people, said Nahar Singh.
In a petition filed in Delhi High Court, by Nahar Singh Bansal has sought political asylum / extension of stay in India in favor Pakistani Hindu-nationals on compassionate ground and security reasons under article 21 of the constitution of India. The petition further has mentioned that the ancestors of Pak-nationals in question belonged to India before 1947. Partition made them stay in Pakistan. This was unfortunate that the minorities particularly the Hindus in Pakistan remained most neglected and ignored in all spheres and fields of life and human development.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its report in 2010 has clearly mentioned that there has been abduction of Hindu girls and conversion by force in Pakistan every month. Hindu community has been living in Sindh for thousands of years. But, the community is concerned about its security. Hindus were 16 percent of Pakistan’s population in 1947, but have been reduced to 2 percent. However, the 3 million Hindus as per the 1998 census are still the largest religious minority in Pakistan. Most of them live in Karachi, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur regions of Sindh. Sindhi Hindus are still being murdered, subjected to abduction for ransom, or converted by force.
“It’s extremely sad that the Hindu families who have been living in the province for centuries are being forced to migrate from their motherland, and the government is not providing adequate security” said 85 years old Ransingh Advani from Hyderabad, Sindh.
Gaurav Kumar Bansal counsel for Nahar Singh said, “The petition for asylum / citizenship in India deserves to be considered by the appropriate authorities in India. The right to life and liberty can only be taken away after exercising the due process of law as has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of India.” In such a case, even foreigners residing in India are entitled to enjoy the principles of natural justice and right of being heard, said Bansal.
The majority of the Hindu Pak-nationals have no facility to go to schools nor are they allowed to study the language of their choice. This has kept 90% of the Pak-Hindu nationals illiterate. “We have been treated as bonded slaves in Pakistan with no religious freedom. We were in search of opportune time to migrate India and on the pretext of participating in Kumbh Mela we landed here. Due to the constant fear of abductions, we left Pakistan and Sindh,” said Dayal Das. The Hindus are viewed as low castes. They are not considered as equals. For instance, they are not given equal shares in land distribution nor can they marry the people from the majority religion the upper caste.
Similar pathetic story goes with Hindus living in Balochistan. Abduction of three Hindu traders of the same family in Kalat District on July 28, 2012 caused intense fear among the Hindu community in Balochistan. The kidnapping of Sunil Kumar 25, Ratan Kumar 23 and Ramish Kumar, 35,has not received much official or media attention as such incidents have unfortunately become the order of the day in the province.
The big challenge the Hindus in Balochistan face is that of equal rights since they are the ancient people of the land. The Hindus have historically owned major businesses in the districts of Kalat, Jhal Magsi, Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Bolan, Sibi, Khuzdar, Dera Bugti, Mastung, Quetta and Lasbela. As the state of law and order began to deteriorate in 2006, the Hindu community also begun to feel the heat of the military operation and increasing lawlessness. About the exodus of Hindus, at least 100 families from Balochistan have migrated to India while 200 families have left for various districts of Balochistan and settled in Hub, Balochistan’s industrial town bordering Sindh, and other parts of the country.
The Hindus and the Baloch people had lived like brothers for several decades. The situation, unfortunately, changed during the dictatorial days of General Zai-ul-Haq (1977-1988). Since then, there has been a significant change in the behavior of the younger generation of the Baloch as well. Unlike their ancestors, the younger Baloch no longer remained friendly and brotherly with the Hindu community.
Now, the young Balochs are also drifting toward religious extremism and intolerance. A large section of the government is also supportive of violence directed at the Hindus in Balochistan.
Muhammad Akbar Notezai is a freelance journalist based in Balochistan province. Presently, he has been working on Balochistan’s religious minority project, particularly the Hindus. He spoke on the plight of Hindus in Balochistan.
What is the total population of the Hindus and other minority communities in Balochistan and what are their status?
It is difficult to know exactly about the total population of the Hindus and other minority communities in Balochistan because of their mass migration. Minority communities, especially the Hindus, have been migrating from Balochistan to escape persecution. They are passing sleepless nights due to the constant fear in the troubled province. They have been subjected to brutal torture, kidnapping and systematically in Balochistan.
