My presentation to Speaker & members of Provincial Assembly Sindh, and a group of civil society representatives, in 2010.
- Rinkle Kumari was abducted / disappeared early in the morning. At 11:00 am Nand Lal, her father received a call from Mian Aslam son of Mian Abdul Haq (aka Mian Mitho) who informed that Rinkle was with him and had embraced Islam. Later in the evening, family was informed that Rinkle’s Nikah had been administered with a Muslim boy Naveed Shah.
- Hindu community’s Mukhi (leader) from Deherki, Mr. Namo Mal contacted Mitho and requested him to bring the girl and settle the dispute. Mitho didn’t.
- Muslims and Hindus of the area jointly protested against this and blocked the National Highway. Police showered heavy shelling on the protesters after which they went on strike closing the markets and lodged the FIR for kidnapping
- Police refused to name Mitho and his sons in the FIR. Even DPO could not recover Rinkle from Mitho’s custody.
- Rinkle was produced in the court of Hasan Ali Kalwar, Judge Civil Court Ghotki. As soon as she saw her family in the court, she screamed before the judge and pleaded to let her go with her mother. The judge, however, had to inform her parents if they insisted on taking Rinkle along, they would be responsible for the killing of 2000 Hindus of District Ghotki at the hands of religious extremists.
- Rinkle’s custody, thus, was given to the police with an order to send her to Sukkur Women’s Police Station. But she was taken to Sukkur in the car of Mithu’s son, as reported in Sindhi newspapers. Point to be noted, a private car belonging to the accused party was used to transport the victim, who was in police custody.
- The judge gave a new date for hearing (February 27)
- Rinkle’s family met Rinkle in Women’s Police Station Sukkur, where she was kept on court’s orders.
- Rinkle informed her family that Mian Mitho spoke to her earlier that night on the cell phone of a police constable. When she refused to talk to him, she was manhandled and was made to speak to Mitho who reportedly threatened her to change her statement if she wanted to see her family alive.
- Police took Rinkle from Sukkur to Mirpur Mathelo, at 2:00 am according to the sources in Sukkur Police Station. The official version, though, is that they took her at 3:30 am to the Sukkur District Headquarters.
- According to the official records, DIG Sukkur Police was in Karachi on February 27, while DPO was in Khairpur Mirs and DSP Mirpur Mathelo was in Karachi bench of Supreme Court. Who was the Headquarter under, that day? Why police deemed it necessary to take the girl to the Headquarter at that point in the night?
- At 3:30 am, SHO Zulfiqar Meher called Rinkle’s family and informed that the Hearing would be in Ghotki instead of Mirpur Mathelo.
- Half of the family decided to go to Ghotki, half to Mirpur Mathelo. Hearing took place in Mirpur Mathelo eventually but it is unknown why the SHO misled the family?
- About a kilometer radius of the area around the court in Mirpur Mathelo was sealed. For Hindus, that is. Nobody from Hindu community was allowed even near the court, while hundreds of Mitho’s armed men were there.
- Four people from Rinkle’s family who were allowed in the court were Sulachini, Rinkle’s mother, Daya Ram, her paternal uncle, Rajkumar, her maternal uncle and Manohar Lal, her grandfather.
- Mian Mitho said outside the court, if the decision comes against him, he would ‘be obliged to fire the bullets’.
- At 8:30 am, only two of the four allowed family members got permission to enter the courtroom, i.e., Sulachini Devi and Daya Ram. According to Sulchini Devi, the court room was full of Mian Mitho’s men
- At 8:45 am, people outside the court heard loud noise of ‘Mubarak’ (congratulations) from inside the courtroom for her ‘embracing Islam’.
- The court gave the judgment that Rinkle Kumari was Muslim and had married Naveed Shah.
- Rinkle’s uncles addressed a press conference against this injustice and unfair treatment on the part of the state institutions and high-handedness of local the local vadera (feudal) having full governmental support.
- Mitho’s men, led by one Hisam Kalwar (Mian Mitho denied this but there are eye witnesses of the incident) stormed into Rinkle’s grandfather’s office and fired at him. The old man survived, but the family got scared and shifted to Karachi.
- Mr. Ghulam Shah from Sindhi United Party and Mr. Riaz Chandio from Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaz were contacted by Mian Mitho, who expressed his willingness for a deal. He offered to let Rinkle meet with her family if the family compromises and accepts her religious and marital status. The family responded positively and gave commitment to honour Rinkle’s decision to convert and to marry, if and only if she was doing it on her free will, not under someone’s coercion. To ensure that, Mr. Ghulam Shah, a respected Sindhi nationalist (Muslim by religion) offered to keep Rinkle as his daughter in his home for 12 hours and give her free environment without letting any party meet her. Mitho did not agree to the proposition and a thin hope of resolving the issue died down.
