– Zulfiqar Halepoto
On March 12th, 2010, Friday, a group of civil society leaders, layers, writers and legislators (Pitamber PPP MPA, Advocate Javed Qazi, Asho Thama HRCP representative, Punhal Sario, Verji Kolhi, Zulfiqar Halepoto and others) visited the camp of displaced dalit families in Mithi (Thar Desert).
They are living in miserable conditions. 400 heads including minor children, girls, women and boys looking for justice and revival of their livelihood sources in the camps, they have lost their cultural identity and relationship with their ancestral land because local feudal with the support of religious leaders are forcefully converting their girls into Islam.
There is a rise in the cases of kidnapping, raping and forced conversion of the girls of minority communities and especially those of dalit girls in Thar and other parts of Sindh.
Only in last 20 days, 9 girls of minority communities are kidnapped in different towns of Sindh (for details please read all Sindh based newspapers and watch TV channels). In some cases PPP leaders are involved (though they are not authorized by the leadership to do this crime) but this is party’s prime responsibility to have a check on this kind of heinous crime.
The most worst is the forced conversion of a Manghwar (dalit) girl into Islam by a Pir of Samaro Mr. Sarhandee. I think forced conversion and forced migration are the worst forms of slavery and exploitation. It is very painful, especially for women and children.
Legislators of PPP from Thar are just announcing financial support and cosmetic sympathy because the culprits are their strong electoral support college. Bablani was a hero of anti-dictatorship movements today he is supporting forced conversion. PPP is losing its moral and progressive value base. Where is their claim to protect all citizens and especially those of women? Where is rule of law?
An another case PPP MPA Sharjeel Memon ( a neo feudal) is pressurising a Kohli (dalit) family to withdraw the case of rape and kidnapping and asking the family to convert their daughter to Islam and should get married to the culprit. What the hell is going on in Sindh?
Story of Daya’s forced conversion and painful migration:
A month-and-a-half ago, 15-year-old Daya, daughter of Khaku, a member of the Meghwar Dalit community, was abducted at night from her village, Aaklee, while her family was asleep. Soon after, she was forcefully converted to Islam at a Madressah in Samaro. Since then, the Meghwar community of Aaklee lives in fear. They have been threatened by the abductors, who were identified as Mumtaz and his father Talib from the Hingorja community, who said that they would kidnap other girls from the community too, if the Meghwars did not remain silent. On March 1, while other Hindu communities celebrated Holi, this oppressed, low-caste community from Aaklee left their village forever due to insecurity and for the protection of other young girls in the village. Sixty-five families shifted to Mithi, and settled in an open field near the bypass, two kilometres away from the main town. Some of their relatives, who live in Mithi, have been providing them with support in the form of tents to shelter the women and children. Government functionaries, however, have not bothered to get in touch with them.
The affecters are voters of Faqir Sher Mohd Bilalani, so they complained of this incident to him. Bilalani had assured them that the abducted girl will be recovered; nothing of the sort has happened yet, instead, Meghwars continued to receive more threats from the Hingorja community — so much so that 65 families (400 people) have to leave their ancestral home.
The Meghwars could not even lodge an FIR against the Hingorjas due to fear. They had initially thought that the matter will be resolved through traditional means, as Bilalani had assured them. “The Hingorjas are powerful people. They converted Daya to Islam against her will,” the girl’s parents, Ratna and Khaku, maintain.
“No one can imagine how difficult it is to leave one’s native village; but today we have decided that we can never go back to Aaklee,” 70-year-old Mehendaro Meghwar said.
They are also worried about the education of their children, because the exams were scheduled for March. The community has demanded land and relief packages from the government, in order to be able to begin life anew near Mithi. I think that the government should immediately investigate this case and punish the actual culprits. The government should also address the needs of the community, and take appropriate action for their rehabilitation. Moreover, keeping in view the increasing violence against religious minorities, especially those from the scheduled castes, the Government of Pakistan should announce a constitutional package, including provisions for necessary protection, and a set of affirmative action for their rights.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, March 13, 2010