Mysterious deaths

August 16, 2020

A migrant Hindu family from Pakistan dies in India under mysterious circumstances as a grim reminder of challenges faced by vulnerable populations in their quest for a better life

Every day, scores of people across the globe embark on challenging and perilous journeys as they migrate from one country to another, amidst hostile environments and challenges in the quest for a better life. Some lose their lives because of suffocation in containers managed by agents during the journey whilst some are detained, refused entry or killed by forces deployed on borders. They can also fall prey to human trafficking and suffer because they enter the host country illegally.

The story of 11 members of a family of Pakistani Hindus who had migrated to India is somewhat different but equally disturbing. Ten of them were found dead in Jodhpur on August 9. They had gone went there with dreams of prosperous life in India but death was waiting for the ill-fated family. The family went to India in 2012 on a long-term visa. The family was living on a farm which they had leased for cultivation in Jodhpur district. According to Indian media, police had found chemicals and injections.

The deceased include Budhraram Bheel (75 years old), his wife Antara Devi, their son Ravi (31 years old), and two daughters, Jiya (25 years old) and Suman (22 years old) were found dead in mysterious circumstances. Another 40-year-old woman and her five children were also killed. Kewal Ram, a member of the family, survived because he was sleeping in the fields to guard the crops and animals and came home in the morning. According to him, everyone was dead by the time he arrived, reported Indian media. The autopsy report revealed that they had been given some poison, a police official told Indian media.

Police are investigating the matter and have detained some people including the wife of Kewal Ram, who is the only survivor. Police suspect that a dispute between Kewal Ram and Ravi might have provided the motive for the murders. A preliminary probe suggests that the deceased were first given sedatives in their food by one of the victims, identified as Priya, a nurse by profession.

“After victims fell unconscious, they were given insecticide injections. The poison mixed directly with blood and they died in their sleep,” says Rahul Barhat, the Jodhpur police superintendent, in an article by The Hindustan Times.

The Hindustan Times article quotes the SP as saying that Priya had injected the poison in her body through a cannula on her leg. He noted that the injection had been administered in a very professional manner and only Priya could have done it. According to him there were two possibilities: it could be a case of mass suicide or murders committed by Priya after which she killed herself. The article says that “On the occasion, other migrants protested. Hindu Singh Sodha, head of the migrants’ organization, Seemat Lok Sanghtan, questioned the police account and demanded a high-level inquiry”.

“The Indian government was responsible for these deaths. It has failed to protect the lives of migrants,” says Mahinder Pall Singh, a Member of Provincial Assembly and Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, who holds that the environment in India I dangerous for minorities, especially after the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. He reiterates that the responsibility for protecting the family lay with the Indian government.

To a question about how members of the Hindu community had migrated from Pakistan to India, he said that Pakistani Hindus usually travelled to India to visit their holy places.

“Many Pakistanis Hindus have applied for asylum in India citing threats of forced conversion and accusations of blasphemy”, says Ravi Dewani, the general secretary of All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat. He says that measures like the opening of Kartarpur corridor and restoration of temples in Sindh are encouraging. He says these measures should encourage the minority communities to take up their issues and pursue solutions.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Member of National Assembly from the ruling party, holds the view that Pakistani Hindus should not seek asylum in India. He says asylum-seeking in foreign lands is forbidden in the Hindu religion. Citing from the holy book, Bhagavad Geeta, he says that Pakistani soil is like a mother for those who were born here. They should not leave their mother for petty gains.

While the case of the mysterious deaths remains unresolved, Ramesh says that those who have left for India will find life difficult there as India’s internal political situation is unstable and not favourable for foreigners.

The author works for The News. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Mysterious deaths