Caring for the voiceless persecuted victims should be the duty of all human, every citizen, not just political parties.
Inhumane religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh is everyday heart-breaking news. A slow genocide of non Muslim minorities in these countries has been a continuous process that has almost wiped out a large population of minorities that is totally ignored by human rights group.
The Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) passed by the Indian Parliament in December 2019 has taken a revolutionary humane step towards providing citizenship to minorities from communities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Sheltering the real persecuted minorities in Muslim countries is something none had cared for. India through CAA takes action on human right protection, providing a lifeline.
Lets have a glimpse.
According to Pakistan’s own human rights commission, from January 2004 to May 2018, there were 7,430 cases of abductions of Sindhi girls in Pakistan but the actual number is suspected to be much higher as most of the cases go unreported. Every year, around 1,000 young Sindhi Hindu girls between the age of 12 and 28 are abducted, forcibly married and converted to Islam, US-based Sindhi Foundation has said.
Ashiknaz Khokhar, a human rights activist noted that kidnapping of minor girls from religious minorities is commonplace in Pakistan. The plight of women in Pakistan is increasing day by day as a fresh report has stated that nearly 6,754 women were abducted in the country’s Punjab province in the first half of 2021. Out of that, 1890 women were raped, 3721 were tortured whereas 752 children were raped, Duniya News reported.
In Islamabad, there were nearly 34 official incidents of rape while 27 incidents were reported in the media. The number of official incidents of violence recorded in Punjab was 3,721, but only 938 cases were reported in the media, Dunya News said.
Very recently, Dina Kaur, a young unmarried Sikh teacher of Pakistan minority community was abducted at gunpoint from the Buner district on 20th August 2022, and forcefully converted to Islam. Within a day or two, she was married to her abductor with the help of local administration and police.
In September 2020, Asif Pervaiz, a Christian man accused of sending a blasphemous text, was sentenced to death by a Lahore trial court. In July, Tahir Naseem Ahmad, an Ahmadi man charged with blasphemy and imprisoned in 2018, was fatally shot by an assailant who smuggled a gun inside a high-security courtroom in Peshawar. Members of the Ahmadiyya religious community continue to be a major target for prosecutions. In May, the Pakistani government excluded Ahmadis from being part of a National Commission for Minorities.
In January 2020, Parwinder Singh, younger brother of Harmeet Singh (a Sikh news anchor of Pakistan) was shot dead in Peshawar. Harmeet Singh as he receives intimidating and threatening calls and is contemplating leaving. “I will be left with no other option but to leave Pakistan,” he says.
In January 2020, Rowinder Singh, a 25-year-old Sikh man who was in a Peshawar to shop for his wedding was shot dead. September 2019, Jagjit Kaur, daughter of a local Sikh Granthi was abducted at gun point from Nankana Sahib. Her abductor Mohammad Hasan forcibly converted her to Islam and married her. As her parents and local Sikh community protested, a mob comprising of hundreds of Muslims laid siege on the holy premises of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, pelted it with stones, Sikhs offering prayers in the Gurdwara were threatened and told to vacate the city. The Muslim mob threatened to rename the city and the Gurdwara as Ghulam-e-Mustafa and pressurised the authorities to end the judicial proceedings against Mohammad Hasan.
In December 2019, a UN panel in its 47-page report titled “Pakistan-Religious freedom under attack”, said that religious freedom of minorities in Pakistan is under threat. In 2016, in a high-profile case, Sikh legislator Soran Singh, from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, was shot dead near Peshawar by muslim militant group. In 2010, Jaspal Singh, a young man from Khyber Agency, was beheaded after his family couldn’t pay up. In 2009, the Taliban destroyed the houses of 11 Sikh families in Orkazi Agency for refusing to pay jizya. The Taliban had imposed a criminal anti-secular tax, the jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims, in several parts of Pakistan now.