- Mr. Khalid Soomro of JUI-F was contacted by the family and by the Sindhi nationalists to mediate between Hindu community and Mian Mitho. Soomro tried, but failed due to Mitho’s stubbornness.
- The family filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, Karachi challenging the February 27 judgment of Session Court Mirpur Mathelo.
- The appeal accepted by the Sindh High Court. March 12 was given as the hearing date. Takes Rinkle in police custody.
- SHO thana Frear Town Karachi South allegedly facilitated Mian Mitho to speak to Rinkle, ordered Hajra Usman Inspector South to make Rinkle talk to Mitho. Inspector Hajra reportedly manhandled Rinkle and coerced her to take Mitho’s phone call. Mitho once again threatened Rinkle of dire consequences if she changes statement and denies being Muslim. Contact with both police officials could not be established, however, according to some Sindhi language newspapers, they denied these allegations.
- Supreme Court of Pakistan takes note of the incident and re-opens an old pending petition against forced conversions of Hindu girls by local extremist elements, filed by Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) in 2007.
- Supreme Court included Rinkle’s case in the PHC petition, along with two other recent cases of alleged forced conversion, Dr. Lata Kumari and Aasha Kumari.
- Next hearing was fixed on March 26.
- Rinkle’s press conference was organized while she was still in police custody. Who bore the expenses for the press conference is unknown. Although some Karachi based reporters confirmed that Mian Mitho’s men informed them about and invited to the press conference.
- In the press conference, Rinkle was being dictated through the Bluetooth mobile device. Her complete ignorance of basic Islamic tenants was visible to many reporters, while she insisted that she was ‘influenced by Islamic tenants’. Cross-questioning was not allowed by Mitho’s men, who took away Rinkle when the reporters tried to question.
- Reports of the Press Conference were highlighted in the mainstream media to influence court’s proceedings and public opinion, who now believed that Rinkle had embraced Islam on her own free will.
- Around two hundred men of Mian Mithu with open display of weapons make their appearance outside the High court.
- The court keeps Rinkle’s custody to Police and closes the proceedings in view of Supreme Court’s orders to produce Rinkle on March 26.
- American Congressman Brad Sherman wrote a letter to the President of Pakistan urging him to look into the matter.
- Rinkle Kumari and Dr. Lata Kumari were produced in the Court. During the court proceedings, Rinkle cried and screamed she wanted to go with her mother. Seeing similar reaction from Dr. Lata, Chief Justice ordered the court to proceed in camera. After taking detailed statements from both the girls, Chief Justice announced in front of national and international media that Rinkle Kumari had pleaded to go with her mother while Dr. Lata was double minded.
- To the surprise of many, despite her clear statement Chief Justice ordered to keep both the girls in Panah, the shelter home, where both should not be allowed to meet anyone so they get a free environment without any influence, to decide about their life. Panah is run by revered Justice Majida Razvi, former chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women.
- Court adjourned till April 18
- Maulana Shirani, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology gave the statement that Rinkle should be sent home if she has been forcibly converted and that forced conversions have no place in Islam
- Naveed Shah, so called husband of Rinkle, requested the Supreme Court for permission to meet Rinkle. Chief Justice rejected the application saying she wanted to go with her mother
- Speaking at a seminar organized by Anjuman-e-Talaba-e-Islam in Islamabad, Mian Mitho while answering a question said he will not accept the decision of Supreme Court if it decides against him. He also said at the event that all the ‘gaddi nasheens’ (caretakers) of Dargahs in Sindh take money and let such girls go, including Mian Abdul Khaliq, the gaddi nasheen of Bharchundi Sharif (who is Mitho’s nephew).
April 12 – 14:
- Naveed Shah and Mian Aslam allegedly met Rinkle several times in Panah, a charge Justice Majida Razvi strongly denies and offers to produce CCTV footage if needed by the court. The family, however, insists that they have credible information that two lower level staff members were threatened by Mian Mitho for facilitating those meetings. They said they would provide the witness in the court.
- Human rights activists along with the family of Rinkle held a press conference in Islamabad in which her family categorically declared that they have no objection if their daughter embraced Islam of her own free will and for the love of Islam. They also declared they would accept her decision of marrying Naveed Shah and would rather celebrate the wedding with all the traditional customs including gifting her dowry. But their only request from the court was to look deep into the matter if the conversion and marriage is on her free will in real sense of the concept.
- Rinkle, along with Dr Lata and Aasha were presented in the Supreme Court. As soon as they appear, Chief Justice said they should record their statement in Registrar’s office and should ‘freely’ tell where they wanted to go. Based on their ‘free’ statement, they would be allowed to go wherever they wanted.
