With tears and hope from Jacobabad

By K.N. Pandita

Indian mission in Pakistan issued visa to nearly 257 Pakistani Hindus of Jacobabad, Sindh to visit India. It is a city-based visa. Rahman, Pakistani interior minster howled it is “Indian conspiracy”. He feared they would “defame” Pakistan and seek asylum there.

He got them detained at Atari for eight hours for “further investigation”. They were demanded an undertaking that they would not seek an asylum but return to Pakistan. This is akin to J&K Government obtaining undertaking from migrant Pandit recruits that they will not leave the valley nor ask for transfer. 

Both dispensations are arbitrary. Neither Rahman promised security to 80 pilgrim-migrant families from Jacobabad comprising over 257 members nor did the J&K Government provide any solid assurance of security to the Pandit migrant-recruits in the valley. This is identical induction of politics sans humanism.

Amusingly major print media in our country, more especially the left-oriented one, has subtly played down the entire Jacobabad migration episode. Mavericks go to the length of concocting stories and exonerating their persecutors.

The stories are as this: One story is that about 80 Hindu families of Jacobabad, Sindh comprising 0er 250 members are on a pilgrimage to some places in India. They are businessmen and have no intention of staying back in India. Second story is that these Pakistani Hindus have not suffered any wrong-doing at the hands of majority community, and the third story is that “Manisha Kumari (14) willingly converted to Islam, married a Pakistani Muslim boy and renamed herself Mahvish.” (ToI, 13 Aug).

In its typical understatement, sections of biased Indian press went on to defend the Pakistani President saying he was concerned on the plight of Hindu minority in Pakistan and that he had constituted a Parliamentary Committee of three members to visit Jacobabad and alley the fears of the traumatized community.

What enquiry will the committee conduct, what recommendations it will make, who will implement those recommendations and when, this is anybody’s guess.

This section of Indian press makes us believe that these stories are recounted not by Pakistani official sources but by the members of the fugitive groups themselves. Intention is to lend credence to the fabricated stories.

As against this, the Dawn of Karachi has been very candid. “Amish Kumar of Bakhshi Pur (Sindh) said that they were businessmen but compelled to leave Pakistan because of harassment, lawlessness, and looting, kidnapping and forcible conversion of Hindu girls.” (11 August).

Many questions arise. Pakistan was created in 1947 as a Muslim State for the Muslims of the sub-continent. Why did not the Hindus of Sindh including Jacobabad understand what an “Islamic State” means? Did not they understand that the new state was actually creaked on hatred not harmony? Why did not they migrate in 1947?

Yes, we agree Sindh has had the historical tradition of pervasive Sufi culture that harmonizes religious ideologies. The same is true of Kashmir. Sufi Islam was tolerant as it essentially drew inspiration from Quranic teachings of humanism, tolerance and justice.

But with the passage of time and interaction of socio-political forces, Pakistani polity drifted towards religious fanaticism. Sufi Islam was relegated to the backyard because the larger Muslim religious leadership passed into the hands of zealots and radicals. This is precisely what happened in Kashmir.

The Sindhi Hindus should have taken the lesson from what happened to the majority of Hindus in Pakistan after partition especially in the province of Punjab. They ran the risk, and now they are reaping its fruit.

In contrast, the Hindus of Kashmir, on finding that the State and the Union governments both were more than willing to kill their conscience for pro-Muslim propensity, decided to leave their homes and hearths and proceed on what one sadist Pandit commentator wrote “self-imposed exile”.

Total uncertainty of their future in Pakistan on one hand and generally apathetic attitude of the Indian government towards their plight on the other has forced the migratory group of Jacobabad Hindus to play safe with the media on arrival in India. Their unchartered future makes them speak politics rather than their gnashing pain and persecution. This is precise replication of the behaviour of a couple of hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits who did not migrate in 1990 and are left behind.

The Government of India, especially the Congress-led UPA, owes large responsibility to these unfortunate and lesser mortals. Their plight is not because of their choosing but because of Congress’ half-a-century long denial of demands of Muslim League in pre-independence interregnum and then quick succumbing to partition of the country with all the suffering, privation and destitution hurled on the Hindus now assigned to a new state created for the Muslims of the sub-continent.

It is the legal and moral responsibility of the Government of India to provide shelter, protection and source of livelihood to these unfortunate people. Its largesse has to be open, transparent and well defined. No legal bottlenecks and glitches should be allowed to obstruct them if they want to be given Indian citizenship forthwith. This is a small group of Hindus traumatised, harassed and persecuted in their birthplace in a state that has been created on the basis of rejection of secularism as its social arrangement.

Indian secular arrangement is in place. If it were not, groups of Indian Muslims would be heading towards Pakistan or other Muslim countries. Nothing of the sort has happened. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Bangladesh have illegally crossed over to Indian Territory and the Indian secular governments have accepted them as Indian citizens without any hassle, issued ration and identity cards to them to vote in assembly and parliamentary elections of India. They move freely all over India and no restrictions are imposed on them.

Moreover, for last two decades ever since armed insurgency surfaced in Kashmir, Pakistan has been saying openly at all international platforms that it will extend moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris. In actuality she takes cue from religious affinity with Kashmiris, geographical contiguity and international legal authority. It is a different story that in actuality Pakistan has offered more military and logistical support to the insurgents.

Are not these conditions fully applicable in the case of oppressed Hindu minority of Sindh? New Delhi has a right to flung inferior minister Rahman’s audacious remark back into his face by offering suo moto Indian citizenship to these hapless people who left Jacobabad with tears in their eyes and headed towards India with hopes in their spirit.

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