The atrocities on Hindu, Sikh and Christian minorities in Pakistan have now reached alarming proportions. Minorities in Pakistan are now living in a state of fear. Two recent incidents took place in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa provinces, where Pakistani Muslims targeted Hindu and Sikh citizens.
In my primetime show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ telecast on India TV on Monday night, we showed how a Dalit Hindu youth was hounded by thousands of jihadi Muslims on a false charge of blasphemy in Hyderabad city of Sindh province. The other incident related to a young Sikh girl, who was working as a school teacher in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province. She was abducted, gang-raped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to an illiterate rickshaw puller.
In the first incident that took place on Sunday, thousands of Muslims, shouting blood-curdling slogans, surrounded a building that housed Hindu families in Hyderabad city of Sindh province and demanded that the Dailt Hindu youth Ashok Kumar, a sanitation worker, be handed over to them for lynching. Supporters of the extremist Islamic group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) alleged that Ashok Kumar had committed blasphemy by setting fire to the Holy Quran. A local resident Bilal Abbasi alleged that he was told by a Maulana that Ashok has set fire to the Holy Quran.
In the visuals that we showed, the supporters tried to forcibly enter the building by breaking windowpanes, while others tried to enter the building by scaling pipes and balconies. A few dozen policemen stood as silent spectators. The mob ransacked shops and other buildings in the locality. This went on for several hours. Police resorted to lathi charges and tear gas firing. To control the situation, police filed a blasphemy case against Ashok Kumar, and quickly whisked him away to the police station.
Later it was found that Ashok Kumar had not burnt the Holy Quran, but it was done by a Muslim woman. On investigation, police found that Bilal Abbasi had an old grudge against Ashok Kumar’s family, and he leveled a false charge of blasphemy. No action was taken by police either against Bilal Abbasi or protesters. Instead, Ashok Kumar was arrested and thrown into jail, despite being innocent.
Pakistan, being an Islamic republic, strictly enforces the blasphemy law that was enacted by former dictator Gen. Zia ul Haq. Under this law, any person who insults the Holy Quran, or Prophet Mohammed, or any holy Islamic book, in writing or by speech or by action, shall be given the death sentence. This blasphemy law has been used mostly against Hindu, Sikh and Christian minorities in Pakistan. The main intent of those leveling such allegations of blasphemy appears to be to grab the properties of minorities or to take revenge for past enmity. Official statistics say, 71 men and 18 women have been killed in Pakistan on the charge of blasphemy. These are official statistics, and the ground reality is that more than 90 percent of such killings or lynchings are not reported.
In the last two years, several Hindu temples were destroyed or ransacked by Muslim mobs. On January 26, 2020, the Mata temple in Tharparkar of Sindh was ransacked, On August 16, 2020, the Hanuman temple in Karachi was destroyed, on October 10, 2020, the Ramdev temple in Badin, Sindh province was ransacked, and on October 24, 2020, the Mata temple in Nagarparkar, Sindh was damaged, on December 30, 2020, a Hindu temple in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa was set on fire, and on March 28 this year, another Hindu temple in Rawalpindi was ransacked. There are hundreds of people from minority communities languishing in prisons on the charge of blasphemy.
The ground reality is that laws are not required to harass Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan. They are threatened at the point of guns, and in many cases, they are forced to accept Islam.
On August 20, Dina Kumari, a Sikh girl, working as a school teacher, was abducted at the point of a gun by several persons, raped, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to an illiterate rickshaw puller. This incident took place in Buner of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province. She was returning from the market when some gunmen abducted her. She was kept in a remote village and was forced to read the ‘kalma’ (Islamic hymn) and accept Islam. She was forcibly married to a rickshaw puller. Dina Kaur’s relatives went to police stations, but the police refused to register a case.
On Monday, hundreds of Sikhs came out on the streets and staged protests demanding that Dina Kumar be handed over to them. Local Sikh leaders alleged that she was abducted in connivance with local police. When an outcry took place among Sikhs in India and other countries, a video of Dina Kaur was given to the media, in which she was shown saying that she had accepted Islam and married of her own will. In the video, she was shown saying that she was very much attracted to the teachings of Islam.
Sikh protesters challenged the authenticity of the video, saying it has been prepared by exerting force on Dina Kumari. One Sikh protester alleged that the local administration of Buner tortured her and forced her to accept Islam and get married. “They have not registered our FIR in the police station. Senior police officials are not giving us satisfactory answers. They are partners in this crime. The administration forced her to sign the documents”, another Sikh protester said.
A delegation of Indian Sikh leaders led by BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa on Monday met J. P. Singh, joint secretary on Pakistan affairs in the Ministry of External Affairs, and demanded that India must raise the issue of atrocities on Sikhs in Pakistan. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Harmeet Singh Kalka said, Sikhs throughout the world show raise their voice against atrocities on their brethren in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kalka demanded that Sikhs living in Pakistan must be brought to India. There are nearly ten thousand Sikhs living in Pakistan.
At the time of the Partition in 1947, there were nearly 20 lakh Sikhs in Pakistan. This population has now dwindled to 15 to 20 thousand. In 1947, Hindus constituted 13 percent of Pakistan’s population. This has now dwindled to 0.8 percent. Reports of atrocities on Hindus and Sikhs regularly come from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The present process of giving Indian citizenship to these minorities is a long-drawn one. The government of India is now trying to make this process less cumbersome. On Monday, in Ahmedabad, 40 Pakistani Hindus were handed over Indian citizenship certificates. Since 2017, 1,032 Pakistani Hindus have been given Indian citizenship in Ahmedabad alone.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had enacted Citizenship Amendment Act to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but there were protests in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh against CAA. This law has been passed by Parliament and has been signed by the President, but the CAA is yet to be implemented. I feel the government should take two steps immediately. One, it should give a stern warning to Pakistan, and Two, the Citizenship Amendment Act must be implemented at the earliest.
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