- Upon entering the court Rinkle handed over a piece of paper to the Chief Justice. It never came out what Rinkle wanted to say, which was not heard by the court.
- The Court wrote the Order before taking the statement from any of the girls and gave half an hour after which girls had to record their statements in Registrar’s office. But curiously enough, they were called in Registrar’s office after one and a half hour during which Mian Mitho and his sons are reported to have met with the Registrar. When asked via email, the Registrar’s office did not respond to the query. According to some reports, Naveed Shah, some policemen and Mian Mitho’s son were present when Rinkle’s ‘freewill’ statement was being recorded in Registrar’s office.
- As per Rinkle’s statement issued later by the Registrar’s office, she opted to go with her ‘husband’.
- The mainstream media glorified her exercise of ‘free will’ while demagogues on TV talk shows (including liberals) kept preaching about respecting Rinkle’s ‘right to choose’ who is an adult citizen of Pakistan and should be allowed to ‘freely’ make decisions about her life.
- In a popular TV talk show, a hyper anchor of the show invited Mina Mitho, Ramesh Lal, MNA, Aamir Liaqat Ali, a so called religious scholar known for extremist views (whose anti-Ahmadi tirade on his TV show ended up in killings of two Ahmadis four years ago), Aasha Kumari with her ‘husband’ and Rinkle Kumari on phone. In the show, the anchor deliberately did not let the other point of view come out. A lopsided discussion was engineered to prove that the girls have indeed converted on their free will and for the love of Islam, not just for marriages.
- While disposing off the petition by Pakistan Hindu Council regarding forced conversions of Hindus, Chief Justice of Pakistan declared that in the existence of Article 20 of the Constitution, there was no need for special legislation regarding the protection of the rights of minorities.
- Rinkle’s family files a Review Petition in Supreme Court of Pakistan and urges inquiry into the role of Ghotki police and of Mian Mitho in the case.
- Rinkle awaits justice!
Supreme Court of Pakistan opened a long pending case against forced conversions of Hindus to Islam in Pakistan. The case was filed by pakistan Hindu Council in 2007. Supreme Court made this move after increase in the conversion cases in past six months. Three more names of the recent victims were included in this petition: Rinkle Kumari, Dr. Lata Kumari and Asha Kumari. For detailed story on these cases, see previous post here. In order to highlight some important aspects of the case, human rights activists held a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday April 17, 2012 in Islamabad Press Club. They issued a consensus statement on this eve, which can be seen below:
Pakistan’s daughters, Rinkle, Lata and Asha await justice
We, the citizens of Pakistan hereby express our strong concern over the treatment of Hindus in Pakistan at the hands of some miscreants in the name of Islam. We want to draw the attention of authorities to the cases of forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam, generally and most recent cases of Rinkle Kumari, Dr. Lata and Asha specifically.
We urge the media to kindly highlight the sides of these stories hitherto unheard by the masses. It is worrisome that an influential feudal, Mian Abdul Haq aka Mian Mithu who abducted Rinkle Kumari, has been able to evade law while making all pillars of the state, including the fourth pillar i.e. media, look like a joke. His sons with hundreds of their men were seen in the premises of Civil Court Ghotki where Hindu community was refused entry, when Rinkle Kumari was presented there. Mian Mithu’s sons were organizing press conference in Karachi while Rinkle was still in Police custody. His men were reportedly dictating Rinkle the answers to the questions of reporters present in the press conference. Such mockery of state and media should not be allowed and be dealt with iron hand.
It made us extremely concerned when Rinkle Kumari was produced in the Supreme Court on March 26 and after recording her statement in-camera, she screamed in front of media that she wanted to go to her mother and that she was converted forcibly. We are astonished to know that Mian Mithu has been involved in buying and selling of Hindu girls, as has been reported in Sindhi language newspapers and as per information from the victims’ families. A girl Anita was abducted and married to a Muslim from whose home Mian Mithu’s nephew abducted her and sold her to another hand. She is reportedly living with her fourth buyer, reportedly at the behest of this Mian Mithu. Mian Mithu, as per the inhabitants of Deherki, Sindh, possesses hundreds of licensed and unlicensed weapons with impunity while having as many as 117 criminal cases against him.
It is a matter of great shame for the citizens of Pakistan that Mian Mithu is not alone in this business of human trade in the name of Islam. He is supported by many including one Deher family who is allegedly responsible for the abduction of Dr. Lata. Dr. Lata was abducted a month ago and was forcibly married to a Muslim. It is noteworthy that in such cases, the Hindu girls are married within hours of their abduction. The discrepancy can be seen in the affidavit Dr. Lata has submitted to the court, where she signed it as “Lata Kumari”, and not ‘Hafsa’ as she is being called by the Deher family who abducted her.
