NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013

NEW - Vedic/Hindu Calendar for 2013
Shri Ramapir Mandir/Temple in Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pakistani Hindus seek safety in India

By PHP Staff
Tuesday, Augest 07, 2012
(Hindu devotees worship at the Manher Mandir temple in Karachi.—AFP Photo)

KARACHI: Preetam Das is a good doctor with a hospital job and a thriving private clinic, yet all he thinks about is leaving Pakistan, terrified about a rise in killings and kidnappings targeting Hindus.

A successful professional, he lives in mega city Karachi with his wife and two children, but comes from Kashmore, a district in the north of Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh.

His family has lived there for centuries and in 1947 when the sub-continent split between India, a majority Hindu state, and Pakistan, a homeland for Muslims, Das’ grandparents chose to stay with the Muslims.

They fervently believed the promise of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah that religious minorities would be protected. Sixty years later, their grandson says life in Kashmore has become unbearable.

“The situation is getting worse every day,” he says.

Two of his uncles have been kidnapped and affluent Hindus are at particular risk from abduction gangs looking for ransom, he says.

Rights activists say the climate is indicative of progressive Islamisation over the last 30 years that has fuelled an increasing lack of tolerance to religious minorities, too often considered second class citizens.

Das says the only thing keeping him in Pakistan is his mother.

“She has flatly refused to migrate, which hinders my plans. I can’t go without her,” he said.

Hindus make up 2.5 per cent of the 174 million people living in the nuclear-armed Muslim nation. Over 90 per cent live in Sindh, where they are generally wealthy and enterprising, making them easy prey for criminal gangs.

An official at the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi who declined to be named said: “Every month about eight to 10 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan. Most of them are well-off.”

He had no comment on whether the number was on the rise, but Hindu community groups in Pakistan say more people are leaving because of kidnappings, killings and even forced conversions of girls to Islam.

“Two of my brothers have migrated to India and an uncle to the UAE,” said Jay Ram, a farmer in Sindh’s northern district of Ghotki.

“It’s becoming too difficult to live here. Sindhis are the most tolerant community in the country vis-a-vis religious harmony, but deteriorating law and order is forcing them to move unwillingly,” he added.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council and a former lawmaker for Sindh province, said Hindus are picked on by kidnappers and that their daughters are subject to forced conversions to Islam.

“Every now and then we get reports of families migrating. It’s getting worse now. People are extremely harassed and are forced to leave their homeland but our rulers are shamelessly idle,” he told AFP.

Rights activists also say Hindus in Sindh are discriminated against.

“Recently 37 members of five Hindu families migrated to India from Thul town owing to discrimination while three Hindus, including a doctor, were murdered in Shikarpur district,” said Rubab Jafri, who heads Sindh’s Human Rights Forum.

“Lots of violent incidents are happening daily. Most go unreported, which shows vested interests are trying to force Hindus to leave Pakistan.”

According to the Pakistan Hindu Seva, a community welfare organisation, at least 10 families have migrated from Sindh every month since 2008, mostly to India, but in the last 10 months, 400 families have left.

Another survey last year by the local Scheduled Caste Rights Movement said more than 80 percent of Hindu families complained that Muslims discriminated against them by using different utensils when serving them at food stalls.

“Hindu migration is a brain-drain for Pakistan as most of them are doctors, engineers, agriculturists, businessmen and intellectuals,” Jafri said.

But the provincial authorities are reluctant to recognise a problem.

“I do admit that law and order in some districts of Sindh is quite bad, but it is bad for everyone and not just my community, the Hindus,” Mukesh Kumar Chawla, provincial minister for excise and taxation, told AFP.

“Hindus do not migrate in flocks as has been claimed and those who migrate are going abroad for a better fortune,” he said.

Pakistani Hindus are desperate to enter India

By PHP Staff
Tuesday, Augest 07, 2012

Things have just gone from bad to worse for the Hindu community in Pakistan's Balochistan region. So adverse is the scenario that around 100 more Hindu families from the region have applied to the Indian High Commission seeking asylum, Amir Mir reports from Islamabad.

Pakistan's marginalised Hindu community continues to live under the shadow of fear in Balochistan province in the wake of an endless wave of kidnappings, which has compelled many of them to abandon their homeland and migrate to India.

There are recent reports borne out by the privately-run Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that Hindus in Balochistan are feeling threatened in many cases and there are reports of never-ending abductions from the Hindu community.

The Balochistan chapter of HRCP has conceded in its recently released report that of the 300-plus people kidnapped from various parts of Balochistan during the last 15 months, over 50 belonged to the minority Hindu community.

Seen in isolation, these facts and figures may not seem that strange, considering the many problems that currently plague the trouble-stricken Balochistan. However, given the fact that the Hindu population in the province is not more than 30,000, the aftershock of each incident of kidnapping is felt by every Hindu, many of whom have already opted to leave Pakistan.

