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December 19, 2019

Activists protest against Hindu woman’s ‘abduction, forced conversion’

Karachi

December 19, 2019

A large number of civil society activists, including those from the Hindu community, and the family of 20-year-old Mahak Keswani, who went missing from Karachi’s upmarket Defence Housing Authority neighbourhood on December 13, participated in a demonstration on Wednesday to protest against the woman’s alleged abduction and forced conversion.

A video being widely circulated on social media shows Mahak saying she has willingly converted to Islam and is not being kept held captive by anyone. She says in the video that her new name is Mahak Fatima, adding that she travelled to Dargah Bharchundi Sharif (managed by Mian Mithu, an influential spiritual leader commonly known in connection with conversions), which is located near Daharki in Ghotki district, where Mian Javed performed the formal ceremony of her conversion to Islam.

However, her family members who participated in the protest claimed she was kidnapped from Karachi and now she was found to have embraced Islam in Ghotki, some 700 kilometres away from the metropolitan city where she had been residing.

“We believe that Mahak’s video statement was recorded under duress. We have seen such incidents of conversion in the past. This latest occurrence is a type of forced conversion,” said a Hindu activist.

“A few months ago, Hindu girls Reena and Raveena were seen in videos circulating on social media as they embraced Islam. They are only 16 and 14 years of age, and thus too young to be married.”

The activist asked how come the “kidnappers were able to take Mahak 700km away from Karachi and the police and other authorities could not trace them, even though an FIR was registered against her abduction”.

The protesters also asked why only young Hindu girls are getting inspired to embrace Islam. “Why don’t we find older Hindus doing the same?” said Birma Jesrani, the main organiser of the demonstration.

“Before the age of 18, one is considered a child. How could a child be making major decisions such as changing their religion or finding a life partner? Why aren’t these children allowed to enjoy their childhood?” said another activist.

Raj Kumar, a Hindu community leader, said they are tired of “threats and pressure being exerted on us just because we are part of a religious minority”. The protesters held banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the alleged atrocities against the minority community in the province. They also chanted slogans against Mian Mithu for “forcibly converting Hindu women and marrying them off”.