It further strengthens suspicions against Mian Mithu when Asha, another missing Hindu girl was presented to the court last week. In the premises of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Asha was seen in the custody of the sons of Mian Mithu. It is most disturbing that she went missing in March when FIR was lodged for her abduction. Since April 3 to date, Jaicobabad Police has been searching for her. On April 13, Jaicobabad Police contacted her family, told them that their daughter was kidnapped for ransom, asked them to collect ransom money. Suddenly she emerges from the custody of Mian Mithu and appears in the court with his sons. We are astonished that this horrific series of heinous crimes is being allowed by the state under broad day light.
We deem it pertinent to state here firmly that forcible conversion and human trade is absolutely repugnant to Islam. We are grateful to Muslim scholars and practitioners of Pakistan’s rich Sufi tradition, to stand up against forced conversions, especially the Council of Islamic Ideology and many Sufi Dargahs of Sindh and Punjab. It is thus strongly put forward that in the wake of forced conversions of these girls, it will not be unIslamic to send them back to their families if the honourable court decides so. We are concerned about the bad name this kind of instances are giving to Pakistan and to Islam internationally.
While we are grateful to the President of Pakistan for taking personal notice of the crime, and to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to open the long pending case of Hindus’ forced conversions, we demand from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party to immediately suspend Mian Mithu’s membership of the party and disqualify him from Parliament membership. He should be arrested under Section 365(a) of PPC and Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act. We pray to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to kindly:
- Call DIG Larkana Division to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and record his statement in-camera
- Call SSP Jaicobabad and initiate investigation why he started negotiations with Asha’s family for collection of ransom money, and on whose behest he was doing so.
- Initiate inquiry into the criminal cases against Mian Mithu, his sons Mian Aslma and Mian Rafique. We request to issue search order to recover his illegal weapons that he is keeping at his ‘dera’ in Deherki
- Ensure that the state of Pakistan provides foolproof security to the families of Asha, Dr. Lata and Rinkle Kumari and their counsels.
- Mian Mithu should be booked under Anti-Terrorist Act for terrorizing the honourable court and public in Ghotki and Mirpur Mathelo along side the families of victims
- Recover all the Hindu girls from the custody of Mian Mithu and his collaborators like the Deher family of Jaicobabad.
We also urge the Chief Justice to kindly let the families of these Sindhi girls to meet them before recording their statements.
Finally, we urge the parliament to kindly make Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech of 11th August 1947, an integral part of the Constitution. This and only this can save Pakistan from falling victim to communal, sectarian and ethnic hatred.
- Marvi Sirmed, human rights activist / columnist, Islamabad
- Mehmal Sarfraz, Journalist, Lahore – Pakistan
- Mohammad Tahseen, Executive Director, SAP-Pakistan, Lahore
- Amar Lal, former Federal Minister & Chairman Minorities Commission
- Babu Mahesh, President Jaicobabad Panchayet
- Dr Ramesh
- Naseer Memon, human rights activist
- Faisal Gurchani, Human rights activist
- Riaz Chandio, Chairman Jiye Sindh Mahaz
- Rwail Sirmed, student
- Shumaila Kaukab, Insan Foundation
- Rafia Arshed, Uks
- Salim Malik, Bedari Islamabad
- Aqsa Khan, human rights activist, Islamabad
- Dr. Farzana Bari, Human rights activist, Islamabad
- Zubair Torwali, human rights activist / columnist
- Rabia Aslam, human rights activist
- Nusrat Zehra, human rights activist / Communication Specialist SPO
- Harris Khalique, poet and columnist
- Hasan Nasir, Awami Party Pakistan
Originally published in The Friday Times in its April 13-19, 2012 issue
Malalai Yusafzai, the brilliant Pakistani girl who defied Taliban’s dictation and stood firm on getting educated and persuaded her peers to do so, is a face of Pakistan that we all want to see. More and more. With pride and denial. We like to see Malalai in denial of Rinkle. Rinkle Kumari, the 19 years old Sindhi Hindu girl who was kidnapped and allegedly forcibly converted to Islam before coercively marrying her to a Muslim Naveed Shah. The ones who show this uncomfortable face of Pakistan are condemned to be the ‘traitors’ and ‘Pakistan-haters’. If trying to correct these painful imperfections of our society is treason, let me commit it for once. Rinkle’s story needs to be told loudly and to everyone.