Pakistan’s track record on human rights continues to get disturbingly inhumane in the case of religious minorities. The day is not far when non Muslims in Pakistan will be an extinct minority group. At the time of the Partition of India in 1947, more than 2 million Sikhs lived in Pakistan. Today about 50,000 Sikhs are left waiting for their persecution sooner. Hundreds of Sikh families have sought refuge in India, Canada and Europe in the recent years.
From 23% in 1947, Pakistan’s minorities today constitute a mere 3-4% of the population shares Farahnaz Ispahani, media advisor to the president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2012 in her book Purifying the Land of the Pure: Pakistan’s Religious Minorities.
The Pakistani government uses its anti human law as pretext for violence against religious minorities and have left them vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and prosecution.
From a land that was ruled by the Hindu Shahi Dynasty today 30-40 Hindus are left as of 2021. Most other minority community have vanished without any record. After wiping out the Hindus, the non Muslim Sikh population is now tortured to either convert or leave the country or be killed mercilessly.
In 1988, on the first day of Baisakhi, a man with an AK-47 stormed into a gurdwara and gunned down 13 Sikhs. The following year, Gurdwara GTB Singh was attacked by rockets fired by the Mujahideen, leading to the death of 17 Sikhs. In 1992 after wiping out a large percentage of the non Muslim population, a physical counting of who were Hindu, Sikhs started.
In 2018, a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad killed 19 Sikhs and in March 2020 an attack on Gurdwara GHR Sahib killed 25 persons. After the recent 2021 Taliban takeover, 46 Afghan Sikhs have been forced the leave Afghanistan.
In the 1970s, Afghanistan’s Sikh population numbered 100,000. Since 1979, there has been no census carried out in Afghanistan to show the real state of declining minorities. In early 1990s around 60,000 Sikhs and Hindus existed, that by 2013 was reduced to around 8,000 Sikh families members; in 2019 only 1,000 remained (as reported by Afghan Sikh Wolesi Jirga member Narinder Singh Khalsa); and by 2020 only 70 to 80 families or 700 existed that is now further reduced to 140 Sikhs only. Gurudwaras, mandirs and minority houses were forcefully, illegally occupied by locals of the majority muslim community. Paramjeet Singh Sarna, president of the SAD (Delhi), says, “end of an era of Sikh in Afghanistan”
With 3,679 attacks in 9 years, Bangladesh’s Hindus are at ‘regular threat’ of violence, a human rights group Ain o Salish Kendra reports.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council published a report in December, which recorded 60 cases of eviction of minority families within 7 months, incidents of attacks, vandalism and arson on minorities including Hindu temples. 18 minority member were killed, 11 received death threats and 23 were victims of abduction and torture. The report alleged that 30 girls and women from minority communities were victims of rape.
Apart from the Hindus, attacks on the Buddhists community have become regular. Kendriya Seema Vihar, central monastery and the houses of the Buddhists community in Cox’s Bazar’s Ramu were burnt down in a severe attack. More than 250 rare Buddha sculptures were destroyed and looted during the attack. Another 18 monasteries and Buddhist households in Ramu and Ukhiya were attacked and targeted by arson.
Bangladesh National Hindu Grand Alliance, states that violence against minorities more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year. 62 members of minorities were killed in the first six months of 2020, 512 people injured in attacks and 1,460 minority families, mostly Hindus, were evicted from their houses. Beside, other reports shows attacks included 1,678 cases of vandalism, setting fire to 559 houses, 442 shops, businesses of the minority Hindu community. Very recently, 11 citizens from the Hindu community were killed in these incidents, and 862 severely injured.
Islamic cleric Maulana Mohammad Iqbal Eusuf, secretary of Sufism Research Center, admits the sad reality of oppression of minorities in Bangladesh.
Father Patrick Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-Religious Dialogue says now and then oppression of minorities and reports of increasing violence against minorities are all true. In February 2021, Jogendranath Sarker and his five-member family, who belong to the Protestant Church of Bangladesh, left Kushtia district town of Bangladesh and moved to India. He says “In Bangladesh I faced an existential crisis, but here there is no fear for life”.