KARACHI: The issue of kidnapping and forced conversion of Hindu girls in various districts of the province was raised in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday when opposition Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar filed a private resolution seeking protection of the girls of the minority community.
Mr Kumar’s resolution reads: “This house resolves that [the] provincial government takes notice of recent surge of kidnapping of Hindu girls from various districts of Sindh and take steps to arrest the culprits [involved] and give them exemplary punishment and stop forced conversion.”
However, lawmakers belonging to other parties in the house felt that the resolution should not be restricted to Hindu girls, as girls irrespective of their faiths should be protected from being kidnapped and forcibly converted in Sindh.
This is a social issue and not a religious one, says PTI lawmaker
Mr Kumar later moved an amended resolution in the house in which he omitted the word ‘Hindu’ from the original resolution.
Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari put the amended resolution before the house, which was passed unanimously.
Draft law to protect Hindu community
In his speech, Mr Kumar said “hundreds” of Hindu girls had been kidnapped in recent years and they had been subjected to enforced conversion.
“In a few months this year,” said the GDA lawmaker holding printed photos of some of the victims, “41 girls belonging to Hindu faith have been kidnapped and converted.”
He said girls from his community had been kidnapped from various districts despite the fact that “we are the most ancient community living here for millennia and should be given due security”.
He said an amended law to protect the Hindu community drafted and tweaked by him had been lying with the minority affairs department since April with no interest visible on part of the government to present it in the house.
He made it clear that it was not just a matter of scoring points, but, “genuinely we want to live under certain laws that you are not giving to us”.
He referred to a recent statement of Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during his visit to Ghotki in which he had assured the Hindu community of his full protection. “I don’t think that the [PPP] chairman does not want to get that bill passed. His statement clearly indicates that he genuinely wants to protect us. I am sure that we would have not been in such a pathetic state if Mohtarma [ex-premier Benazir Bhutto] was alive today.”
He said the Hindu community should not be pushed to the wall to the extent that they found no way but to migrate from Sindh. “Migration of our people is continuing. We are protesting for protection, but no one is there to ensure us protection.”
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Mangla Sharma said communities practicing minority faiths felt a grave sense of anxiety and insecurity.
She said it was the first time in the past 70 years that Hindu community was protesting in almost every town and city of Sindh. “This is for the first time that Hindu women have taken to streets and everyone knows the reason.”
She said the community had high hopes from the PPP chairman to get the required protection.
Ms Sharma said official figures showed that the ratio of minority communities was on a decline because of lack of protection they were being offered. “Our ratio was 3.72 per cent of the total population in 1998 census, which is now 3.57pc. [Has] anyone ever [thought] why the ratio of minorities has reduced by 0.15pc in the past 20 years?”
She, however, said minority girls were being deceived instead of being forcibly converted. She lamented that politicians from all but the ruling PPP had supported the minorities’ protests.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf objected to the word ‘Hindu’ in the resolution, saying such issue was mainly regarded as a social evil instead of saying a particular community was being targeted.
MQM-P’s Jawed Hanif said it was a fact that Hindu girls were being kidnapped and forcibly converted. He said religion disliked forced measures and the country’s Constitution protected all communities.
He said all Pakistanis should be protected in such times when similar issues were haunting Muslims and other minorities in India. “We, at least, should keep [our] house in order.”
PTI’s Dewan Sachal said basically it was a law and order issue as Muslim girls were facing similar problems.
Minorities Affairs Minister Hari Ram Kishorilal seconded PTI lawmakers when he said it was an issue that equally affected the girls belonging to Hindu, Muslim and other communities.
‘No migration of Hindus from Sindh’
He said a draft bill by GDA’s Nand Kumar would be finalised unanimously by all parties in the house.
He claimed that there was no migration of the people belonging to Hindu community from Sindh.
He added that the PPP and the Sindh government were taking all required steps to maintain religious harmony in the province.
PTI’s parliamentary party leader Haleem Adil Shaikh supported the resolution, but reiterated the party’s stance that the matter should not just be considered a Hindu-specific one. “This is a social issue and not a religious one.”
GDA’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi said on the advice of lawmakers from other parties, Mr Kumar would amend his resolution. “We should not send a wrong message internationally by adopting such a resolution in its original form,” she said.
Education Minister Sardar Shah said interfaith harmony in Sindh was exemplary, which was evident from the fact that in his home district Umerkot, 52pc of its population was Hindu and to maintain the harmony “we do not eat beef”.
He said kidnapping of girls had not just affected the Hindu community, but it was a social evil and should be dealt as such.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Abdul Rasheed said that Pakistan’s Constitution gave greater rights to its minorities.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla said the provincial government was serious in its responsibility to protect all and would continue to serve the whole of Sindh.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019