The ashes of Karachi Hindus can finally be immersed in the Ganga. But what of the mortal remains of Hindus in the rest of Pakistan?
By: Amar Guriro, Karachi, Sindh
More than sixty years after Partition, sealed borders and complicated visa procedures continue to separate thousands of families in India and Pakistan – even to impact the dead. Since the two countries tightened already-cumbersome visa procedures in the aftermath of the war of 1971, Pakistani Hindus have been unable to take the remains of loved ones for immersion in the Ganga at Haridwar.
While it is true that, due to the peculiarities of Pakistani life and times, a majority of poor and lower-caste Hindus tend to bury their dead, a large proportion of the well-to-do continue to cremate. And while the ashes of many are distributed in the river Indus and the Arabian Sea, there are still those who insist on immersion in the holy Ganga; and hence, the families have been willing to hold the ashes until such time that the visa regime into India is loosened. For this reason, the ashes of 130 Sindhi Hindus have for decades sat in limbo in Karachi. Finally, in late June, some relief was offered, as the Indian government announced for the first time that Hindus in Karachi – but only Hindus in Karachi – will indeed be given visas to take the remains of their relatives across the border into India, where the last rites can be performed. While the announcement led to public celebrations in Karachi, Hindus throughout the rest of Pakistan are wondering what to make of the new ‘breakthrough’.
Amar Guriro is a staff reporter with the Daily Times, Karachi.