Although no official statistics are available, Hindus reportedly make up 2.5 per cent of the 174 million people living in the nuclear-armed nation.

Some recent Pakistani media reports say 150-plus Hindu families have already trickled out of Balochistan since last year to destinations as far as Canada but mostly to India next door.

Matters have got so bad that around 100 more Hindu families from Balochistan have applied to the Indian High Commission seeking asylum.

These figures are indeed alarming for the small Hindu community, which has become a soft target of abductions due to the apathy of the concerned authorities.

This is not just a recent phenomenon and has been going on at 'trickle' level for years, but there has been a recent uptick in the numbers of families feeling so insecure that they decided to relocate. Pakistani media reports frequently speak of abduction for ransom, traders and business-people as well as professionals like teachers and doctors, being abducted in broad daylight.

Two recent abductions from Balochistan have added to the sense of uncertainty among the Hindu community in particular.

The first one was the April 9, 2012 kidnapping of Vinod Maharaj Ganga Ram Motiyani, the chairman of the committee that manages the Hinglaj Mata temple in Balochistan, who was kidnapped from the Lasbela, just a couple of days before the annual pilgrimage to the shrine, which he was planning to attend himself.

Thousands of Hindus, including yatris from India, travel to the cave temple of Hinglaj Mata for a pilgrimage in April every year. It is one of the Shakti Peeths of Goddess Sati.

According to a legend, when goddess Sati, the consort of god Shiva, burnt herself in response to her father's anger at her for inviting Shiva to a ceremony, Shiva became furious and started to create disasters, problems, violence, and sufferings in the world.

In order to calm his anger, God Vishnu took the body of Sati and cut it into 51 pieces which all fell at different parts of the Earth. Hindus believe that the head of Sati fell in the area of Hinglaj Mata in Baluchistan. Thus, this area is a revered pilgrimage site for Hindus.

A month and a half since Motiyani's kidnapping, local police have been unable to trace him, amid questions about the identity of his kidnappers. Were the abductors belonged to intelligence agencies, were they Taliban militants or members of a kidnapping ring?

Motiyani's family members have been quoted by Pakistani media as saying that two men clad in security forces uniforms took him on April 6 from a general store he ran, saying that he had been summoned by a police deputy superintendent. That was the last time they saw him.

"We don't know who these men were," said the SHO of the Lasbela police station, Ataullah.

"But we are sure it was not the police who took him away. The men took the DSP's name but he was not in Lasbela at that time. I cannot really say where he is and who picked him up."

Motiyani's family went to the Lasbela police station an hour after he was picked up but were shocked to find that he was not there. According to his brother Lila Ram, when they telephoned Motiyani he replied that he was mistaken about the DSP and said the men who took him claimed he was summoned by a major of Pakistan Army.

Motiyani's phone has been switched off since. However, it is largely believed that he has been kidnapped for ransom.

The other kidnapping, which sent shockwaves through the Hindu community, was that of Rajesh Kumar, the son of Dr Nand Lal, a member of the Quetta chapter of the Human Rights Commission and the Pak-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy.

Rajesh was kidnapped in broad daylight from Quetta on February 13, 2012. His family sources say the kidnappers had established contact with them and demanded Rs 20 million as ransom initially.

Later they reduced the amount to Rs10 million but they are not in a position to arrange the ransom money. It is generally believed by the Balochistan police that the kidnappings are being carried out by revengeful separatists out to create havoc in the province, which is going through an unannounced military operation against Baloch nationalists who want a separate homeland.

However, the family members of Motiyani and Rajesh say their loved ones have not been kidnapped by Baloch separatists but by criminal gangs who are well aware of the fact that the Hindu community is a soft target.

Taking notice of the increasing cases of abductions of Hindu nationals in Balochistan the HRCP said in a statement: "Many Hindus have now stopped sending their children to school because of a lack of security. Hindu traders, doctors and retailers are being kidnapped for ransom or threatened to mint easy money. The son of a well-known Hindu doctor as well as a Hindu surgeon was abducted last year. But their relatives did not file a case with the police, as is the case with most victims who do not file a criminal case against their abductors out of fear."

"The pace at which Pakistan is losing its diversity as a nation bringing together many kinds of people is terrifying because those who have lived together for centuries as part of well-integrated communities, now eye each other with suspicion."

Voicing concern over the rising incidents of kidnappings of Hindus in Balochistan, the Indian government recently reminded Islamabad of its responsibility to discharge its constitutional obligations towards its minority citizens.

"It is the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to discharge its constitutional obligations towards its citizens, including those from the minority community," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in the Lok Sabha on May 9, 2012.

He was responding to the issue of treatment of minorities in Pakistan raised by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi.

However, keeping in view continuous kidnappings of Hindus in Balochistan, it seems that the Pakistan government has not yet taken concrete measures to address the concerns of the Indian government.