Sunday, December 11, 2011

Editorials in Pakistani Dailies Voice Concern Over Persecution of Hindus in Pakistan

In Pakistan’s Sukkur district, Hindus protest against the killing of the Hindu doctors (Image courtesy: Roznama Express, November 10, 2011)

On November 7, 2011, the first day of the Eid al-Adha celebrations in Pakistan, three doctors belonging to the minority Hindu community were shot dead in Pakistan’s Shikarpur town following a dispute over a Muslim dancing girl. According to Ramesh Kumar, the chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, the dispute erupted after local Hindu boys brought a Muslim dancing girl to the area.[1]

Following complaints from local Muslims, policemen raided the house where the Muslim girl had been dancing and arrested four Hindu boys.[2] Later, elders from the two communities agreed to resolve the dispute after the three-day Eid al-Adha celebrations, but before the matter could be resolved, armed men shot dead the three doctors.[3] The Hindu community has held protests in the Sindh province.
The Hindu doctors’ killing has highlighted the growing persecution of Hindu minority in Pakistani society, especially by Islamic extremists. Hindus constitute only about two percent of the population in the predominantly Islamic nation of Pakistan. In September 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a non-governmental organization, warned against the continuing persecution of Hindus and expressed concern over kidnappings of Hindus for ransom and their forced conversion to Islam.

Tahir Hussain and Zahoor Shahwani of the HRCP told journalists that the situation is serious in Baluchistan province, where dozens of Hindus were kidnapped in recent years for ransom.[4] “Many Hindus have now stopped sending their children to school because of a lack of security. Traders, doctors and retailers are being kidnapped or threatened [in Baluchistan],” stated a Pakistani media report.[5]
In Pakistan’s other provinces, especially Sindh and Punjab, similar reports have revealed a pattern in the persecution of Hindus, which show widescale prevalence of ransom and forced conversion into Islam. In December 2010, the Urdu daily Roznama Jasarat reported that 27 Hindu families from Pakistan had filed requests for political asylum before the High Commission of India in Islamabad.[6]  
In October 2010, a committee of the Pakistani Senate expressed concern over reports that Hindu girls in the country’s Sindh province were being abducted and converted to Islam by force.[7]

In editorials, excerpted below, several Pakistani newspapers expressed concern over the Hindu doctors’ killing, which is being seen as part of a continuing pattern of violence against minorities in Pakistan.
“Such Murders Will Continue to Occur and Go Unpunished As Long As There is Persecution of the Hindu Community at the Official Level”

Following the killing of the Hindu doctors, The Express Tribune daily expressed concern, in an editorial titled “Violence against Hindus,” over the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan, stating:[8]

“While the rest of the country was feasting, three Hindu men were shot dead in cold blood in Shikarpur district on Eid day. The men who were killed were pillars of their community – a doctor and two businessmen.

“The unfortunate fact is that crimes against members of minority communities [such as Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Shia Muslims] are often not investigated. The motivation for this crime seems pretty clear and so, if the police has the will, it should make arrests and convictions.

“The Hindu community had been a target in the area ever since three Hindu men were accused of sexually assaulting a Muslim girl, and it was only a matter of time before the tension spilled over into violence. Sadly, when a crime is committed by a minority against someone in the majority community, it usually leads to collective punishment.

“It goes without saying that this should not be allowed to stand. Such murders will continue to occur and go unpunished as long as there is persecution of the Hindu community at the official level.”
In Sindh Province, “Young Hindu Girls Have Been Kidnapped and Forced into Marriage After Being Unwillingly Converted to Islam”

“A recent study by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that hatred for Hindus is instilled in official Pakistani textbooks. The study said that ‘Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam whose culture and society is based on injustice and cruelty.’ From a young age, Pakistanis are taught that being Hindu equates to being Indian, while the cultural and economic role played by the community in Pakistan is ignored.

“Repression against the Hindu community is especially acute in Sindh. In recent years, young Hindu girls have been kidnapped and forced into marriage after being unwillingly converted to Islam. Local clerics claim that the girls willingly converted and so no crime was committed. In fact, they welcome the supposed ‘conversions’ for bringing more people to the Muslim fold.

“In Baluchistan, too, where Hindus have been part of the community for centuries, they are now being forced to flee out of fear for their lives. All of this is taking place with officials turning a blind eye, even if they are not actually sanctioning it. The hope would be that the murders on Eid would be the last straw. Unfortunately, the history of violence against Hindus would make that diagnosis far too optimistic.”

“The Perpetrators Comprise Islamic Extremists Who See Nothing Wrong in Forcibly Converting or Harassing the Minority Community”

Following the doctors’ killings, the editors of the liberal newspaper Dawn observed in an editorial titled “Hate Crime:”[9]

“The events that led to the murder… of three doctors belonging to the Hindu community in a town near Shikarpur remain shrouded in mystery as conflicting details have emerged in the press. It is irrelevant whether the Muslim girl at the center of the murders was an entertainer or simply someone in love with a Hindu man. The offence committed had all the trappings of a hate crime which was rightly denounced by the highest in the government, Sindh’s opinion leaders, nationalist parties and civil society.

