Karachi: The recent killing of three Hindus and incidents of kidnappings in Pakistan`s Sindh province have highlighted the feeling of insecurity and fear prevailing among the community members, the community leaders have said.
Leaders of Hindu organisations including the Pakistan Hindu Council and Pakistan Hindu Seva (PHS) claim that cases of discrimination, kidnapping for ransom, extortions and forced conversions has forced many Hindu families to migrate abroad and the trend is growing by the day.
"The government does not realise just how rapidly this migration is growing because of the feeling of insecurity in the Hindu community," PHS President Sanjesh Kumar said.
According to a rough estimate, Kumar says every month
eight to 10 Hindu families migrate from Pakistan and most of
them belong to the middle class or well-off categories.
"The Hindus who are poor and in low income group have no choice but to remain in Pakistan," he said.
"It is sad that families who have their roots in Sindh for centuries are migrating but this is a sad fact," he added.
Unofficially they are around seven million Hindus living in Pakistan which has the fifth largest population of Hindus in the world.
Majority of these Hindu families are based in Sindh province or in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province.
A senior official of the Pakistan Hindu Council says the migration of Hindus is a loss for Pakistan as most of those going abroad, including India, are professional doctors, engineers, agricultural workers or running major businesses.
"It is a brain drain for Pakistan`s economy and only because Hindus feel they are not being provided the same security and rights that are available to other Pakistanis," said Ramesh Kumar, founder of the PHC. Political analysts and social science experts believe that the situation changed dramatically for minorities particularly the Hindu population during the 11-year military rule of General Zia ul Haq.
"Before Zia`s time things were different. There was much tolerance and Hindus lived without fear and in peace with their Muslim neighbours," recalled Mohinder Kumar a former first class player.
"But it was after Zia`s time that extremism and intolerance grow and minority community members have been targeted by criminals," he added.
The fear that Hindus today fear stem from real life incidents about which the victims or their families are not willing to talk about for fear of repercussions.
In 2009 a renowned filmmaker and Bollywood actress Juhi Chawala`s uncle Satish Anand was kidnapped in Karachi and only returned home after six months in captivity after a negotiated ransom amount was paid to the kidnappers.
Anand recalls he was in the captivity of the kidnappers at the place located at a distance of four to five hours from Bannu, Miranshah in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
"I never felt so helpless in my life. After that incident some of our family members have migrated abroad," said Anand, who owns a famous production and distribution company. Anand`s family paid around 10 million rupees for his release.
Rajesh Kumar of the PHC says over 200 Hindu families from different areas of Karachi have left Pakistan in the last couple of months.
Amarnath Motumal, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Sindh, conceded that minorities specially the poor were suffering in silence.
Kumar says besides kidnapping for ransom and extortions, Hindus also have to face the problem of forced conversions specially in interior areas.Kumar claims a case of forced conversion takes place in Sindh almost every week. The recent abductions of Hindu girls from Khairpur, Dadu and Jacobabad have forced the Hindu families to flee their ancestral villages where they had been living for hundreds of years. In Ghotki alone, the locals say, as many as 800 families have fled.
In 2007, Kumar filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against forced conversions. Four years have gone by and he is still hopeful that something concrete would come out of it.
"I have a firm belief in the judicial system of Pakistan. Let`s see."
A year back, contractor Himesh Kumar`s son Nitin was kidnapped from outside his school in Karachi.
After a gruelling few months of negotiations with the kidnappers, Nitin was finally released. As soon as he saw his son, Kumar arranged for the family to move to India. Informing a few close friends, they wound up their business and left quietly.
Draupati Mandhan, a mother of two who hails from Jacobabad, got a experience of religious discrimination for the first time in her life when she came to Karachi to pursue a career in medicine.
After she had chosen a house and done a deal through an estate agent when she tried to move in she was told by the house owner to get lost.
Draupati recalls how the houseowner described her and her children as Paleet (impure) and told me to forget about the deal.