Rinkle was kidnapped on February 24 by Naveed Shah and four other people. Police refused to lodge an FIR and to include the names of the influential Mian Aslam, Mian Rafique and their father Mian Mithu. She was produced in the court of Civil Judge Ghotki where she insisted on going to her family but the judge illegally sent her to the police custody in Sukkur Women’s Police Station.
In sheer mockery of the President of Pakistan and his party Co-Chairperson, Mithu announced in front of many civil society activists that if Rinkle’s custody is snatched from him, he will set Mirpur Mathelo ablaze. The president had given a media statement against forced conversions earlier that day. “Come what may, justice will have to prevail” was the answer in a firm strong voice when I asked Raj Kumar, Rinkle’s uncle, if he was scared. Probably this resolve has come from years of persecution and injustice. “It has been decades that Hindu girls have been abducted and forcibly converted. We hear little or no voice at all against this oppression,” said Amar Lal, counsel to Rinkle Kumari’s family.Notwithstanding the support that media and civil society demonstrated for Rinkle, the state response remains an enigma. The Chief Justice of Supreme Court opened a long pending constitutional petition against forced conversions, filed in 2007 by Pakistan Hindu Council, and contained the names of three relatively recent cases of forced conversions including Rinkle Kumari. It was this intervention that finally infused courage in Rinkle Kumari, who spoke her heart to the CJ in camera on March 26, following which he announced in presence of national and international media that Rinkle wanted to go to her mother while Lata was double minded. He ascertained that the girls seemed to be under serious pressure, were continuously crying, were refusing to go with police. In such circumstances, honourable Chief Justice opined that before recording any free-will statement, they should be provided free atmosphere. He ordered to shift her to Panah, the shelter home run by Justice (R) Majida Razvi in Karachi. As soon as he made this announcement, Rinkle screamed in front of media that she wanted to go to her mother.
After the CJ passed orders to shift her to the shelter house, Rinkle started crying and screaming in the court, as reported by KTN TV channel, that she wanted to go to her mother. She also shrieked ear-piercingly that she will not go to the shelter house and would rather like to sleep in the court. It was heart rending to hear her say in the court that she doubted if she could get any justice in a system where majority is Muslim and wanted to make her Muslim forcibly, which is why she thought they were helping each other, not her. Prior to this hearing, every event that happened under this case screamed at the loudest, sheer weakness of the system of justice, moral bankruptcy in our institutions, our collective hypocrisy and helplessness of the highest state authorities to reign in the rogue elements of the society.
Hindu community was completely banished from attending court proceedings in Mirpur Mathelo, the other party, however, did not have any such pressure. While only four family members of Rinkle Kumari were allowed in the premises and only two in the courtroom, thousands of Mithu’s men chanted slogans outside the court and hundreds were present inside the court. An open display of weapons was a clear message to the court and judges, who could not ask any of the weapon-wielding Allah-o-Akbar chanting beards out of the court. Under these circumstances, when Rinkle was still in police custody, god knows how she managed to organize a press conference among, of course, Mian Mithu’s men and with a Bluetooth mobile device stuck in her right ear. West is bad for conspiring against Islam, but Western technology is apparently good for Islam’s spread!
When she was being dictated via blue tooth, Rinkle tried hard to satisfy questioning journalists and forgot what inspired her to embrace Islam. ‘Sura Eeklus’, she tried to pronounce Sura Ikhlaas twice, unsuccessfully though. When asked about the meaning or gist of the contents of Sura Ikhlas, she was dumbstuck and was forcibly taken out by Mithu’s son. Yes, you read it right. While in Police custody, she was under complete control of Mithu’s men. Media also learned in this press conference that Rinkle actually does not even know Naveed Shah, who she was married to hours after abduction. At 5am she was abducted from her home on February 24, at 3pm the same day she was married. Honourable Court might ask Mithu what made him make this important decision of the life of an independent woman, even if she had embraced Islam, in such a hurry?
One is flabbergasted to see so many of us not asking some basic but direct questions. Who is Mian Mithu? What is his interest for pursuing this case? He is neither Sajjada Nasheen of Bharchundi Shareef, as had been wrongly reported by some section of media initially, nor he is remotely related to Naveed Shah, with whom Rinkle allegedly eloped and embraced Islam. The Sajjada Nasheen (caretaker) of the Bharchundi Shareef dargah, Mian Abdul Khaliq, who happens to be Mian Mithu’s nephew has categorically condemned what Mithu has done under the garb of Islam. Not only him, Sajjada Nasheens of many other Dargahs (shrines) have joined in condemning Mithu’s actions, including Dargah Shah Latif, Dargah Jhok Sharif, Dargah Sachal Sayeen and Jot Jalan (the man who lights the candle / diya at the shrine) of Dargah Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. Even the Council of Islamic Ideology’s Maulana Shirani has categorically said that forcible conversion is no conversion, is rather a sin.
