Policy

Denying Hindus food aid in a pandemic emblematic of Pakistan’s minority rights problem

By May 4, 2020 No Comments

The following is a guest post by Soham Kinhikar.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on with over two and a half million cases worldwide, the Pakistani government and its affiliated NGOs have been busy discriminating against the Hindu and Christian minorities.

Multiple reports suggest that even though the Saylani Trust Fund, a NGO delivering aid to 1.2 million Pakistani nationals, has enough supplies, Hindu and Christian laborers in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, are being denied the right to these basic rations. These incidents have occurred specifically in the Lyari region of Karachi, the most densely populated community in the city.

According to the Siasat Blog, a Hindu woman, who did not wish to be named, said, “The Saylani Trust workers asked us not to queue. We did leave the queue and thought that they might give us later.” The woman recalled how the NGO workers outrightly denied the distribution of rations to Hindus, as they claimed that rations were specifically for Muslims.

The Saylani Trust workers knew the plight of the Lyari Hindus and knew that they came from out of Karachi to work as laborers and yet still refused the rations just on the basis of religion. In addition to this, when the laborers went to the government, they were told off.

In an interview with the Siasat Blog, Hindu activist and Lyari resident, Veerag Mehshwari reported that the Hindu and Christian laborers were from outside of Karachi, and because of this, they have not been able to go home.

According to Mehshwari, when they requested the rations from the government, the government said, “The Welfare Trust asked laborers to show them their Identity Card carrying their village address. After viewing the cards, the organization said the ration was only for the citizens of Karachi.”

Although it is shocking to see that even in these times Hindus are being discriminated against in Pakistan, it is not surprising.

There is systematic action by NGOs and the Pakistani government to deny the Hindu and Christian population in Pakistan of their basic rights. For Hindus in Pakistan, this has become a grim reality. However, the Pakistani government is in complete denial of this dire situation.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated, “I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of this country.”

This tweet couldn’t be further from the truth.

The second class rights of Hindus and other minorities are literally embedded in the laws of Pakistan itself.

Hindu marriages are not legally recognized, and forced conversions of young girls is common.

Recent cases such as the ones involving Mahek Kumari and Bharti Bhai only go to show how prevalent this problem still is. Mahek Kumari is a minor Hindu girl who was forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. In these cases, there is a worrying trend. The girl is often kidnapped, then forcefully taken to be converted and married. The official documents of conversion remain, while there is no legal proof that the girl is a Hindu and married. Thus, the government recognizes the conversion to Islam and the new, forced marriage does not offer support to the girls and their family in these times. In addition to this, when the family of the girl does get some justice, the girl is not returned to the family. Instead she is sent to a “protection centre,” far away from her family.

Furthermore, anti-Hindu propaganda is published in elementary textbooks of Pakistan itself.

These textbooks are used by children as young as seven years old and have been present since 1971. According to Pakistani professor Tariq Rahman, the textbooks cannot mention Hindus without calling them “cunning, scheming, deceptive, or something equally insulting.” There are excerpts from the Class III book in which Islam is mentioned as superior to all other religions.n the Class VI book, it mentions that “Though being a student, you cannot practically participate in jihad, but you may provide financial support for jihad.”

Young Pakistani kids are indoctrinated from a young age in Pakistan against Hindus and other minorities and ultimately are taught about the “evils” of other religions. When school textbooks themselves support this type of propaganda and hate against minorities it is clear why Hindus are facing such incomprehensible human rights violations.

The Pakistani Government and Islamist groups work together against minority groups.

Although the Saylani Trust Fund incident is just one example of this, it is clear that the government propagates anti-Hindu propaganda and encourages the mistreatment of Hindus throughout the country. Pakistan must be held responsible by Hindus and the international community as a whole.

We must unite to condemn the atrocities of the Pakistani government and force them to make sure that minorities in Pakistan are safe, and their respective cultures are  preserved.

However, seeing the silence of the international community reminds me of a simple quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

It is up to the Hindu community to stand up to this oppression and demand action from the international community, as well to finally ensure peace and safety for our Hindu brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

Leave a Reply