The Untold Sufferings of Pakistani Hindus & Sikhs

displacedsikhs

The cultural and institutional marginalisation of Hindus in Pakistan is a travesty of human dignity and freedom

Ali Eteraz, guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 April 2008

Hindus in Pakistan have suffered grievously since the founding of the nation in 1947. Recently, in the southern province of Sindh, a Hindu man was accused of blasphemy and beaten to death by his co-workers. This comes at the heels of the abduction and dismemberment of a Hindu engineer.

A little while earlier, the military removed 70 Hindu families from lands where they had been living since the 19th century. To this day the temples that Pakistanis destroyed in 1992 in response to the destruction of the Babri mosque in India have not been restored.

Pakistan, according to many accounts, was founded as a way to protect the rights and existence of the minority Muslim population of Colonial India in the face of the larger Hindu majority. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is reported to have said in 1947: “In due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims – not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state.” It is therefore a travesty of Pakistan’s own founding principles that its Hindus – and not to exclude Christians and Ahmadis – have suffered so grossly.

There are two levels of prejudice in Pakistan with respect to Hindus – the cultural and the legal.

While it is difficult to say which one is more pernicious, cultural prejudice is certainly more difficult to uproot because it is perpetuated by religious supremacism, nationalism, stories, myth, lies, families, media, schooling and bigotry.

Cultural prejudice has become part and parcel of language itself. Hindus are referred to as “na pak.” Na means “un” and pak means “pure.” So, Hindus are turned into the impure, or unclean. Given that the word “pak” is part of the word “Pakistan” – which means Land of the Pure – somebody’s impurity suggests that they are not really Pakistani.

To make matters even worse, Pakistani mullahs teach a very supremacist version of the Islamic creed, the kalima. Usually, the kalima reads simply: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His final messenger.” The version that children are taught, however, reads as follows: “The first kalima is Tayyab; Tayyab means Pak (Pure); There is no god but God and Muhammad is His final Messenger.”

Do you see how the word “Pak” – which denotes both purity and connects to citizenship in Pakistan – is smuggled into the Islamic creed? Since in Urdu this little ditty rhymes very effectively, this is the version of religiosity that most children repeat their entire lives. As a result, while they grow up, they psychologically equate Hindus with impurity, with uncleanliness, as not Pakistani, and therefore less than, both Islamically and as citizens.

The only two parties that can begin to bring some change in this arena are the state and the liberal clerics.

Last year Pakistan’s prime minister did greet Hindus during Diwali and a prominent Hindu nationalist leader – who had to quit his party because of his outreach – that was born in Karachi did come back and pay respects to his birth-city.

Cricket diplomacy, which began in 2004, helped a little (but not really, because the focus was on cricket and not on religion). Also, there are a few prominent Hindus here and there – one is a justice of the Supreme Court and one is the leading leg-spinner for the cricket team. Yet, as the Pakistani exile Tarek Fatah points out, Justice Bhagwandas had to take the oath on the Quran. Meanwhile, Kaneria is regularly excluded from the Pakistani cricket team’s congregational Islamic prayer.

As bad as the cultural prejudice is, legal prejudice is the one that must be more urgently dealt with, because it is what allows cultural prejudice to acquire institutional power.

Two laws in particular have been very problematic for the Hindu community.

The first one was promulgated under the 1973 constitution which made Islam the state religion of Pakistan and established a separate electorate for Muslims and non-Muslims so that Hindus could only vote for Hindu candidates. Musharraf abolished this in 2002. I think Muslims who support the idea of Islamic states around the world really need to stop and think about this for a second. It took an American-backed dictator in the year 2002 for a Muslim state to abolish unequal voting? As a wise man once said: are you kidding me? This is a deplorable commentary on the state of equality in today’s Islam.

The second law is the infamous blasphemy law passed under Islamist dictator Zia ul Haq in the 1980s. Designed specifically to punish the Ahmadi minority, the blasphemy law now provides convenient protection to anyone who ever wants to kill, murder, maim, beat up, mug, abduct, or punish any religious minority. All you really have to do is carry out your brutality and then point at the victim and say that he was blasphemous.