On April 10, Mian Mithu along with many of his supporters, held a seminar in an expensive hotel in Islamabad. In the seminar, Mithu is reported to have threatened the Supreme Court that if it gives judgment against him, he will not follow the apex court, but will follow the shariah – his own version thereof. When reminded about the President, who is head of the party Mithu belongs to, Mithu was reported to be quick to disdainfully say, “I will see the president. No one dares challenge me”. After threats from Mithu and firing by his men on Manohar Lal, Rinkle’s grandfather, the whole family had to leave Mirpur Mathelo and shift to Karachi. Three top men from Hindu community of District Ghotki are pointedly under Mithu’s threat, renowned human rights activist Mr Amar Lal, saint Sadh Ram, Rinkle’s uncle Mr Raj Kumar. No one seems to have any control on the power of this unrestrained self proclaimed clergyman.
The important question that the Superior Court has is, what will Rinkle’s family, Hindu community of District Ghotki and especially these three respectable men would do if Rinkle is allowed to join her family after the upcoming hearing on 18th March? Who will provide security to them? Is the rotten and visibly tilted structure of state institutions to be trusted by the down trodden? Is the Superior Court empowered enough to provide justice and security to Hindu community of Ghotki? If not, who will? This case poses biggest challenge to the Superior Court in its entire history. The Hindu community, in this case, represents the most down trodden sections of the society, which came out on streets in 2007 in the hope of an independent justice system. This justice system includes law enforcing agencies and lower courts. Even if Rinkle goes back to her family, an independent judicial enquiry on the role of Ghotki Police and Civil Judges should be instituted and criminal record of Mian Mithu and his sons should be produced in the court. The question arises why in last six months, kidnapping of Hindu girls, forced conversions and abduction of Hindu and Christian youngsters and saints is increased? “They want us to leave the country. They are forcing us to flee from our motherland. But we will not deter,” said Amar Lal, Rinkle’s counsel.
It is sheer mockery of judiciary when the powerful uses its system to oppress the powerless, that too, with impunity. Mithu mocked not only the law but the honourable court as well, when he sent his armed men to the court premises. He ridiculed police and all law-enforcing mechanism when he fetched Rinkle in his private car and arranged her press conference when she was in police custody. He belittled the parliament when being a part of it he violated law of land. He scorned the head of the state when he said he “will see the President”. Will any of these pillars of the state respond with iron will?
This post was originally written for the Daily Times, appeared as my weekly column BAAGHI on Monday November 14, 2011
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan saw yet another moment of national shame right on the day of Eid-ul-Azha when four Hindus, including three doctors, were brutally killed in broad daylight. Conflicting media messages and false claims about the motive are but an ugly attempt to justify the crime. According to the story given out to the media, the murders took place after a boy from the Hindu community sexually assaulted a girl from the Muslim Bhayo tribe. Bhayo is the third most influential tribes of Shikarpur after the Jatois and Mahars in Chak town of Shikarpur. Hindus make around 6,000 out of the total 40,000 people in Chak town and are the predominant contributors to Sindh’s economy through trade and other professions. In the local politics of the area, the Hindu community has never been as muted as it is now, after the advent of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), working openly through their unmarked offices and representatives since at least a decade.
One was appalled listening to the people of the town about the immunity with which the SSP operates in Shikarpur in cahoots with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) and with the support of local tribal chiefs and state machinery, especially the police. The accused Bhayo tribe has its members in not only the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (the main accused Babul Khan Bhayo is district head of the PPP), but also in pro-Taliban JUI-F and proscribed militant extremist organisation, the SSP.
According to the details gathered from the local communities, a young girl from Bhayo community went to see her Hindu friend on Diwali night. The girl was seen entering the autaq (sitting area used by males), which was unusual in the local culture. Discovering the boy and the girl together, community elders (Hindus) reportedly beat the boy and sent the girl back to her home. The event triggered the ‘honour’ of the Bhayo tribe. What made things worse was the boy’s religion. The Bhayos felt doubly humiliated.
The Bhayo members of the SSP and the JUI-F started threatening the entire Hindu community since that day. The community requested the police for security after which the police established a small picket near the Hindu neighbourhood. But two hours before the incident, policemen vanished from the scene only to come back half an hour after the ambush. Just when the police pretended to start searching for the culprits, SSP and JUI-F workers gathered around the police station and amid the slogans of Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and Jihad Fi Sabilillah (war in the cause of God), they intimidated the police staff and asked to close the case. Resultantly, the FIR could only be registered around 36 hours after the crime. The victims’ family does not agree with the facts described in the state-registered complaint.
