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Posted On: 22 APR 2018

The plight of Hindus in Pakistan

As usual, the Indian media reacted with gush and glee while feting the elevation of an extremely poor Hindu woman Krishna Kohli to the position of a senator in Pakistan. She is the first Hindu woman from an extremely poor background, a bonded labour, to rise to a top position in a country where being a woman itself is a challenge.

Some sections in the media went on to suggest that perhaps this was some kind of change of heart in Pakistan. Indeed, there have been several other instances where members of minority communities have found themselves in position of prominence in Pakistan. Only last year, Pakistan passed a landmark Hindu Marriage Act that recognises marriages among the Hindus.

But there is fineprint to be read here. Krishna's brother Veerji Kohli, who has been fighting for rights of Hindus against being converted, was thrown behind bars on a murder charge. The party which elected Krishna as Senator is Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto which is not a hardline party. It has earlier also sent Hindus such as Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla, Dr Khatumal Jeewan and Engineer Gianchand to the Senate of Pakistan. Bilawal himself celebrates Diwali and performs Aarti of Lord Shiva on Shivratri at a temple in Karachi with members of Hindu community in Pakistan.

And such bonhomie is an exception to the rule that Pakistan was, is, and will remain a dangerous place to live for the Hindus there. Forced conversions and blasphemy law are threatening the very existence of Hindus there. Hindu girls are converted through forced weddings.

In Bhutto's Sindh, the bill against the forced conversions evoked strong protests and was reversed by the Governor at the behest of Islamist hardliners. It is estimated, thousands of Hindu families leave their homes every year dreading forced conversion or death.

The infamous and sacrosanct blasphemy law that has been often evoked to punish and destroy the minorities, is above every tenet of the constitution and human rights. The most dangerous part is that any Muslim can evoke this against a non-Muslim. All it took was an altercation over drinking water and Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet. Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti tried to defend her and was assassinated. Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot 27 times by his own bodygaurd Mumtaz Qadri for expressing sympathy with Bibi in a TV show.

Any non-Muslim who witnessed the rowdy and violent countrywide protests in Pakistan when Qadri was hanged in 2016, would shudder to think of even living in Pakistan. After death, Qadri is now an inspiration for many to attack minorities in Pakistan.

The big question is where do Hindus go from there? It is, as if they are living in a no man's land. A Member of National Assembly(MNA) Lal Malhi put it very aptly: "While we are living in Pakistan, we are looked upon as RAW agents. And when we go to India, they think we are ISI agents."

The silver lining is that the present government has started thinking about the plight of Pakistan Hindus. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also felt that something needs to be done to protect them from horrifying reality of conversion and death in Pakistan. It is a good start.

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