They prefer to die than returning to Pakistan?
Treated as inferior, shamed, ill-treated, modesty of womenfolk violated; without a chance for decent education, job, civil rights or even cremation of the dead?
By Pramod Kumar
Since a couple of weeks there are reports in the media that a group of about 140 Pakistani Hindus, who entered India on tourist visa in the first week of September, has refused to go back even after expiry of their visa. They have sought asylum and eventual citizenship from the Government of India in the hope that it would allow them to make India their new home.
Currently living in tents put up by an NGO at Majnu Ka Tilla in north Delhi, the old, the young and the children have only one appeal to the Government of India—“extend our visas and give proper accommodation in the city”. They have also written to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in this regard, but yet to get any reply.
What is disturbing is that in case their visa is not extended, which appears unlikely so far, or they are forcefully deported to Pakistan, they have said that instead of going back they would prefer to die in Bharat only. “It is better to die here by the hands of our own Hindu brethren, rather than going back to again undergo the same torture and humiliation that we have been receiving since decades. If killed here, at least our last rites will be performed according to Hindu rituals, which too is a distant dream for Hindus in Pakistan now,” they say.
Extremely pained over such feelings of these people, I decided to meet them to understand the sufferings and ordeals, which forced them to take such a drastic step, leaving behind their everything—relatives, family members, ancestral property, cattle, birthplace, and above all the risk of being put behind the bars in India. My curiosity to meet them deepened when I thought about the statement of our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who sometime back had said that “Muslims have first right over the national resources of India.” Not only this the Muslims in India are being given new concessions and benefits everyday and now there are attempts to even grant them reservations as well as to reserve 12 per cent of the total budget under 12th Five Year Plan. On the other hand these minority Hindus in Pakistan are undergoing heartrending ordeals which have forced them to even flee their birthplace.
I went to Majnu Ka Tilla, where these people presently live in tents, on December 13, 2011. Making rotis in an open space surrounded by her children, 30 year old Anita Devi said, “Our decision to leave Pakistan will at least give our children a better life and education in a peaceful and respectful environment. There is no religious freedom in Pakistan. We were never allowed to study. We have always been targeted without any reason. We were waiting for Indian visa for seven years so that we could come here and settle in Hindustan. We just don’t want to go back at any cost.”
My conversation with Anita Devi had just begun, their group leader Ganga Ram started enquiring about me. After my introduction, he readily agreed to speak to me. He then took me to other people of his group sitting outside a tent. He told them to share their sufferings with me. Living in penury they said they belong to Matiari district near Hyderabad of Sindh province. They took a train to Lahore and reached Attari Border by bus on September 2. They had visa permission to visit Delhi, Haridwar and some other pilgrimage places of India. This is how they reached the Ashram of Baba Dhunni Das Maharaj in Delhi on November 21. Originally, they were 146, but after the sudden death of one Kanhaiyalal (18) they now remained 145.
Fifty one-year old Mittharam summed up why he fled Pakistan: “Children went to school but they were asked to sit separately. They were not even given water there. They were constantly motivated to convert into Islam in the school premises itself. All Hindu traditions, customs, rituals and Gods are ridiculed. As a result majority of Hindu students started glorying Islam and condemning Hinduism. Neither our property, nor our women and identity were safe there. The Hindu girls are kidnapped from school itself and are forcefully solemnised nikah without our knowledge. Once kidnapped, nobody can know their whereabouts. Local Muslims regularly attacked our villages, ransacked our homes and took away things. Things never improved and would never. We did not want to live in such environment of fear. That is why we flee on a tourist visa. We can take care of our expenses by doing any work, but we want our visas to be extended and accommodation provided so that our children can resume their life.”
Meanwhile, Sagar Rai (21) intervened, “I was stopped from wearing a hanuman locket by my teachers in the school. They taught Islamiyat and teased me for having a tuft. They would always use sarcastic words to belittle me before my friends, for no reason. The entire atmosphere in schools pushed me either to convert to Islam or live a rotten life worse than animals. Abusing and cracking jokes on Hindus is a common practice there. Even in their movies and plays often Hindus are shown as lecherous, ready to do any dirty thing for money and as spineless people. Even in areas like Sindh and Hyderabad, where Hindu concentration is comparatively larger, no school is allowed for minorities to teach children their cultural values. We have to do it silently in our homes.”
Sagar added, “Due to everyday’s humiliation I stopped going to school. I knew that even though I complete my studies I would not get a job. No Hindu is recruited in Pakistan Army. Some are recruited in police but that too only on lower posts. Discrimination against them in police too is so deep that their utensils are kept separate. Muslims treat us so much untouchable that they do not have meals with us. Those who are appointed constable hardly get promotion. Even if anyone gets a promotion due to his bravery or dedicated work, other Muslim constables or officers do not cooperate him. About one and a half years back a Hindu police sub inspector was shot dead by a Muslim constable in broad daylight in Matiari town itself. Instead of punishing the constable, he was released just three months later.” Referring to his marriage he said he was many times offered by Muslims to get converted into Islam assuring marriage with a Muslim girl of his choice with gifts like house, government job and a luxury car. “But I rejected the offer as I do not want to leave the way of life that my ancestors followed,” he said.
When I reminded them about Rana Bhagwan Das who was made acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court in 2007, Ganga Ram asked a counter question. “Do you know why was he removed from that Post just after a few months? The Muslim clerics pressurised the Government for it. He was even kept in house arrest for about one year. The Muslims openly say how can a kafir rule them.”
Talking about their livelihood Krishnalal (45) said it is very difficult for Hindus to survive in Pakistan. “We do not get jobs. Even if we work as labourer, we are not paid the wage equal to Muslim labourers. Sometimes, we are totally refused any wage when the work is over. Those who work as driver, electrician, motor mechanic, etc. are also not paid their labour. There is too much beimani (cheating). Those who work in agriculture fields are treated as slaves (ghulam). They are given only clothes and meals. Some Muslim landlords in Sindh are too much cruel that they maintain private jails where the Hindu labourers are incarcerated at night. There are still a number of Hindu Koli and Meghwal families in a similar jail of Ghulam Sen Khokar in Tandauliyar. They are forced to work as ghulam. Some of these ghulams were released during the regime of General Parvez Musharraf, but after his removal the situation took the similar ugly turn. The question is if we cannot get even the wage for our work, how we would survive there.”
(To be continued)?