“We are not Muslim, we are not Hindu, but first and foremost, we are Sindhi. There is a conspiracy to force Sindhi Hindus to leave Sindh, but we will not allow nefarious elements to succeed,” a political activist was sloganeering in English outside the Hyderabad Press Club.
Like most nationalists, he was hoping his message would be heard not only everywhere in Pakistan but also all across the world.
But the sad reality is, all these protests are of no use; the messages all fruitless. Despite their community's strong resistance, the situation is very much the same as it was yesterday. Hindu girls were converted in the past, are being converted today, and I’m sure, will be converted down to the very last Hindu remaining on the soil of Sindh.
It is true that whenever a Hindu girl in Sindh is kidnapped or converted, a large number of Sindhi Hindus – in the face of fear and hopelessness – are forced to migrate to India.
Also read: Footprints: Hindus in no man's land
After the alleged kidnapping of Anjali Bai Meghwar from Daharki, Kajul Bheel from Matiari district and Karin from Nawabshah (most people not aware of these names), many people including my dear friend Ajeet Kumar are forced to consider the idea of migration.
“As a last resort we have decided to migrate to India," Ajeet told me a few days ago.
"We are completely insecure here. We are looted but our voice is not heard by the people in the saddle, our temples are attacked in broad daylight but no one takes action, our girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted only to hear more empty promises of justice.
"Nothing happened in the last 65 years and we don’t expect any improvement in future. Things will only become wore.”
All the political parties have condemned and protested the forced conversion of 12 year-old Anjali and subsequent marriage to a young man. But while Bilawal Bhutto, the ruling party’s chairman, has taken cognizance of it, most PPP leaders have kept mum as they know there is no way to turn the situation around. Intolerance of faith differentials has gone so far in this country that not only Hindus but Christians, Ahmadis and Shias are equally targeted every now and then.
The situation is chilling.
In a place where Khursheed Shah was recently charged with religious contempt just because of his usage of the word “Muhajir”; where naming a road after Bhagat Singh, a true Pakistani, can cause so much trouble; where murderers, like Mumtaz Qadri, are welcomed with roses; people being forced to leave their faith and embrace the dominating one does not look odd at all.
“In the coming few months we will leave our motherland," said Ajeet. "See, they have brought conditions to this point; they want us to give up the faith or leave the country."
What can one do in these circumstances? Every new incident of forced conversion increases the feeling of trepidation and insecurity, and the desperateness to flee this land. Even well-heeled families are migrating as they think there is no other option left.
Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, member of PML-N told National Assembly that over 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Sindh to India every year.
Hindus constitute five per cent of Sindh's population. Vankwani's figure suggests that 22.22 per cent of the total Hindu community of the province migrate to India every year.
How many years before Sindhi Hindus are completely expelled?
Everyone knows that the Sindh government passed a law last year which criminalised underage marriages.
But has the government taken any action against those who have converted Anjali? Or even just against those who forced an underage Anjali to marry someone?
Anjali Meghwar’s father Kundan Lal has presented her NADRA and school documents in the court before the authorities. These documents certify her age as 12.
But much like the inertia of previous PPP governments, I think this incident will lead to zero action as well. I mean, PPP has not even managed to oust people like Mian Mithu (allegedly involved in Rinkle Kumari and Anjali Meghwar's cases) from its ranks.
Everyone and everything from the police, the courts and the elected assembly members can be controlled with astonishing ease, as it happened in the case of Rinkle Kumari – a girl from the same district converted by the same people last year. A video was released showing assailants brandishing weapons inside the court. Back then, MPAs and MNAs from the district did not utter a single word in support of the victims. Nor have they done so now.
So when people like Ajeet give up all hopes of improvement, they are very much in the right; because when a state cannot even pass the Hindu Marriage Act, how can it protect them and their assets? How can it prevent their girls from being forcibly converted? It can’t. This is the sorriest state for a state.
"It is indeed difficult to leave Sindh. It is our homeland, it has borne us. But we also can’t stop subscribing to our faith. So leaving is the only option left."
Good bye, Ajeet.