ISLAMABAD / SUKKUR: Taking notice of large-scale migration of Hindu families to India because of security concerns, the government has decided to beef up security for religious minorities.
Talking to reporters after an Iftar here on Thursday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said visas had been issued to 250 Hindu families under a conspiracy without checking facts.
He was answering a question about migration of 60 Hindu families to India from Sindh and Balochistan after complaining that their shops were looted, houses raided and women forced to convert to Islam.
Seven families consisting of 90 men, women and children belonging to the Hindu community of Jacobabad left for India on Wednesday night, citing lack of safety and security in Sindh.
About six months ago, 52 Hindu families from the same area had migrated to India by buses.
The seven families belonging to Thull, Bakhsha Pur and Jacobabad left by Jaffar Express.
They were seen off by relatives and a large number of people of the community at the Jacobabad railway station. After reaching Lahore, they planned to enter India at the Wagah border. There were emotional scenes as elders with tearful eyes said goodbye to them.
Talking to reporters, Amesh Kumar of Bakhsha Pur said they were businessmen but had been compelled to leave their motherland because of harassment, lawlessness, lootings and kidnapping of girls. He said he had wished to live and die in Sindh but he and other people of his community had decided to leave forever because there was no security of their children.
The Hindu General Punchayat’s chief Babu Mahesh Kumar Lakhani said lawlessness had compelled members of his community to migrate. He said Hindu girls were being kidnapped and people were facing excesses but nobody cared about them.
He alleged that elected representatives belonging to the minorities were not bothered about their problems.
Babu Mahesh said Sindh was the land of love and affection and nobody wanted to leave it, but the members of his community had been forced to take the decision because of difficult conditions, especially insecurity.
He said some people had made their lives hell but the government was not taking action. He said more families would migrate if security was not provided to the community.
Social activist Burj Lal said those going to India included youths who wanted to take the ashes of their deceased relatives to the Ganges.
He said many families had migrated to India from Jacobabad by road.
However, Jacobabad SSP Muhammad Younus Chandio claimed that complete security was being provided to the community in the district.
He said the families were not migrating but they were going to India to perform religious rites and they would return soon.
Khalid Hasnain adds from Lahore: The interior minister said the government had stopped the Hindus of Jacobabad from leaving for India.
They would be allowed to leave after complete verification. “The Indian High Commission should say why it had issued visas to them.”
“Pakistan is our homeland and at the moment we are going to India for visiting our sacred places. But if I find the situation in India better than in Pakistan I will prefer to settle there and others also think the same way,” a man who had arrived from Quetta on Thursday told Dawn at Lahore railway station. He was among seven people who had come with heavy luggage.The visibly tense garment trader said most of the Hindu families in Quetta, Jacobabad and some remote areas of Sindh were scared after their relatives had been kidnapped for ransom or looted in various incidents.
“The situation is worsening but the government is not taking any step to protect Hindus.”
He said he and others had been given a one-month visa by the Indian High Commission to visit Amritsar, Dehli and some other cities. “But if we find a good atmosphere there we will try to settle there,” he said.
Another 257 members of the community arrived in Lahore by trains and buses.
They are staying at the Sikh community’s Gurdawara Dera Sahib and Singh Sanghiani temples and in various hotels near the station.
Ganesh Das, a pilgrim, said he would never think of leaving Pakistan. “I am just going to visit our religious places,” he added.
Several other people staying at the gurdawara, including Rahul Badami, Vanesh, Alooman, Automal, Kamal and Pooja, also said they were going to visit religious places and would return to Pakistan after one month.
Meanwhile, the Evacuee Trust Property Board has made special arrangements for the pilgrims at Gurdawara Dera Sahib.
ETPB Deputy Secretary (Shrines) Azhar Sulehri said the pilgrims had no plan to leave Pakistan permanently.
He said the Indian High Commission had issued visas to 257 Hindus who were going via Wagah border on Friday.