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‘No difference between woman and meat’, Hindu refugees rendered homeless by Rajasthan Govt recount the atrocities which forced them to flee Pakistan

"In Pakistan, there is no difference between meat and women," Hindu refugee women who were forced to flee the country abandoning their newborns lamented.

Hindus and other religious minorities have long been the target of atrocities and discrimination in Pakistan. Unlike Muslims – the so-called minorities – in India, these Hindus in Pakistan never enjoyed any normal life let alone special rights and privileges. According to research, over 14,000 cases of gang rape, kidnapping, and religious conversion of Hindu girls have surfaced in the last 12 years.

Tired of the atrocities, several Hindu refugees have, over the years, came to India after escaping the terror and repression of the government in Pakistan with the hope that they would be able to live respectable life here.

However, when they found themselves fighting for the most basic amenities and facing different types of discrimination in some places in India, their hopes were completely shattered. Last month, innumerable Pakistani Hindus were rendered homeless after the Rajasthan Government decided to raze their homes to the ground with bulldozers. The arbitrary action was taken first in Jodhpur and then in Jaisalmer, forcing many Hindu women and children migrants to come out on the road in the scorching heat. A video of the incident was shared on social media in which migrant Hindus could be heard expressing their anguish over the action taken by the authorities.

When news of the Rajasthan government’s actions against these Pakistani Hindus emerged, the plight of these Pakistani immigrants once again became a subject of discussion in the public discourse.

Following this bulldozing operation, numerous media outlets conducted on-the-ground reports at both locations. The hardships these migrant Hindus were facing in Pakistan and the hostility they encountered from Indian systems and people were extensively covered for the first time by mainstream media outlets. The depressing accounts of these Hindus showed not only how inhumanely religious minorities are treated in Islamic countries, but also serve as a sobering reminder of the amount of support that Hindus must provide to their fellow brothers and sisters who also call India their motherland.

While speaking with the media, many said that they had fled Pakistan after becoming victims of rape and kidnappings. They unanimously said that they felt their lives were in danger in the neighbouring country.

Aaj Tak journalist Mridulika Jha also travelled to Jodhpur to report from the ground. She spoke with a number of Hindu refugees who not only discussed the difficulties they had in Pakistan that compelled them to run to India but also the challenges they are currently experiencing in India that are unfortunately escalating their suffering.

Hindu families in Pakistan are under the regressive zamindari system, fleeing to India for their daughters

Mridulika Jha spoke to a Pakistani Hindu refugee named Vishnumal in the Chokhan area of Jodhpur. He had fled Pakistan on the pretext of coming for a pilgrimage to Haridwar and went to Jodhpur and settled there instead. He said while weeping profusely, “There we had to abandon our house, here our house has been destroyed. How much suffering do we have to endure in one life?”

Zamindari is a system of land ownership in which large landowners, known as zamindars, control large tracts of land and rent it out to smaller farmers. The system was introduced by the Mughal Empire in the 16th century and continued under British rule. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Zamindari system was abolished, but, surprisingly, its legacy continues to shape the social and economic landscape of Pakistan.

Hindus in Pakistan continue to experience hardship as a result of the oppressive Feudal (Zamindari) system. According to Vishnumal, his family used to work in the fields for a month as slaves in Mirpur, Pakistan. However, they used to just receive daily pay for 15 days. “We resigned ourselves to our fate because the situation was so dire. We were aware that we would have to work the full month but receive payment for only 15 days,” Vishnumal recalled.

Another Hindu refugee Shivhari, who claimed to have owned a shop in Pakistan, said that it is only because of his daughter that he is currently wandering around India. Shivhari revealed that his daughter use to top her class but still, he was unable to send her to school. His son also used to get physically assaulted at school. He was mocked by being referred a Kafir, he lamented.

Hindu women left home with Tulsi leaves, smeared posters of Hindu God with cow dung to protect it from sacrilege

While recounting his story, Kishan said that they had arrived in India with bare minimum belongings. He recalled how they had plastered all the posters of Hindu gods and goddesses put up in their old house in Sindh, Pakistan, with cow dung to prevent sacrilege. According to Kishan, the situation of Hindus in Pakistan is comparable to that of a daughter-in-law who moved into a wealthy in-law’s home from a destitute home. The person is required to accomplish all the work alone before demanding everyone else’s cooperation.

