KASHMIRI Pandits are not alone in being driven out of their homes by Muslim zealots, militants and mercenaries. Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, threatened by the Taliban and Islamists of all hues, too are seeking refuge in other countries, especially India. However, politicians, who have been harping on Hindu terror while trying to play down the real dangers posed by Islamist terror, are silent on the issue. Human rights activists are also silent on the persecution of minorities in neighbouring Islamic countries. While they stridently support Kashmiri separatists, gun-toting Maoists, North-East insurgents and others working against the reality of Indian nationhood, the systematic harassment of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, non-Sunni Muslims and other minorities in Islamic nations fails to move them. It is a glaring example of duplicity.
Recent media reports about the kidnapping of a Hindu guru and four of his companions in Pakistan has triggered protests by Hindus in the towns of Khuzdar, Quetta, Qalat and Naushki. The savant heads the Kali Mandir in Qalat. The incident is but the latest in a series of attacks on minorities in the Islamic republic. Fed up with the increasing hostility against them by bigots, 27 Hindu families in Balochistan – their forefathers hail from the region – have applied to the Indian High Commission for political asylum. Forced conversions, kidnappings for ransom and killings of community members have compelled them to look towards India for help. Reports of religious persecution have emerged from other places too. To cite the example of Uttam Puri, a blind mendicant, residing in a shrine in Amarkot in Punjab, he was ordered by extortionists to pay them `1 lakh or convert to Islam. He managed to escape to Rajasthan’s Sanchor on a tourist visa. However, the inability to get an extension landed him in jail. He stayed in prison for three years.
His case typifies the plight of poor Hindus from neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, both Islamic countries, seeking refuge in India: They are not granted refugee status easily, and Indian authorities seem indifferent to their problems. In the wake of the Muslim backlash against the Ramjanmabhoomi temple campaign in 1992, about 125 families came to Haryana from Pakistan. They are yet to be granted Indian nationality. Over the years, there has been a steady inflow of persecuted Hindus from Bangladesh too. In February this year, fanatics destroyed the Sonargaon temple in Narayanganj district. Earlier, the renowned Ramona Kali Mandir in erstwhile East Pakistan was destroyed. The famous Dhakeshwari temple was vandalised during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, and later, after the Babri structure demolition.
Those demanding restoration of the Babri structure – Muslim clerics and politicos who swear by minorityism mainly – have not raised a similar demand for restoration of temples, demolished in Islamic countries. Lahore’s last temple was razed in 2006 so that a commercial complex could be built at the site. Hindus have moved the Lahore High Court for a directive to restore the temple and stop the construction. Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code prohibits demolition of places of worship. Religious zealots also target females, with kidnappings and conversions being reported. In October 2005 in Karachi, the three daughters of Sanno Amra and Champa disappeared. The local police found out that the girls had been taken to a madrasa and converted to Islam. Hindus in Bangladesh complain about land and property grabbing and rape of their females. The Hindu American Foundation has been highlighting the atrocities. ‘Policy Focus on Bangladesh’, a report prepared by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, states that Hindus are especially vulnerable to motivated acts of violence, which occur “in order to encourage them to flee, in order to seize their property”.
American law-makers, too, have acknowledged the threats faced by Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. United States Representative and House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ed Royce has publicly castigated the targeting of Hindus in these countries. Referring to the human rights abuse faced by them – verified by him during his travels through Bangladesh, Pakistan, Central Asia and South Asia – he makes a strong case for “the international community to step in”. He expresses empathy for a people who, despite the tolerance of their own religion, have been subjected to more discrimination than other ethnic groups.
His words would undoubtedly be music for nationalists and those working for an equitable polity. Political parties that nurture Muslim vote banks now need to tone down their rhetoric, given the growing western concern for the rights of Hindus, under attack by Muslim zealots.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)