Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan’s Sindh province is a nightmare for Scheduled Castes with the highest suicide rates in the country.
Xari Jalil, writing in voicepk.net, said that Sindh numbers reveal that the hardest hit are the Scheduled Castes, the lowest socio-economic strata of the Hindu community.
There must be something wrong for so many of these incidents to occur within one community more than the others. Members of the Scheduled Caste community claim that these desperate measures are happening mainly because of the extremely distressing economic situation in the province – and they are the most affected.
Data compiled by the Sindh police reveals that 681 Muslims and 606 Hindus ended their life between Jan 1, 2014, and June 30, 2019, reported Jalil.
According to Advocate Sarwan Bheel, a human rights activist, lawyer, and coordinator of the Pakistan Scheduled Castes, around 590 suicide cases have been recorded only among the Scheduled Castes during this time period.
In District Umerkot, 109 men and 77 women died by suicide due to various reasons; in District Mithi 51 men and 70 women; in District Mirpurkhas 26 men and 36 women; in District Badin 15 men and 22 women; in District Tando Allah Yar 20 men and 15 women; in District Matiari nine men and 12 women and in District Hyderabad three men and four women died by suicide.
The local community openly blames the government’s weak and short-sighted social and economic policies for the suffering of people.
The Scheduled Castes are a highly marginalized section of an already marginalized Hindu community. Because of this, they face multiple issues. According to the 2017 state census, the number of Scheduled Castes in Pakistan is 849,614, but the community argues that they remain undercounted.
An overwhelming majority of 79 per cent of the Scheduled Caste population said that they faced discriminatory treatment of one or another kind, said Jalil.
The worst treatment comes from Muslims, feudal landlords, elites, upper-caste Hindus, and restaurant/shop owners. Almost 70 per cent said that their upper-caste Hindu and Muslim neighbours either do not invite them to their social gatherings like weddings or if invited they are served food separately.
In schools, Scheduled Caste students are obliged to sit in the back seats, leaving front seats for students from non-Scheduled Castes.
Information gathered from four districts of Sindh revealed that a large part of their population was denied barber services and 90 per cent are served food and tea in separate crockery at hotels and restaurants, which they have to wash by themselves.
A report by a local organization, the Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE), says that 443 people from Tharparkar have died by suicide between 2014 and 2020; of these, 79 suicides were recorded in 2020 alone, topping the list among districts.
With a poor economic situation, there has been an increase in loans and microcredits. Other information revealed by the report, included that 24 per cent of the victims already had different natures of mental illnesses, while nine per cent of the victims had been under a loan burden.
According to the report, 60 per cent of the victims were in the age group of 10 to 20 years, and 36 per cent were in the age bracket of 21 to 30 years. Around 45 per cent of females and 15 per cent of males had no formal education, whereas 60 per cent of females were homemakers and 40 per cent of victims belonged to low-income groups and were unskilled labourers, peasants, daily wage workers, and small-scale business owners.
The report has also noted that 15 per cent of suicide victims had attempted suicide previously before completing suicide with the female to male ratio being 4:1.
The local economy in the desert area is heavily dependent on rainfall and erratic weather patterns are having an impact on livelihoods and pushing much deeper into poverty.
Because of the intersectionality of poverty and gender, the women of the Scheduled Castes are most vulnerable – often even considered sexually available by ‘outsider’ (Muslim) men. Because they have little backup economic support or political security, women are often the victims of forced conversions. (ANI)