* Police ignoring family’s complaints, say they should forget about the girl
By Afnan Khan
LAHORE : The leader of a madrassa allegedly abducted a minor Hindu girl from Rahim Yar Khan and did not let her parents meet their daughter, claiming that the girl had converted to Islam and no longer wanted to meet her “non-Muslim relatives”.
Radha (13) was abducted in December 2009, her parents told Daily Times, adding that they had “knocked on every door stretching from the president of Pakistan to Punjab chief minister and chief secretary, but to no avail”. “Local police, including the former and current district police officers of Rahim Yar Khan, are supporting the people who abducted Radha and are neither registering a first information report (FIR) against the accused, nor are they taking any action to recover the girl from the custody of Abdul Jabbar and Naveed,” they alleged.
Several human rights activists and local Hindu leaders have termed the incident “another case of forced conversion” and slammed the government for not addressing the concerns of the victim’s family.
Mehnga Ram – Radha’s father – told Daily Times that his daughter had been missing since December 21, 2009, and that the family had searched for her everywhere before some friends informed them that their girl was in the possession of the leader of the Darul Aloom in Khanpur.
“We went to the Abdul Jabbar, the head of the madrassa, and others and requested them that our girl be returned to us.”
Forget the girl: They initially denied that Radha was in their custody, but later admitted the fact only to then tell us that they could not allow us to meet our daughter since she had converted to Islam and did not want to see any of her non-Muslim relatives,” the father said, adding that he then went to the authorities, seeking to register an FIR against the culprits, but the police said they could not register an FIR because the “girl had converted and the family should just forget the matter”.
“We took local Hindu leaders and other respected people to the authorities in order to push them to lodge an FIR against Abdul Jabbar, but the officials sent us to then DCO Imtiaz Gul, who after listening to our story took our applications, but did nothing except delay the case and make false promises,” Mehnga said, adding that for months, the family sent applications to “every authority”, but to no avail.
He said there were only a few human rights activists and family friends who were supporting him because he was extremely poor and his only source of income was from a shoe polish stall, adding that local police officers and seminary heads – fearing any action that may be taken against them after the family started sending applications to the authorities concerned – had consented to arrange a meeting between Radha and any one of her family members and had also claimed that Radha had married a Muslim boy named Naveed.
Prakash, Radha’s brother, who went to the meeting a few weeks earlier, told Daily Times that he had met Radha for only a few minutes in the presence of Naveed’s family members and people from the seminary.
“There was absolute silence in the room. With tears in her eyes, Radha could only give short answers to my questions, including why she had gone missing and converted. My sister could only muster up the courage to say that she had converted and was happy,” Parkash said, adding that a few minutes into the meeting, he was told by the people in the room to leave and gave him a number on which he could contact Radha. “That number has been turned off from the day they provided it,” he said, adding that his family is extremely disappointed over being “ignored” by the authorities. “We only curse ourselves for being so poor and sometimes even for being non-Muslims in a country where religion matters. We are not expecting justice from any one and it is simply over for us now,” Prakash said.
Separately, a human rights activist based in the area, Ramesh J Pal, told Daily Times that he had been one of the people who had attempted to pursue the Radha case and had raised the issue at every possible platform, but no significant result could be achieved. “I personally met Abdul Jabbar, but he never entertained any of our requests. This is a clear case of forced conversion. Meanwhile, Dr Araish Kumar, an MNA elected on the reserved seat for minorities, told Daily Times that Radha’s case was clearly one of forced conversion and that he would personally talk to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and request him to act against the seminary chief and the people behind the crime.
However, Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights Tahir Khalil Sindhu told Daily Times that he had received an application on the case and was already planning to take action against the people concerned.
He said that he would bring the case to the notice of the Punjab CM so that action is taken against the culprits.