Noteworthy is the fact that the victims were not even remotely related to the Hindu boy accused by the Bhayo tribes of being ‘karo’ (accused boy). According to a much-criticised tradition, when an unmarried couple is caught together, they are murdered after the Panchayat is informed. The accused girl (kari) is usually murdered before or with the accused boy (karo). According to the tribal code, karo can only be the one directly involved in the ‘illicit’ relations with the kari. In this case, even the principles of this tradition (unapproved by educated Sindhis), karo-kari (honour killing), were not followed. It is a case of simple and direct targeting of the Hindu community, which remains an endangered one after the religious extremists were installed in the area for running the madrassas.
Madrassa tradition in Shikarpur is almost 40 years old, which is the age of the oldest madrassa here. According to the locals, Pashto speaking Niazis from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjabis from south Punjab were brought in over a decade ago. Totally alien to the local culture and traditions, they tried to impose strict Islamic code, which initially did not work. But after more than a decade, an entire generation has been out of these madrassas in the social life of Shikarpur. When I spoke to over a dozen people from the local Muslim community, I found them extremely opposed to and fearful of the Islamisation being brought to Sindh, which they saw as a part of the larger design of ruining the Sindhi culture.
The fact that the common people still value local pluralistic culture is evident from the fact that over the last few days, people — mainly Muslims — are coming out in the streets every day in almost 500-600 villages and towns of rural Sindh against this incident. It was heartening to know that not only thousands (6,000 according to a conservative estimate by a member of the local Press Club) of Muslims participated in the funeral of their four fellow citizens; hundreds of them have taken upon themselves to ensure the security of the frightened Hindu community. They stay day and night at the entrance of the Hindu neighbourhood. These common people, one Hindu resident of the area said, are not only from the influential Mahar and Jatoi communities but also some Bhayos are seen among them.
When asked how the SSP and JUI-F guys got such an influence in an otherwise sufi and secular culture of this city, the people proudly said that the fact that these extremists need political backing, support of the tribal influentials and police machinery, is enough evidence of their weakness. Had they had a popular support, they would not have needed any of these tactics. A local rights’ activist (Muslim), who is a key organiser of a protest rally today (Monday) at 12 noon in Hyderabad, wanted me to tell the world that Pakistanis would fight extremism till the last drop of their blood.
This is Pakistan! Those in the charge of things must realise that the people of Pakistan are committed to their pluralistic values ingrained in their sufi culture. Any effort to dismantle plural and secular social base would be met with fierce resistance. The ones who believe that we, the ‘liberal fascists’, are few in number and are irrelevant, should see how this battle is being fought by a common citizen in Sindh, original home to a wonderful Hindu community who made Shikarpur mercantile hub of Sindh before the Talpurs came in. Shikarpur was to the old Sindh what Karachi is today to Pakistan. Having trade links with Central Asia, from Qandahar to Uzbekistan to Moscow, Shikarpur was the gateway of Sindh to the world. And in Shikarpur, it was our Hindu trader community that started the system of payments through cheques. Home to poets like Sheikh Ayaz, this city has produced seers and litterateurs alongside professionals of the highest quality. Today Shikarpur is determined to fight extremism more than ever.
It is encouraging to know that Sherry Rehman moved an Adjournment Motion in the National Assembly on this issue that called for immediate action on the case and reactivation of the Commission on Minorities. However, there is something simpler that can be immediately done. Babul Khan Bhayo, the main accused and PPP district president, should be immediately suspended from the party and arrested. An independent inquiry should be commissioned along with completely removing the presence of proscribed organisations working in the area under whatever name. This is the bare minimum that even the most ardent supporters of the PPP would expect from the party and especially from Sherry Rehman to pursue it.
It took me quite some time and effort to come to terms with the fact that we’re, sadly, living in a society where mediocrity is promoted with an unprecedented rigor, where ordinariness becomes your asset and where intelligence and ability to question is regarded as your super disqualification.
My increasing criticism of the happenings and our collective thinking has become my trademark of “negativity” for people from seemingly all kinds of ages, backgrounds and classes. An out of proportion emphasis on “positivity” in recent times has become more than delusional in our society. One would find no soul who’s left there able to see the damage all of us are collectively doing to this country by choosing wrong ways of responding to national disasters.
This refusal to reason, inability to analyze things objectively and incapability to question and process raw information has made people of Pakistan succumb irrecoverably to rhetoric. We are now the people who offer most profitable package to exploiters for befooling us. We love to be fooled and to live in fools’ paradise. It’s easy and requires no effort. Someone asks us to be happy we do it. Someone else asks us to be enraged we do it. Isn’t it sweet?
