Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Fate has forced them to stay silent on such an important Hindu festival, which was celebrated on Wednesday, as it was not possible to celebrate the occasion with the same vigour in a relief camp. Both cousins remember how every year they enjoyed the celebrations with special foods, however, at the relief camp, they were being given boiled rice and gram.
The girls, with their families, shifted to a flood relief camp in Swami Narain Temple in Karachi set up by local Hindus, after floodwaters inundated their town completely. Both girls are close friends and residents of Mirpur Bathoro, a small town in Thatta district, which is located in the Indus delta region and being at the end, it is the worst affected district of Pakistan.
Not only Sumela and Deepa, another 250,000 Hindus of Sindh, who left their native villages and towns and shifted to relief camps after the flood, could not celebrate the religious festival of Janmashtami. The celebrations comprising special foods, prayers, visits to temples, religious rituals, recitation of bhajans and fasting, which are supposed to be an essential part of the festival, are impossible to arrange at the relief camps.
Pakistan Hindu Foundation (PHF), a representative body of Pakistani Hindus, has estimated that floods have severely affected 250,000 Hindus living near the Indus River and forced them to leave their native places.
The last national census stated that with a population of 3 million, Hindus are the biggest religious minority in the country while a majority of them are peasants, living in different districts of the Mirpurkhas division.
“Around 0.6 million Hindus live in the northern districts of Sindh while 250,000 were displaced from Kashmor, Jacobabad and Shikarpur, and have been shifted to camps,” said PHF president DM Maharaj.
Most of them preferred to stay away from relief camps and rushed to temples, but the majority of them were poor and the so-called upper caste Hindus did not allow them to enter the temples.
Jaitan Bai, a Baghari by caste, was sitting outside the Swami Narain Temple but the temple management and Pakistan Hindu Council officials have barred her family from entering the temple. She alleged that she was disallowed because of her caste.