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Harassed Hindus in Pakistan Flee to India

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Download According to Indian border officials, more than 400 Pakistani Hindus have arrived in India in the last few weeks with tales of religious persecution.

The Pakistani Hindus, who are coming by road and rail on pilgrimage visas, talk of kidnapping, looting and forced religious conversion.

Inside Pakistan, Hindus are also protesting calling on the government to better protect them from violence from the Muslim majority.

In response the Pakistani President has set up a panel to look into the situation.

But as Bismillah Geelani reports from New Dehli Indian opposition politicians want their government to do more.

Samjhauta Express is one of only two trains running between India and Pakistan.

It runs twice a week and is an important link connecting the two neighbors that share a common culture and history.

It brings together thousands of families and pilgrims wishing to visit Hindu holy places.

That’s why it’s known as the friendship train.

But these days many who arrive from Pakistan bring with them tales of horror and hate –persecution because of their religion.

Mukesh Ahujah, who arrived last week runs a general store in Pakistan’s Sindh province .

“We face a lot of problems there. Our homes and shops are looted in broad day light; people barge in our houses and shops and take away cash and jewellery, our children are being abducted from schools. One of my relatives was abducted recently and the kidnappers demanded a huge amount of money as ransom which we couldn’t afford and after two months we received his dead body. The situation is worsening with every passing day and it seems in the coming days the only for us to save ourselves would be to convert to Islam.”

Another passenger is Suman Kumari from Pakistan’s Sindh province. Over 90 percent of the Hindus in Pakistan live there.

She says the situation is particularly dangerous for women.

“It is much worse in Karachi. The women there are totally unsafe. They are being targeted frequently and face a lot of violence. Those of us who have managed to cross over don’t want to go back.”

Suman says many more Hindu families want to leave Pakistan but the Indian government isn’t issuing enough visas.

Pakistan has more than 7 million Hindu citizens – it’s nearly two percent of the total population.

But in the last five years a spate of kidnappings, murders and alleged forced conversions have left the community with a deep sense of insecurity.

Earlier this month, a teenage Hindu girl was abducted from Pakistan’s Jackobabad city. She later told her parents on phone that she has voluntarily converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. But the community believes she was forced to do so.

Last month the conversion of a teenage Hindu boy was broadcasted live by a Pakistani TV channel during a prime-time Ramadan chat show.

The boy insisted that it was a willing convert.

Gopalapuram Parthasarthis the former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan says discrimination against Hindus is getting worse.

“The population of Hindus in Pakistan according to their 1951 census was 21 percent, according to the 1998 census it was 1.7 percent. These facts speak for themselves, but I leave that aside. Of late, according to Sindh government records, police records, 25 Hindu girls are forcibly converted every month in Sindh. I was in Sindh in the 1980s and this sort of thing never happened. This is a manifestation of Wahabi fundamentalism, one is seeing increasing Wahabi radicalization which is exclusive in Pakistan and it goes against the grain of Islamic belief which has traditionally been a feature of the sub continent. “

But Hamid Mir Editor of Pakistani TV channel Geo News disagrees.

“Religious extremism is more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. But in both these regions the Hindus and Sikhs live in peace. Even in some tribal areas which are tradition Taliban stronghold, these people don’t have any problems, they don’t have problems with the Taliban either. The attacks on them are taking place mainly in Sindh and Baluchistan which are comparatively liberal and secular societies. And it’s not the religious extremists who are doing this but the criminal elements who target them because Hindus in these areas are economically well off, educated and are mostly a business community.”

Lawmakers in both countries are discussing the issue in Parliament.

Some Indian lawmakers are urging the government to take up the issue directly with Pakistan.

The Pakistan president has set-up a three person panel to look into the Hindu grievances.

India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP is also urging the government to give fleeing Hindu families all the assistance they need including Indian citizenship.

Rajnath Singh is a senior BJP leader.

“The government of India should immediately summon the Pakistani Ambassador in India and express its displeasure and concern over the treatment of Hindus in Pakistan. The government should also talk to other nations and bring international pressure on Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of minorities in Pakistan.”

The government hasn’t yet responded.

But a senior leader from the ruling Congress Party Mani Shankar Aiyer says, the opposition is communalising the issue.

And he fears this will threaten the improving relations between India and Pakistan.

“The same forces who are demanding that the Pakistani Hindus must automatically be given asylum here are also demanding that Bangladeshi Muslims should be driven back. We should look upon this in purely humanitarian terms and deal with Hindu or Muslim according to the rules that we have in this regard. If you communalise this, you are only going to damage the India-Pakistan relationship and therefore the relationship between their respective governments and minorities in both countries.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 August 2012 16:35 )  

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