According to Kishan, Hindus who have daughters are compelled to leave Pakistan. Revealing that he has three daughters. Kishan lamented, “How long can you keep your girls locked in the house?” I decided to come to India for this reason.” However, he noted that leaving Pakistan was not that simple. As soon as he began the passport registration process, the news spread like wildfire. He started receiving lesser wages. He did not even have money to provide his children with two square meals a day.

Over time, things got so dire that his wife was compelled to feed the kids a mixture of flour and water to keep them alive. He stated that his son had become as frail as a light ball. Everybody became incredibly hostile towards them. Even going to temples became a major challenge. His wife was stopped if she was seen with religious offerings. His kids also could not step out of the house. The situation became so unfavourable, that they decided to leave Pakistan, said Kishan, adding that his wife tied tulsi leaves in her saree as a good luck charm when he left for India.

16 year old Aastha married off to a 70-year-old man: Hindu refugees speak about the persecution at the hands of Islamists in Pakistan

Several Hindu refugees narrated their heart-wrenching tales of atrocities faced by them in Pakistan to reveal how unsafe girls are in Pakistan. A Hindu refugee who came from Sindh in Pakistan lamented how his 16-year-old daughter was forcefully married off to a 70-year-old man in Sindh. He said that his teenage daughter Aastha was converted and named Amina.

Further recalling the Pakistan authority’s apathy towards the Hindu minorities, he said that when his family members reported the incident to the authorities they said, “Be thankful that your daughter was not raped, killed and thrown in the river.”

The Hindu refugee lamented that one of the main reasons they restrict their girl children from attending school once they reach the ages of 8 to 10 is that they will undoubtedly be kidnapped, gang-raped, converted, and either killed or married off to older Pakistani men.

Aastha’s mother also told the journalist, “Unlike you, we cannot roam around freely in Pakistan without covering our face.”

‘In Pakistan, there is no difference between meat and women,’ Hindu refugees who were forced to flee abandoning their newborns lament

The Hindus who fled Pakistan and came to India are struggling to meet their basic needs every day. Most of these refugees have been living in India for quite some time but they said that the hardships they had to face in Pakistan have not yet been erased from their memories. Hindus stated that in Pakistan, there is no difference between meat and women. “Had we stayed back, our women would have been torn to shreds.”

Recalling their plight, Hindu refugees recalled how many women were forced to flee leaving their newborn children behind in Pakistan.

A Hindu refugee who identified herself as Poonam told the Aaj Tak journalist that she was forced to abandon her 4-day-old baby and flee to India. She implored the journalist, sobbing uncontrollably, to reunite her with her infant.

Poonam was, however, not the only Hindu refugee who was forced to abandon their children. Many such women who fled and came to Jodhpur in 2023 narrated their unfortunate plight. Some gave away their infant to their neighbours, while others left their newborns with their maternal uncle or kin, they bemoaned. These women, who looked extremely disoriented, said that they break down every time they hear their kids’ voices on the phone. One woman, who was suffering from similar pain, lamented that she wanted to end her life by jumping off a cliff.

Kafir in Pakistan, terrorist in India

Some Hindu refugees spoke about the different types of discrimination they face in Pakistan as well as in India. They said that they were discriminated against as Kafirs in Pakistan. Now, in India, they are discriminated against as Pakistanis. “Here, we are often referred to as terrorists, one Hindu refugee Shyama said.

Shyama added that those Hindus who were living comfortably in Pakistan are ready to give up all their comforts and come to India because even for them, the safety of their daughters is paramount.

Notably, a recent Human Rights Observer 2023 fact sheet revealed that in the year 2022, as many as 124 women belonging to minority communities were forcefully converted to Islam in the Islamic country. Out of this, 81 were Hindu, 42 were Christian and one was Sikh.

Further, the fact sheet revealed that 23 per cent of girls were below 14 years of age, 36 per cent of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12 per cent of the victims were adults, while the age of 28 per cent of the victims was not reported.

In 2022, 65% of cases of forced religious conversion were reported in Sindh, 33% in Punjab, and 0.8% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, respectively.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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