The Hindu community in Pakistan, already reduced to an insignificant minority, is further dwindling. What happened to the Hindus there soon after Partition is continuing even now.
Unable to stand-up to the harassment by Muslim fanatics, more than 6,000 Pakistani Hindus have migrated to India in the recent past. Incessant pressure to convert to Islam and social alienation are driving the scattered Hindus to crossover to India. Lashkar Das, one of the Hindu migrants now settled in Haryana, echoes the feelings of many Hindus in Pakistan when he says: “I was constantly under pressure to convert to Islam. Some families budged and capitulated, but those who did not became targets for fanatics.” Another Hindu migrant says: “Local residents call us Hindu kafirs. Our children are discriminated against in schools and forced to read namaz.”
Kafirs! Interestingly, this epithet was used by one of the Pakistani terrorists who took part in the Mumbai massacre in November last. The heavily armed terrorist, on seeing a local resident, called the latter a “Kafir”. This supports the Hindu migrants’ contention that some Muslims in Pakistan call the Hindu neighbours as Kafirs.
No wonder Pakistan is now denuded of the once vibrant Hindu community. How did this happen? A note that the Indian government sent to Pakistan in December 1949 throws some light on the eviction, covert and overt, of Hindus from Pakistan. The note charged the Pakistan government with launching a drive against the remaining Hindus in Sindh. In the interior of Sindh, the note said, conditions were reported to be much worse. Owing to ceaseless “official’ harassment, Hindus were forced to embrace Islam.
Substitute ‘no-official’ for ‘official’ and you will get an idea of why the small Hindu minority in Pakistan is further dwindling. No less a Pakistani leader than the recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto said, in June 2006, that served Hindu families in Larkhana in Sind had been threatened with dire consequences if they did not dissociate themselves from her Pakistan People’s Party. She cited cases in which one Hindu was killed by unidentified assailants in Larkhana and another youth, a son of a noted Hindu family of Warand Mal was shot and wounded.
In February, 2008, Hindus in two districts of Pakistan’s Balochistan province warned that the minority community would boycott the upcoming general elections if the authorities failed to trace three kidnapped Hindu traders, even as armed men abducted another business man’s son. Forced conversions to Islam, which began in the wake of Partition, continue unabated in Pakistan. In March 2007, as many as 79 Pakistani Hindus from the Bhaeel community were converted to Islam near Khapro. The converts included 28 men, 25 women and 34 children. The elderly Bhaeels reportedly told an online news agency that they had embraced Islam after being inspired by the teachings of Islam.
All this ties in with what happened recently in the Swat Valley. It looks as though the Hindus in Pakistan, who now number 20 lakh, are in for further truncation in future. This suspicion was confirmed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report for 2006. It says that the state promoted violence by failing to act against those attacking non-Muslims or their properties and their place of worship. The report also lists several cases of forced conversion to Islam, especially of Hindu women.
In September 2005, minority members of the Pakistan National Assembly said that Hindus were being hounded and humiliated to force them to leave Pakistan . They were taking part in a discussion on a call-attention motion on the abduction of a Hindu girl in Sindh and was latter converted to Islam. One member, Krishan Bheel, said many Hindu men were being kidnapped for ransom in Sindh. These incidents were engineered to force Hindus to leave Pakistan where they have been living for the past 5,000 years.
At the time of 1947 Partition, those belonging to Indian religions constituted about 20 per cent of the population in West Pakistan and 34 per cent in East Pakistan. The percentages have now dropped to a little less than two in Pakistan and to about ten in Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan).
All this is in sharp and disturbing contrast to the religious demography in India. The Muslim population in India grew by 1.3 per cent while the Hindu population declined by 1.5 per cent during 1991-2001. The Muslims, comprised 13.4 per cent while the Hindus formed 80.5 per cent with the total population standing at 1.02 billion in the 2001 census.
The policy of the successive Pakistan regimes of turning a blind eye to the harassment and eviction of the remaining Hindu families in places like Sindh has resulted in the continual thinning of the Hindu minority. And this has given rise to Hindu fundamentalism in India. Fundamentalism is something alien to Hinduism, but the injustices heaped on the diminishing Hindu population by Islamic extremists has touched off a wave of resentment in the majority community in India.
There will be meaningful democracy in Pakistan only if its rulers strive to realise Jinnah’s ideal of secularism. It is now universally established that secularism is the bedrock of democracy.
(The writer can be contacted at 16-110, Mirjalguda… Malkajgiri, Hyderabad-47 (AP))