KARACHI: A news story with the title, ‘COVID-19: Hindus denied food supplies in Pakistan’s Karachi’, that was released by an Indian news agency, Asian News International (ANI), has turned out to be completely fabricated news.
As The News investigated the matter, it found no evidence supporting the Indian news agency’s claim that the Hindu community was denied food items while they were being distributed in a small coastal area of the city, Rehri Goth, which is inhabited by fishermen, some 10 kilometres away from Ibrahim Hyderi in Karachi.
Ibrahim Hyderi’s Assistant Commissioner Samiullah, Union Committee Chairman Asif Shah, representative of non-governmental organisation Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum that works for fishermen Kamal Shah, and one of the Hindu leaders of Ibrahim Hyderi, Santosh Maharaj, confirmed to The News that there were no Hindus living in Rehri Goth in the first place. “There are only 20 shops belonging to the Hindus in Rehri Goth,” shared Maharaj, who is also a sanitary inspector at the Bin Qasim Authority. Samiullah, who hails from the Khairpur city, said there was no possibility of discrimination on the basis of religion while distributing food items especially in the times of a pandemic.
“To say that Hindus did not get any ration is impossible as there are none in the goth,” he said and added that those Hindus who have shops in Rehri Goth generally help their Muslim brothers by lending them money when they are in need. There are total 70 Hindu families residing in Ibrahim Hyderi belonging to the Bania Hindu Community, according to Maharaj. “Our mother tongue is, however, Sindhi,” he said and lamented that so far they had not been provided any rations by the government. “But it is for all the residents of Ibrahim Hyderi, and it is not the Hindu Community only that has been deprived of rations,” he said and added that whenever any calamity occurred, all the people of the area, including the Hindus and Muslims, suffered together.
The ANI in its story claimed that “During the COVID-19 outbreak, thousands of poor people gathered at ‘Rehrri Ghoth’ [correct spelling Rehri Goth] in Karachi to receive food supplies and daily essentials. However, those who belong to the Hindu community were told to go back since the rations were only meant for Muslims.”
The news item, which was carried by almost all major media houses of India, further mentioned that the Hindu community in Lyari, Sacchal Goth and other parts of Karachi as well as across Sindh was being denied a share in the free food being distributed by the government. This was also categorically denied by the assistant commissioner.
A letter in this regard was written by the office of the Malir deputy commissioner to Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, the subject of which was ‘Food Supplies Denied to Hindu Community’.
The letter explained that one individual from the port-city arranged 150 ration bags and distributed them at the rural health centre in Rehri Goth on Sunday, March 29.
“Rehri Goth is a village and is the home to mainly downtrodden community,” the letter added. “The news of the ration distribution spread across the village and as a result, almost entire villagers gathered at the site to obtain the bags. Therefore, only a few could get hold of the bags, whereas, a vast majority was left empty-handed.”
Moreover, the letter explained that the ration bags were distributed without taking into consideration the religion, race, caste and creed, but purely on a first come, first served basis. “Therefore, this news report is vehemently denied,” the letter read.
The News obtained the contact number of one of the rations’ distributors from the assistant commissioner. The 37-year-old distributor, who requested anonymity because of the controversy, remarked, “Who had the nerves to distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims when thousands turned up seeking the rations?”
“Our purpose was to provide food to humans, irrespective of their religion in such a crisis.” He shared how a group of six businessmen belonging to different industries, such as pharmaceutical, construction and export industries, had collected and poured in donations for the poor segments of the society in the wake of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got to know that people of Rehri Goth hadn’t received any aid, and we decided to help them,” he said and added that they randomly chose different areas of the city.
On Monday, he said that they handed over Rs2,000 to 200 Christian families each at the Saint Monica Catholic Church in Zia Colony and distributed ration bags to the Hindu community in particular in the Gizri area.
It is pertinent to mention here that the welfare wing of a politico-religious party in Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami, carried out disinfection spray in Karachi’s temples and churches in the Korangi and Clifton areas on Tuesday and also distributed cooked food and ration bags among the Hindu and Christian communities.