It remained an enigma for me as to how we were able to develop ourselves in such an unimaginative, dim-witted, obtuse and thick skinned heap of people, till I happened to see a social studies text book for grade 5 couple of years back. Since then, studying the level of incompetence promoted by these state prescribed text books has become my favourite pass time. Not only that the kids are subjected to “torture” of having to read these mind-numbing monotonous piles of raw paper, but they are also pushed into oblivion never to surface again.
The trick has been done by either telling the selective truth or by out-rightly distorting it. Not that I don’t understand the dilemma of those who run Pakistan, but still we can do it with half more decency! Yes we do understand how can they tell young generation six decades later that they did an unforgivable blunder? But at least they can let people come to terms with it by asking honest questions.
I can vaguely recall those days when we were strictly prohibited to read history textbooks written by people like Dr Mubarak Ali and K. K. Aziz sahib. It was easier to encage information then. But we somehow managed to get hold on alternative history. Today, when it’s a million times easier to get hold of any information you like, students are strongly conditioned to neither reach out to readings other than prescribed, nor to trust sources other than state-engineered ones.
Whenever someone asserted the need to rationalize the historical narrative, one was invariably called an anti-state element that has to be gotten rid of. One matter of special fragility has been the presentation of facts related to or covering the movement that lead to the partition in 1947 and resultant birth of Pakistan.
Very interestingly, when I see the textbooks for grade five in India, I don’t see such a Pakistan (or Muslim-centric) hate propaganda. Despite the fact that we in Pakistan have got significant Hindu and Sikh population in pockets of Sindh, Punjab and Pakhtunhwah (the North Western Frontier Province as the colonial bosses called it to be followed by us to date), our text-books have left no stone unturned to present these religious groups as not only the enemies of Muslims, but also a sub-human creature who is in humane and too mean to be allowed to exist – yes, I know I’m harsh here.
The difference in conceiving the curriculum and packaging the information therein is way too conspicuous to ignore. A grade five student in India, according to the online curricula available on the website of National Council of Education and Research and Training (NCERT), studies Mathematics, English, Hindi and Environmental Studies. In the land of the pure, a student of the same level becomes a guinea pig of the state and undergoes the injections of Urdu, Islamiat, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies. In private schools, Arts & Crafts, English and computing is added to this. The non-Muslim students are given a choice of Ethics in Islamiat’s stead.
One wonders why such a young mind needs religious education? But such a question should not come out lest you may not be labeled as a lesser Muslim. World saw all hell breaking when there was contemplation on government’s part back in 2004, of removing Islamiat from primary education. It had to be re-introduced from grade three this time after a strong propaganda campaign was led by the media to fuel right wing consumer of curricula against the change.
There were many at that time who would ask what was harm in religious education, which should be a must. When, in response to the latter part of the question, one would argue WHY, the answer invariably was: Because Pakistan was created in the name of Islam! And this answer has been universal. So incessant has been the hammering of this lie that after sixty-two years, no one is able to even imagine challenging this assertion. Who has benefitted from this lie? Who was damaged by this? People of Pakistan and the society.
The wrong notion created since the beginning of country’s birth has won the establishment an unquestionable hegemony on power and resources. That the Muslims are one nation, and all non-Muslims are distinctly different from them, amply gives Muslims a reason to get a different homeland, came to play soon after the partition as one of the biggest challenges to keep diverse sub-nationalities within newly created state.
Differences in language, traditions, culture, social norms were too manifest to give neo-Pakistanis enough adherent to survive as a nation. Religion was the easiest way out. It was forcefully made one adhesive factor for keeping the nation together, which was undergoing labour pains ever since it came into existence. The ethnic differences erupted as soon as Urdu was declared national language of the country. The schism widened when federal government chose to impose governor rule in NWFP, disrupting popularly elected government of Dr. Khan sahib, just because he was from Congress. The Baluchistan’s independent states i.e., Qallat etc. too were not very happy with the way center was trying to consolidate itself at the cost of provinces’ independence. Although Khan of Qallat was convinced by Jinnah to sign instrument of succession, it still demanded a lot to appease the sentiment of exclusion.
In Sindh too, there were tensions between the local Vadera (feudal) politicians and migrated UP elite. Punjab’s Unionist party was also lured into coming in the lap of Pakistan Muslim League. An era of dirtiest politics started, which resulted into first military rule in Pakistan. No insight of politics in those times is available in any of the textbook in Pakistan. On the contrary, the history of Pakistan starts from Mughals (grade 6) and ends on August 14, 1947.
In my next post, I would be examining the way history is distorted and crammed up in young minds to make them belligerent against everybody who looks different in terms of religion.