Hindus in Pak town struggle to maintain religious ethos

Pakistani Hindus in Thul, a town which once narrated stories of amity between Hindus and Muslims, are facing difficulty to maintain its pluralistic religious ethos due to increasing intolerance, forced conversions of teenage girls, among others, media said today.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 30, 2014, 22:23 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistani Hindus in Thul, a town which once narrated stories of amity between Hindus and Muslims, are facing difficulty to maintain its pluralistic religious ethos due to increasing intolerance, forced conversions of teenage girls, among others, media said today.

The Hindu community that once constituted nearly half the population is now dwindling in Thul, a small town in Pakistan's Jacobabad district, the Dawn reported.

Increasing religious intolerance, kidnappings and forced conversions of teenage Hindu girls, abduction of Hindu traders for ransom and desecration of temples have forced many to migrate to India and elsewhere, it said.

In order to seek a better life, Mahesh Kumar, a general store owner in a Hindu locality of Thul thought about moving to India last year.

He along with his family declared to officials that they were going on a pilgrimage to India. Upon reaching Bhopal, they sought help from relatives.

"But problems are not resolved through migration," he was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"In fact, as we discovered, the challenges began once we arrived in India. Our relatives were kind and helped us initially. But I met several Hindus from Sindh whose applications had been pending for many years. I bought my shop back and have resumed my earlier life," he said.

"I will never go back to India, but sooner or later I will also leave this place," he added.

Similarly, other Pakistani Hindus who moved to India, could not reconcile with the anti-Pakistani sentiment of the locals, which is when they decided to return.

Ravi Dawani, the secretary general of the All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, calls Pakistani Hindus "stateless people" who are "Pakistanis in India and Hindus in Pakistan".

Quite a few Hindus who had earlier migrated to India are now returning in increasing numbers, he said.

"They remain insecure as Pakistanis, are discriminated against in jobs and school admissions, and get nationality after decades of ordeal."

The All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat says that between January 2013 and June this year, 3,753 Pakistanis surrendered their passports and obtained long-term visas for India that permit a once-a-year visit to Pakistan.

Since January 2011, 1,854 Hindus belonging to Sindh have been given Indian nationality.

Shahnaz Sheedi, of an NGO working towards minority issues, said non-Muslims formed a quarter of Pakistan's population when the country came into being, now, only account for just four per cent.