This law needs to be repealed immediately: no reform, no fixing, no tweaking, but total abolishment. Efforts to repeal it under Musharraf failed in the Senate. The secular parliament in session now is probably not going to touch it unless it is told to do so by international groups (who frankly aren’t really interested). The UN, EU, US, and International Council of Jurists must make some noise about repealing Pakistan’s heinous blasphemy law.

There are little more than three million Hindus in Pakistan (a nation of 160 million). They are still part of Pakistani life and need to be treated with respect and dignity. According to some sources, at the founding of Pakistan, Hindus comprised nearly 15% of the country’s population and now number barely 2%. Many have left, many have been killed, and many have converted to other religions to protect themselves. All in all, a travesty for a state that was created with the intended purpose of protecting minorities.

book1

Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947 is a book by Sikh author Gurbachan Singh Talib. It was first published in 1950 by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and has been reprinted several times.

The book consists of harrowing stories of the Partition of India between the new nations of India and Pakistan. The Partition led to one of the greatest population movements in the 20th century, as Muslims in what would become India, and Hindus and Sikhs in what would become Pakistan, fled across the new borders.

This book details the sufferings of the Hindus and Sikhs who fled their homes in the western Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind and parts of Kashmir. An appendix contains numerous press and eyewitness accounts of atrocities committed against the refugees during the Partition.

The book takes a position against Pakistan and the Muslim League, which it accuses of planning the massacres. The author mentions, and argues against, accusations that Sikhs were conspiring to ethnically cleanse Muslims from Eastern Punjab.

Contents

[hide]

Critical reception

It has been reprinted several times and cited in various academic compilations of literature concerning the Partition of India.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, of the Department of Political Sciences at Stockholm University, has examined the book and reports that many of the incidents related in the text can be independently verified.

In one such incident, Muslim “goondas” (thugs) in Lahore received packets containing “churis” (bangles) and “mehndi” (henna) from some Muslims of Lahore. Ahmed describes this as a “bizzare antic meant to shame them for their unmanliness and cowardice and for being women like (as women wear bangles and apply henna) at not finishing off Hindus and Sikhs”, thereby inciting them into violence against Hindus and Sikhs.[1] This incident has been verified by the British political officer at the scene, a Mr. Eustace.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ ‘Forced Migration and Ethnic Cleansing in Lahore in 1947: Some First Person Acoounts’, in Ian Talbot & Shinder Thandi (eds), People on The Move, Punjabi Colonial, and Post-Colonial Migration, Oxford University Press 2004

External links

 This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

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2 Responses to “The Untold Sufferings of Pakistani Hindus & Sikhs”

  1. joshua patrick gill Says:

    all you guys can do to trash up lies to hide the truth of what paki guys to do with christian,sikh and muslim minorities here!!!! under the persecution 16% hindu, sikh, christian came down to less than 2%. In contrast 10% muslims in 1947 india grown upto 16% in present day with the help of secular politics and neighbor hindus there. we are here, nobody to bother and more happy living in pakistan than the burning hell till the awaiting death as a kaffir !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Sanjeev Sharma Says:

    We are Pakistani Hindus and this article throw a new light to highlight the pity situation of the tortured Hindus and Sikh to the whole world. we Hindu in Pakistan are persecuted and not even established a strong organization for fighting that. We have lost our wealth and now share only 9% of our business are spread all over Pakistan protected only under Jajia Tax. Recently two Sikhs are slained by Talibans near Peshawar for not giving the Jajia Tax. One Hindu engineer has been abducted by Taliban and the claimed 10 million ransom for that. So, we feel petty on our life under continuous threat from all sides in our own country. We are really in tragedy here and statistic given by you are wrong as when partition was done we (Hindus) were only 14.3% but now we decreased to 2.6% of Pakistani population as per latest statistics available. More over there are some rich Hindus in Pakistan who never bother the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Pakistan. In some cases some Muslims take the name of Hindus keeping their original identity in dark and misguide and manipulate the situation in many ways.

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