The alleged abduction and conversion of a minor Hindu girl in Thar has triggered a wave of anger and indignation among members of the area's Hindu community.
Ravita Meghwar, 16, had allegedly been abducted by men from the Syed community of Wanharo village near Nagarparkar, Thar, on June 6th.
Yesterday (Thursday), the girl, along with 'husband' Nawaz Ali Shah, had met with local journalists in Umerkot to 'inform' them of her consent in both embracing Islam and her marriage.
She claimed to have embraced Islam in the presence of Pir Mohammad Ayub Jan Farooqui, an Islamic preacher, near the Samarro town of Umerkot district.
On Friday, the girl once again claimed to journalists in Islamkot that she had not been kidnapped but had eloped with Shah. She also demanded protection for both herself and her husband.
However, the Hindu community, along with the girl's family, has insisted that she was kidnapped and forced to convert. Satram Das Meghwar, Ravita's father, has alleged that influential members of the Syed community had kidnapped his daughter after giving sleeping pills to the family.
He alleged that despite frequent appeals, Thar police avoided tracing the girl till she was forced to convert.
According to the marriage certificate issued by the preacher, a copy of which is available with Dawn, "The girl is approximately eighteen years old, can marry the person of her choice and her Islamic name is Gulnaz".
However, according her primary school certificate, available with Dawn, Ravita was born on July 14, 2001.
The PML-N MNA from Thar and chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, has expressed his concern over the alleged abduction and the subsequent conversion of Ravita.
"A Hindu girl below 18 years of age cannot be converted according to the Hindu Marriage Act," he told Dawn.com.
Activists from various communities and political parties have demanded the early recovery of the girl and her production before a court of law. They have termed the abduction of the girl an attempt to vitiate the peaceful and harmonious atmosphere of Thar.
Scores of people have also taken to social media to condemn the incident and demand a probe into the incident. They have also questioned the validity of the marriage certificate issued by the cleric, who they claim is a controversial personality and has been involved in many such cases.
PPP Senator from Thar Engineer Gyanchand has also expressed his anger and indignation over the issue.
An FIR was registered on the girl's request at the Dano Dhandal police station against four persons — Syed Nawaz Ali Shah, Syed Noor Ali Shah, Mohammad Nohrio Junejo and Sher Ali Junejo — on Thursday night.
The station house officer of Dano Dhandal police station, Mubarak Rajar, has said that the couple had submitted an application in Sindh High Court, seeking 'protection' from the girl's parents and other relatives.
He also said police were conducting raids to arrest those nominated in the FIR.