New York: A group of US-based Hindu organisations has held a demonstration near Pakistan`s Consulate here to voice concern over the religious discrimination of minorities in the country.
"This is nothing but religious apartheid for the entire world to see. Almost all the Hindus and Sikhs have been religiously cleansed from Pakistan with the blessings of the government. At the time of Partition, Hindus and Sikhs were approximately 22-25 percent but now they are only about one per cent," Narain Kataria, president of Indian-American Intellectuals Forum and the key organiser of the rally, said.
The rally held yesterday afternoon in Manhattan was to voice concern against religious discrimination of minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists in Pakistan.
"Thousands of Hindu families are being torn apart by their desperation to flee persecution in Pakistan. We urge the Obama administration to intervene, save the minorities and restrain Pakistan," said Kataria.
Besides the Forum, the other organisations that took part in the rally included Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Hindu Human Rights Watch, India Heritage Foundation, Lansing, Probasi of Brooklyn, Michigan Justice for Hindus and Human Rights Coalition against Radical Islam.
The peaceful demonstration was organised to condemn the atrocities as well inform New Yorkers on the religious bigotry practiced in Pakistan, Kataria.
"We want to express our solidarity with the victims and assure them that we will do our best to expose the evil designs of Pakistan in the US," he said.
"Torture, loot, discrimination and murder of Hindu men and rape of Hindu girls and their forcible marriage to Muslims have become the order of the day in the failed state," Kataria said.
According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on an average around 20 to 25 Hindu girls are being abducted, converted to Islam and forcibly married to Muslim men every month in the southern Sindh province.
"Also a campaign of vilification and slander is being unleashed against Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan to denigrate and demonise their religions and preventing them from practicing their religious faith," he added.
Blasphemy laws are being used to intimidate, harass and even give life sentences based on false accusations, Kataria said.
Radicalisation of Pakistani society by Jihadists supported by ISI and other intelligence agencies led to imposition of 12 million rupees (USD 140,000) by way of jazia, the medieval tax levied on Sikhs last year in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, said Arish Sahani, co-convener of the rally.
Pakistan is a living hell for minorities, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians, Sahani said.
It is time the country takes immediate steps to stop atrocities being perpetrated on hapless minority communities, he said.
In a memorandum presented to the office of the Pakistani Consul General, the protesters expressed outrage, shock and indignation at the horrific treatment meted out to Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.
Addressing the audience, Kataria said Hindus have been terrorised in Pakistan to such an extent that in April-May this year, about 500 Hindus who crossed into India under the pretence of visiting a religious festival then refused to go back to Pakistan, begging the Indian government to give them political asylum.
Quoting from last week`s US Commission report on International Religious Freedom, Kataria said it has tracked 203 publicly-reported incidents of sectarian violence resulting in more than 1,800 casualties, including over 700 deaths.