No end to Pakistani Hindu girls' ordeal, another teen tells court she was married after forcible conversion


KARACHI: Hindu teenage girl Kareena Kumari, who was kidnapped from Pakistan's southern Sindh province in June, told a court here on Friday that she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man, in yet another case of atrocity against the women of the minority community.

Kareena was abducted on June 6 from outside her home in Benazir Shaheedabad in the interior of southern Sindh province.

After painstaking efforts by her poor father Sundar Mal, the girl was produced in a court in Nawabshah where she said in a video message that she was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and then married to Khalil in June.

The girl, who was sent to a women's centre, has asked the court that she be allowed to return to her parents.

"We are poor people and we don't even have money for bus fare to come to court. Today my daughter told the truth. The court must let her go and punish the culprits who abduct, sexually molest and even sell off girls," Mal said.

Dilip Kumar Manglani, a lawyer who is representing Mal in Kareena's case, says the culture of forcible conversions has put Hindu girls and their families at risk, especially in the interior areas of Sindh.

"We try to do our best, but in most cases the kidnapped girls are underage and in court, the accused produce fake documents or certificates and the police also do not help," he complained.

He said in Kareena's case also she was a minor.

"The parents of these abducted girls are poor and they don't have any certificates or documents to verify the age of their daughters and the accused and police take advantage of the situation. In some cases, parents are not even allowed to meet their daughters," Manglani said.

The abduction and forcible conversion of young Hindu girls in the interior of Sindh has become a major problem.

In March this year, three Hindu girls - Satran Oad, Kaveeta Bheel and Anita Bheel - were abducted, converted to Islam and married to Muslim men within eight days.

None of the three girls have been traced so far by the police.

In another case on March 21, Pooja Kumari was brutally shot dead outside her home in Rohri, Sukkur.

Apparently, a Pakistani man wanted to marry her but she refused and he and two of his accomplices opened fire on her a few days later.

Civil rights activists say Pooja's case has been on the back burner since March, although the parents have filed a complaint against the accused but are being pressured to reach a compromise with the accused.

The Sindh High Court took notice of the case but so far nothing has happened.

Not only young teenage girls but older Hindu women have also fallen prey to abduction and forced conversions.

Gori Kohli, a mother of four children, was abducted from Khipro in Sindh and later it transpired she had converted to Islam and married Aijaz Marri, the man accused of kidnapping her.

Her husband claims Marri is an influential person in the area and no one listens to him.

"Even the police took Rs.15,000 as bribe from me but later just said my wife had converted to Islam and married Marri and told me to go home," he said.

However, there are some cases where senior police officials have intervened and recovered abducted Hindu girls, the most prominent being that of Reena Meghwar who was abducted from Kario Ghanwar village in the Badin district last year.

Reena who was rescued said she was forcibly converted to Islam.

The court ordered that she be handed back to her parents in July last year.

SSP Badin Shabbir Ahmed Sethar, who played a role in Reena's rescue, admits that due to local politics, influential people and corruption in the lower ranks of police such cases usually do not reach a conclusion.

On July 16, 2019, the issue of abducting and forcibly converting Hindu girls in various districts of Sindh province was taken up in the Sindh Assembly, where a resolution was debated and unanimously passed after it was modified over objections of certain lawmakers that it should not be restricted to Hindu girls only.

But the bill which criminalised forcible religious conversions was later rejected in the assembly.

A similar bill was again proposed but rejected last year.