However, Hazaras (Shiites) are Balochistan’s largest religious minority with their total population 500000 followed by Hindus and Christians at 50000 and 32 to 35000 respectively. But, Hazaras and the Christians are living in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, unlike Hindus. Their presence is nominal in rest of the districts of Balochistan. While Hindus are living in Balochistan’s both Baloch and Pashtun belts. In Pashtun belt, they are living in Lorlai and Chaman districts. On the other hand, in Balochistan’s Baloch belt, Hindus are living in almost all Baloch districts with Balochs.
It is quite pathetic that the minority communities, including the Hindus, have not been provided an equal status as the Muslims have in the country. They do not have equal rights. They are considered as second grade citizen. They are treated as low castes. They cannot marry the people from the majority religion, the upper caste, etc.
Excluding the Hazaras and the Christians, the Hindus can only vote for a Muslim, not for a Hindu. There are no vacations declared on the Hindus’ religious festivity days. Briefly, they have no status.
How would you describe the plight of the Hindu community in Balochistan?
After partition, Hindus left Balochistan’s Pashtun belt in a large number due to religious uproar and disturbance. However, they were living quite peacefully in Balochistan’s Baloch belt. The Baloch elders had given to them economic and religious freedom in Balochistan. That is why the Hindus did not leave Balochistan at the time of partition. They felt quite safe in Balochistan.
Unfortunately, 1970s and 1980s, Hindus started facing numerous problems in the country, especially in Sindh when Ex General Zia-Ul-Haq was head of the country. But, I say with confidence that Hindus had lived a peaceful life in Balochistan even in that period.
Sadly, 1990s period turned into a great conflagration for the Hindus in Balochistan. During this time, due to the “Babri Masjid” incident in India, Balochistan’s Hindus had to face wrath. They were tortured, assaulted and humiliated in Balochistan. So much so, the Hindus temples were desecrated, even two or three children were burnt alive in Balochistan’s Lorlai District in a temple.
Hindus’ faced manifold problems, like abduction, religious persecution, migration and killing, intensified during former dictator General Parvez Musharraf’s regime. But, in the regime of President Asif Ali Zardari it was worse. Hindus would be picked up for ransom by criminal elements. Hindu girls became victim of forcible conversions in both Sindh and Balochistan provinces. In Balochistan, they were Sapna daughter of Dolat Ram from Lorlai District of Balochistan, and other girls’ names could not be ascertained but their fathers’ names are: Ram Chand from Mastung District of Balochistan. Dr Vijay Kumar from Quetta District of Balochistan. Mukhi Kalian Das from Mastung District of Balochistan. Shiwal Das, whose two daughters’ religion was forcibly converted, is also from Mastung District of Balochistan. The two more Hindu girls’ religion was converted from Nushki and Chagai districts. There are no F.I.Rs registered at any police stations against such cases.
What will happen to their properties who have fled Balochistan?
In Balochistan, half of Hindu population has migrated. Many Hindu families who left behind their houses have turned into ‘ghost houses’. While in process of migrating, they could not wait for good buyers to sell their property rather sold on cheap prices.
There are still a few houses where aged Hindu parents are solely living. They have sent their children to the other safe places of Pakistan and to India. These old and infirm parents do not want to leave their ancestor houses.
There is also land mafias involved in the province to threaten Hindus to leave their houses, especially the Afghan refugees, so that they could occupy their property for their settlement.
Why did tribal leaders fail to protect life, honor and property of the Hindus?
Being a journalist, I put the same question before one of the well-known Balochistan’s intellectuals, he told “Where are the tribal leaders in Balochistan?” All of them have left Balochistan due to the same law and order situation. They are living in Karachi or abroad. They are hardly seen in their native places.
Moreover, those tribal leaders who could extend great respect for their Hindu community are no longer living in this world. Either they have become very old or lost control over their young generation. That is the main reason that Hindus are not safe now.
Do you suggest there should be political reservation for Hindus?
Hindus are living in Balochistan for centuries. They are son of soil. They are patriot. They are peace-loving people. The issue of their reservations needs to be addressed politically. What is needed that all political parties in Balochistan and the present government should take up this issue on priority, so that Hindus can live in peace and tranquility again in their indigenous place?