Daleep Kumar, a businessman from interior Sindh, pays extortion money every month to insure the safety of his wife and 7-year-old daughter. If he doesn’t pay, he places his loved ones at risk.
"Influential big wigs from my area came to my place of business and demanded a handsome portion of my income. As a Hindu and minority in this country, I have to pay whatever they demand," Kumar said while talking to this scribe. When his daughter is at school, he prays for her safe return. Fear of kidnapping always is on his mind.
"I love Pakistan, which is my motherland, but I can’t live here with peace of mind" said Kumar, with tears rolling down his cheeks. He is considering migrating to India for a better and safe future.
Thousands of Pakistani Hindus face a similar dilemma. They love their homeland but face problems on several fronts, including practicing their religion freely, sexual harassment, kidnapping for ransom, forced marriages outside their faith, targeted killings, and religious discrimination in society. Many Hindus have already fled to India to escape persecution and many are planning to migrate.
According to Minority Rights Group International (MRG), census figures of 1951 showed that Hindus made up 21 per cent of Pakistan’s population. By 1998, that declined to 1.7 per cent and today that number has fallen to 1.2 per cent of the total population. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported that around 600 to 1000 Hindu families migrated to India in 2012-2013.
An advocate of Sindh High Court and human rights activist, Kalpana Devi, claimed that forced conversion of Hindu girls is a major factor compelling Pakistani Hindus to flee. She alleged that the trend of selling kidnapped Hindu girls has also increased in the last few years.
Quoting a story of 24-year-old Hindu girl, Kalpana said that she was kidnapped by an influential of the area who allegedly forced her to change the religion. According to Kalpana, the girl was sold twice in one-and-a-half years. When her parents tracked her down, they went to court and demanded her release. Even after the court’s decision in favour of the abducted girl, her parents had to pay money to the abductors for her safe return; she said and added that she had migrated now.
On request of anonymity, another 19-year-old Hindu girl narrated her miseries after she eloped with a police officer and became Muslim. "I was feeling so lucky that a well-settled, handsome guy loved me and agreed to marry me," she said and added that she had no regret for leaving her family and religion. She left her home, religion and family to marry him but after sharing bed for a couple of months, he forced her to marry his father.
"After marrying his father, he re-sold me to another local who abused me both physically and mentally. One day, he brutally tortured me and cut off my long hair. I attempted to rejoin my family and even tried to migrate but failed in both cases. Then a third Muslim man bought me. We got married and now I am living a better life with my husband and two kids in the same city but life is vulnerable for Hindus in Pakistan," the woman said.
Naumana Suleman, Programme Coordinator National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan, claims in her 2013 research paper titled ‘Fact-Sheet Forced Conversion and Marriages in Pakistan’ that 729 Pakistani Hindus were forced to convert to Islam during 2000-2012.
A Hindu doctor, Partap Rai, was shot and injured in his private clinic for not attending to a child patient quickly as per the wish of the child’s family. According to police reports, the father of child shot six bullets and fled away from the scene. Doctors managed to save the life of Dr Partap, but could not save him from paralysis.
The annual report of HRCP for 2013 noted, "Pakistan has become a more difficult country for religious minorities and many Hindus have raised their concern about girls’ abduction and forced conversion to Islam. Those from the ‘scheduled’ castes faced discrimination even at the hands of ‘upper caste’ Hindus in Pakistan."
A 2013 report from Human Rights Monitor shows that 13 Hindus were killed during 2011-2012 in Pakistan and 25 were kidnapped for ransom. The monitor report states that these are only the cases which had been filed and reported otherwise actual numbers would be much higher.
Many Hindu temples have been set on fire in different cities of Pakistan. The latest incident occurred on March 15, 2014 in Larkana when an angry mob set a Hindu temple and Dharamshala on fire in response to alleged desecration of the Holy Quran. According to police report, a Hindu allegedly burned the scripts of Holy Quran. According to Hindu religious clergies, extrajudicial acts are unconstitutional, therefore, the accused should be produced before the court of law instead of attacking religious places and killing innocent Hindus.
At the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947, nobody could imagine that in a country like Pakistan with two major colours in its flag -- green for Muslims and white for non Muslims -- minorities would feel threatened.
Ramesh Lal Motwani, a Hindu member of National Assembly, says that some extremists are violating the constitution and law by attacking Hindu temples and forcefully converting abducted Hindu girls to Islam. Motwani demands safety for Pakistani Hindus which is necessary to erase the negative impression of religious extremism from Pakistan.