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Dim hopes for Hindus

The Hindu community celebrates the joyous occasion of Diwali today. The Festival of Lights is marked with jubilation and enthusiasm but hopes have dimmed for the minority in Pakistan. The Hindus continue to face systematic persecution, oppression and threats to the places of worship.

Last week, a Hindu temple was vandalized by a mob and idols were desecrated in Lyari area of Karachi after blasphemy allegations by a boy. A similar incident occurred in Badin district of Sindh when a makeshift temple was defaced and idols were destroyed. Such incidents against the Hindu minority should be strongly condemned.

The Hindus have remained patriotic but still continue to face inherent bias and discrimination. The abduction, conversion and forced marriages of Hindu girls is still underway. In July, dozens of Hindus converted to Islam in Badin after being drawn by jobs and lands amid a virus-ravaged economy. The minority community has been dwindling much to delight of right-wing and other extremist groups.

Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus are discriminated in almost every walk of life – housing, education, public sector jobs and access to welfare. Not all conversions are forced but they are often encouraged by local leaders and proselytizing Muslim clerics, while many just to increase their social class and status. The Hindu population in the country stands at less than one percent.

Sindh was seen as a melting pot of religions and many Hindus chose to stay behind in India after partition. As the situation worsened amid an influx of migrants, many of them started looking towards settling in India. In 2015, the National Assembly was told that 5,000 Hindus are leaving the country every year to India. However, many Hindus who migrated soon realised that India was not the ideal destination they had imagined. Despite the Hindu nationalist government of Modi, Pakistani Hindus did not enjoy the benefits as others and often faced discriminatory attitudes, forcing many to return disappointed.

The constitution grants Hindus the right to practice their faith, perform their rights and visit their holy places. The construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad was abruptly stopped. Although the Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI) said the government was allowed to build a temple, there has been no progress and no one has raised the matter over possible repercussions. The Hindus have no recourse and continue to struggle as citizens of the state.

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