“It appeared a case of the perpetrators making a horrible example of the members of the minority community in a bid to further push the Hindu community to the wall, with a view to keeping in place the social apartheid practiced against it. Unfortunately, as reported by Hindu leaders, there has emerged a pattern in the rising number of cases of kidnapping for ransom, forced conversions and violence against the community over the past few years.

“The perpetrators comprise Islamic extremists who see nothing wrong in forcibly converting or harassing the minority community, totally disregarding the deep-rooted culture of peaceful coexistence that has been the hallmark of Sindhi society for centuries.”

“The Situation in Certain Pockets of Baluchistan, Including Quetta, Where Such Misguided Elements have Reportedly Kidnapped Hindu Traders for Ransom in Recent Months, Is Equally Cause for Concern”

“The situation in certain pockets of Baluchistan, including Quetta, where such misguided elements have reportedly kidnapped Hindu traders for ransom in recent months is equally cause for concern. There is a need to not allow any such criminal activity to take place under the cover of religion for there is nothing Islamic about terrorizing minority communities.

“While it is heartening to see civil society joining the ranks of the Hindu minority in Sindh in their protest against the latest killings, state institutions must play a proactive role in rooting out violence against minorities by bringing the culprits to justice.

“The police must build a prosecution case that stands the test of justice in a court of law and facilitates the judiciary`s role in establishing the criminals` guilt. Meanwhile, sensitizing public opinion to the treatment meted out to minorities must be given top priority by civil society groups and government officials.”

“The [Hindus'] Murders Were a Continuation of the Conflict Between Hindus in the Area with the Muslim… Community”

An editorial in The News daily also expressed concern over the doctors’ killing and the continuing persecution of the Hindu minority in Pakistan, observing:[10]

“The killing of three Hindus on Eid Day reminds us of what is happening to the minorities of the country and why so many have, over the past years, been forced to leave the country. They also remind us of a time when in most parts of Sindh the Muslim majority and the province’s large Hindu minority used to live in peace.

“Dr. Ajeet Kumar and two businessmen Naresh Kumar and Ashok Kumar were shot dead by motorcyclists, who opened fire on the clinic where they had gathered in Shikarpur. A fourth victim, Dr. Satia Paul, who was wounded in the shooting lies in hospital. The Hindu community and the Pakistan Hindu Council have condemned the incident.

“The president [Asif Zardari] has taken notice of it and ordered an enquiry. But we wonder where all this will lead. Past results of similar actions have not been encouraging. The details of precisely what happened are still coming in, following the long Eid break. But it appears the murders were a continuation of the conflict between Hindus in the area with the Muslim Bhayo community.”

“The Situation Will Continue to Worsen; We Need to Find a Way of Ending Hatred and Exploitation, and the Mindset That Nurtures These Traits”

“Only days ago three Hindu boys had reportedly been arrested after bringing a dancing girl to the area for entertainment. It appears their Muslim neighbors called in the police and brought charges of sexual assault against them. As a result, tensions had risen despite attempts at mediation by local Hindu elders. There may be even more to the matter.

“Hindus charge that for some time some elements within the Bhayo community had been extorting money from them – making threats of what could happen if they were not paid. In several cases payments were made. It is being alleged that a refusal to continue with payments resulted in the violent incident.

“The point to be made is that not many believe that enquiries, investigations and negotiations will lead anywhere and that the situation will continue to worsen. We need to find a way of ending hatred and exploitation, and the mindset that nurtures these traits. This message needs to be driven home firmly and efforts should be made to protect those who feel besieged and live in fear.”

From the MEMRI Archives – Former Pakistani Lawmaker Marvi Menon: “It’s Not Easy These Days Being a Hindu in Pakistan; As a Result of These Kidnappings, Many Hindu Families Have Migrated to India”

In January 2011, courageous Pakistani lawmaker Marvi Menon, who earlier this year resigned her membership of the parliament, wrote an article, criticizing the growing anti-Hindu violence in Pakistani society, stating: [11]

“It’s not easy these days being a Hindu in Pakistan. The number of cases of members of the Hindu community being kidnapped for ransom is on the rise, both in Sindh and in Baluchistan. While recently attending a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Law and Justice, I realized that a stringent law was already in place under which a person convicted of this offence could be sentenced to life in prison or even death. As usual, the discussion revolved around the fact that while we had good laws, they were not being implemented.

“Personally, I am against capital punishment – and the logic is quite straightforward: since we don’t give life, we have no right to take it away. And hence life imprisonment is acceptable but not capital punishment. However, the rise in cases of kidnapping, often of children, has altered this view. Those who kidnap people for ransom need to be dealt with a heavy hand – more so because in Pakistan where we hardly ever see anyone punished for this crime.

“In August, before the floods hit [the province of] Sindh, I visited a Hindu Sindhi family in [the town of] Kashmore whose six-year-old had been kidnapped. The mother’s [mental] state was enough to convince me to press for severe punishment as a deterrent to stop this kind of crime.

“I was told that Hindus were being targeted because, by and large, they lacked political clout and made for easier targets. Furthermore, those involved in kidnapping for ransom often had connections to powerful people, and this explained why, in most instances, the kidnappers were never caught.

“The tragedy is that as a result of these kidnappings, many Hindu families have migrated to India. After all, it is better to live in another country than in perpetual fear. This is the biggest failure of the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan – that its minorities don’t feel safe on their own soil….”

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