On June 20, 2023, the Pakistan Higher Education Commission issued a notice banning the celebration of Holi across all universities in the country. The commission mentioned that students are forbidden to follow this festival in order to adhere to socio-cultural values.
According to a statement, “Such activities portray a complete disconnect from the country’s socio-cultural values and are an erosion of the country’s Islamic identity.” The outrageous notice said that the celebrations “widely reported or publicized event from the platform of the university has caused a concern and has disadvantageously affected the country’s image.”
“While there is no denying the fact that cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity leads to an inclusive and tolerant society that respects all faiths and creeds, But it should be done in a properly measured manner without going overboard. The students need to be appraised and be aware of the self-serving vested interests who use them for their own needs, far from a critical thinking paradigm,” the statement said.
“Foregoing in this view, it has been advised that the HEI may prudently distance themselves from all such activities obviously incompatible with the country’s identity and social values while ensuring that they rigorously engage their students and faculty in academic pursuits, intellectual debates and cognitive learning besides identifying, creating and fostering avenues for extracurricular activities and rational discourse,” the statement read.
This notice comes after several videos of Holi celebrations conducted at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad went viral on social media. A great event was held on June 12, 2023, perhaps the country’s largest Holi celebration. Students were seen playing with colours and enjoying celebrations on the college campus with great enthusiasm. The festival of Holi generally arrives in the month of March or the end of February.
A Pakistani journalist tweeted, “Welcome to Pakistan, where our ancient Holi festival is banned in universities. The Higher Education Commission has issued an announcement after students celebrated Holi. Islamabad must understand that Holi and Diwali is part of the Sindhi Culture. Islamabad does not accept our Sindhi language and nor does it allow and honour Hindu festivals.
Let us see the Champion of Human Rights politicians in Pakistan, especially Bilawal Bhutto, who keeps pointing fingers at others and lecturing on Islamophobia. Will he and the others oppose it?”
Festivals such as Holi and Diwali are integral to the Sindhi Culture. Pakistan’s Sindh province is the second largest province after the Punjab province, which is Pakistan’s largest province. Hence such a ban on festival celebrations can adversely affect the minds of the people and population residing in the region.
On March 6, 2023, fifteen Hindu Students were injured in the Law College of the Punjab University Premises, Pakistan, after a clash with a radical Islamic student organisation called Islami Jamiat Tulba (IJT)
There is a strong discriminatory sentiment and attitude towards minorities in Pakistan, especially towards Hindus. Of the 300 temples inherited by Pakistan during the time of Partition, hardly three dozen of them have survived.
The largest number of Hindu population is found in the Sindh province, but there are Hindu Communities dotted all over Pakistan that continue to suffer constant threats against their security property and lives by extremist Muslims.
A survey by the All-Pakistan Human Rights Movement reveals that out of the 428 temples in Pakistan, only twenty temples survive.
The Hindus of Pakistan remain voiceless and forgotten people who have to live a life of low profile, and they bear insults to their honour and dignity without any safeguards. The Pakistani authorities rarely help to intervene to help Hindu nationals despite the fact that there are various cases and reports of the kidnapping of Hindu women and children and looting of property, besides other forms of discrimination and persecution.
The representatives of the Hindu community have written several letters to the chief ministers of the four provinces, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.