Thursday July 18, 2024

Tackling forced conversions

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
April 05, 2019

How painful that Pakistan, founded by the great law-abiding Quaid-e-Azam, is now known as a country where abductions, child marriages and forced conversions are becoming a norm. Most alarming is that nobody dares to raise voice against this barbaric social evil, and stand with the poor victims.

The recent incident of two Hindu sisters, Reena and Raveena, has raised the sense of insecurity among our peace-loving non-Muslim community. The pain of the victimized family can only be felt by those who believe in humanity regardless of race, colour and religion.

First, the Pakistan Hindu Council tried to tackle the issue on its own for three days. But it failed. The council then proposed a five-point resolution and asked me to raise this issue at every possible and available forum like parliament, media and civil society etc.

I decided to table a resolution and two separate bills in the National Assembly for a permanent fix to this sensitive matter. I am grateful to minority parliamentarians from various political parties, including Lal Malhi (PTI), Dr Darshan (PML-N), Ms Shunila Ruth (PTI), and Ramesh Lal (PPPP), who – irrespective of their political affiliation – supported my resolution.

However, unfortunately rather than appreciating my sincere efforts towards a noble cause, some extremist elements are bust doing propaganda against me. A video clip is currently viral on social media in which some demonstrators, under the cover of religion, are publicly maligning me and my struggle.

In my view, all religions of the world are equally respectable. I highly respect the Prophet (pbuh) who laid the foundation of Madina, the first welfare state of the world. The Charter of Medina emphasized the rights of all citizens.

Whenever I visit Ajmer Sharif, I get the privilege to clean the floor of the shrine with my own hands. I regularly visits the shrines of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and Shah Abdul Lateef Bhittai.

It is a universal fact that association to any religion is connected with the heart – and the human heart cannot be forced. History tells that if on the basis of power, we tried to impose something forcefully then at any time they can get back to their original place.

Regretfully, some misguided elements in our society are targeting minor Hindu girls, who even do not have a national identity card. When we do allow an under 18-years child to drive a car or even smoke then how come we allow minor immature girls take such important life decisions such as change of religion or marriage?

According to psychologists, the social status of women is severely affected after abduction. In most cases, they have no choice but to spend the rest of their lives with their kidnappers. Because they know the bitter fact that if they return then society will be reluctant to accept them. Such unfortunate women are spending a miserable life away from their blood relations.

This is the right time for serious legislation against forced conversion in Pakistan. For this purpose, it is also necessary to study the laws for religion conversion in different countries. In some countries, if someone wants to change religion then he/she has to file an application to the government for a notice of three months and then they also have to appear before a district magistrate about their conversion. In other countries, nobody is allowed to convert their religion before 18 years of age.

From the core of my heart, it is my sincere wish that all political parties must be on one page in enacting legislation to give a permanent end to all such shameful incidents. For the sake of humanity, all parliamentarians are requested to pass my tabled resolution unanimously. A parliamentary committee must also be formed to build a consensus on my bills. Two members from each political party, one Muslim and the other non-Muslim, must be members to give recommendations.

I am quite confident that if we opt for the right direction with good intention then the solution to every problem can be achieved.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani