KARACHI: The National Student’s Federation (NSF) organised the formation of a human shield at the Holi celebrations at Swami Narayan Temple today to show solidarity with and protect Hindus in attendance.
The demonstration is an attempt to promote interfaith coexistence and cooperation among different religious and ethnic groups in Pakistan. The NSF leveraged social media to spread information about the event, extending e-vitations to others who share their outlook on religious tolerance and wish to participate in the demonstration.
A member of the NSF describes it as a “progressive leftist organisation” dating back to the NSF of the Ayub Khan era. The organisation experienced a revival in 2006 – 2008.
The NSF recently organised a Progressive Day School in Karachi ─ a series of one-day workshops to educate guests about issues like religious extremism and terrorist ideologies.
Earlier this year, the NSF also organised a show of solidarity with Shias at the Shah-i-Najaf Imambargah in conjunction with the Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA). The event was attended by notable individuals including Dr. Jaipaal Chhabria, President of the Pak Hindu Forum, and Mohammad Jibran Nasir, lawyer and political activist.
General Secretary Karachi of the NSF, Fawwad Hasan, told Dawn, “When we showed solidarity with Shias at the Imambargah, Dr. Jaipaal Chhabria joined us and stood alongside us so it’s only fair that as a group, we extend the same courtesy to all Hindus in Pakistan who face a lot of prosecution of different kinds."
He cited the desecration of Hindu temples, forcible religious conversion of girls against their will, and suppression of culture and religious practices as reasons for showing solidarity with and protecting Hindus.
“We are not religious fundamentalists who take religion into our own hands, that is not what we do,” he explained. “Society as a whole has to show change and be a part of that change. If you don’t stand up for someone else’s rights today, tomorrow you will also be targeted and there will be no one to stand up for your rights.”
Commenting on the need for an end to sectarian violence, Mr. Jibran Nasir had earlier said “Four imambargahs were attacked across Pakistan in the past five weeks.”
“We gathered outside Shah-i-Najaf Imambargah to form a human chain to send a message of unity and solidarity as our response to the sectarian violence by banned outfits including Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat."
“This imambargah is situated off Jehangir Road with poor security arrangements in place and is not a typically posh area, yet many people, including Sunnis, came forward to raise their voice against the brutality. It’s time to raise our voices against cruelty and brutality regardless of ethnic and political backgrounds and sectarian beliefs.”
These sentiments are echoed by the NSF which seeks to disrupt a narrative of government apathy concerning religious minorities.