Ifrah Siddique is student of St. Anthony School in Lahore, Pakistan. At the Youth Talent Festival 2012, she delivered an impassioned speech on the subject of the Rights of Minorities in Pakistan. An excerpt. “The fact is that there are no minority rights in Pakistan. From Shantinagar to Gojra, the history of this land is full of the murders of the minorities at the heads of the self-proclaimed righteous guardians of religious boundaries. In a country where sectarian terrorism consumed thousands of lives and minorities have been forced to live in fear, Article 20 is nothing but hollow words.” Article 20 of the Pakistan Constitution promises that ‘(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions’.
Pakistani Hindus are in the eye of a storm; they were initially refused permission to visit India over fears that they may not return home. According to Delhi’s Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), until mid-2011, around 10 families would migrate to India in a month. In 2012, the figure is 400.
Do you blame them? At the time of Partition, Hindus comprised 26 per cent of the population—including in Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan. Now they are barely 2 per cent. Our secularists, who got bad throats crying over the Babri Masjid demolition, do not mention that out of about 4oo temples in Pakistan in 1947, only 26 exist. Even the Hindu dead have been denied cremation in Pakistan. In early 2011, Meher Chand arrived on the Samjhauta Express carrying 135 plastic jars containing the ashes of Hindus who had died in Pakistan, some as far back as in the 1950s, and were kept in Hindu Cremation Ground, Karachi. They found peace finally, immersed in the sacred waters of the Ganges.
The living fare no better. The Asian Human Rights Commission records that around 1,100 Hindu girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted every year while the number is 700 for Christian girls. The well-known madrasa, Dargah Alia Qadria Bharchundi Sharif of Sindh, has openly declared its goal of converting 2,000 Hindu girls to Islam every year. This week, 14-year-old Manisha Kumari was kidnapped in Sindh. Chand’s 16-year-old daughter was abducted, and is missing till now. Rinkle Kumari from Sindh was forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim; after initial rebellion, and finding no justice from the Pakistan Supreme Court, she was forced to accept her situation on fear of death. Asha Kumari disappeared from a beauty parlour and re-appeared before the Pakistan Supreme Court with her new husband, Bashir Lashari, in tow. Even children like five-year-old Gajri are kidnapped and held in madarsas and married off to local Pakistani Muslims. President Zardari’s sister and MP Azra Fazal Pechuho told Pakistani Parliament that a growing number of Hindu girls are being kidnapped and held captive in madrasas, where they are forcibly converted. She and other MPs have called for legislation to ban the practice.
Ironically, the Congress government, which encourages the illegal migration of Bangladeshis in Assam and elsewhere, refuses to even recognise Pakistani Hindus as refugees. In its reply to activist S C Agarwal’s RTI query on November 1, 2011, on the status of these refugees, the external affairs ministry claimed it was Pakistan’s “internal matter”.
The burden of proof sits easily on the Congress government’s shoulders. Leaders like Manmohan Singh, whose last hurrah would be solving lofty issues like Siachen, may want to look down from their pedestals and see the plight of the persecuted—Pakistani and Kashmiri—and treat it as India’s internal matter. The white section of the Pakistani flag stands for the country’s non-Muslims and minorities. India should act swiftly before the hypocrisy of white disappears altogether.