India: A Paradise For Pakistani Hindus?

A recent New York Times piece titled "Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By" talks of "Pakistan’s dwindling Hindu minority". An earlier New York Times story in December 2019 mentioned "the pressure for (Pakistani) Hindus to weigh moving to India".  The paper also reported that "the Indian government granted 12,732 long-term visas, compared with 4,712 in 2017, and 2,298 in 2016". These stories raise two questions: 1. Is Hindu population in Pakistan declining? 2. Are Hindus moving to India better off than they were in Pakistan? Let me try to answer both of these questions.

Hindu Population in West Pakistan Source: Census Data

Hindu Population in Pakistan:

There are 8.4 million Hindus in Pakistan as of 2018, according to Pakistan Hindu Council. Hindus, including low-caste Hindus, make up 4% of Pakistan's population, a much higher percentage than 1.85% back in 1998.

Hinduism is the Fastest Growing Religion in Pakistan. Source: Pew Research

Contrary to the sensational media headlines about declining Hindu population in Pakistan, the fact is that Hindu birth rate is significantly higher than the country's national average. Although Hindus make up only 4% of Pakistan's population, it is among the worlds fastest growing Hindu communities today, growing faster than the Hindu populations in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Top Countries With Hindu Populations Source: Pew Research Center

Myth of Hindu Paradise in India:

Pakistani Hindus who migrated to India number in thousands, a tiny fraction of Hindu population of over 8 million in Pakistan.  Those who were lured by the media coverage painting India as a Hindu paradise have been deeply disappointed. Many of them are low-caste Hindus who have faced discrimination by upper caste Hindus in India. They are barred from temples and assaulted for drinking from community wells.

A New York Times story featured Baghchand Bheel as a case of disappointed Pakistani Hindus who left for India hoping for a Hindu paradise. “You take these decisions sometimes out of excitement for what your life could be. Then you arrive and realize it’s much different on the ground.”

Baghchand Bheel is of a lower caste, and when he tried to enter a Hindu temple, he was barred entry by the priest because of it, he said. And when a friend tried to drink from the community water well, he was physically assaulted by upper caste Brahmins who accused him of polluting it, according to New York Times.

What Pakistani Hindus face in India today goes back to 1947. In "The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of India",  Indian author Nandita Bhavnani has written about it. Here's an excerpt:

 "Many (Pakistani) Dalits who migrated (whether at the time of partition or subsequently) faced humiliation and discrimination at the hands of caste Hindus in India after Partition. In some cases, they were taken by separate ships or trains. Tillo Jethmalani, who was subsequently posted as camp commandant at Marwar Junction, recalls how one goods train filled with Dalit refugees from Sindh arrived in the middle of Rajasthan winter night, with Dalits lying freezing and semi-conscious inside the goods wagons. Even in refugee camps in India, Dalits were given separate living quarters and dining areas, thus maintaining the status quo of ghettoization."

Contented Pakistani Hindu:

In a piece tiled "A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why" published in The Quint in December 2019, Indian writer Akhil Bakshi wrote about his meeting with Ravi Kumar, a Pakistani Hindu, in Nairobi, Kenya.  Soon after exchanging pleasantries in Hindustani, Ravi Kumar smiled and said, “Let me clarify that I am not an Indian. I am a Pakistani.”

 Here's an exchange reported by the Indian writer:

“It must be difficult for your family to live in Pakistan?” I asked a leading question.

 “On the contrary, we are extremely happy there,” he retorted, astonishing me.

 “Are you not discriminated against?”

 “Not at all! We feel like equal citizens. My family lives in Karachi and nobody has ever bothered us. We are a successful business family trading in rice.”

“But isn't the Hindu community in Pakistan generally impoverished?”

 “Not in Karachi. We are probably the most prosperous community. The entire rice trade — milling, retail and wholesale — is controlled by Hindus. They all live in great comfort. I have relocated to Benin — from where I supply rice to West Africa".

“Haven't you ever thought about relocating to India? Do you not want to free yourself of a dismal, perilous existence in Pakistan and migrate to India to seek succour of freedom and a liberal democracy?” I asked.

 He looked at me with a hard stare but replied politely:  “You are trying to put words into my mouth. Firstly, our life in Pakistan is not miserable. We are very much a part of the mainstream. I am a Pakistani at heart. Secondly, India is the last place I would like to migrate to. I have been to Bombay thrice — to source rice for West Africa — as Pakistan did not have enough surplus for export. All three times it has been a dreadful experience. Right from the time you land, you are questioned and hounded as if you are a terrorist. I had to report to the police station every day. And all that the authorities did was to pick my pockets. I spent most of my time waiting at police stations than at business meetings. I don't like the undignified way I am treated in India. Now I am on my way to source rice from Thailand — over-flying India.”

"Forced" Conversions & Marriages:

Indian media and Pakistani "liberals" go into overdrive every time there is an interfaith marriage involving a Hindu girl and a Muslim man occurs.  Pakistani Hindu activist and lawyer Kalpana Devi says that even willing conversions of Hindu girls to Islam are often labeled as "forced conversions". She says there is media hype and distortions of facts relating to such conversions. It is important to understand the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. It is not unusual for Hindu families to attempt to avoid social stigma by falsely characterizing all conversions and marriages of their daughters as "forced".


Facts and data show that New York Times' coverage of Hindus in Pakistan is highly exaggerated. There is no truth in the NYT claim of "dwindling Hindu minority" in Pakistan. The New York Times' claims of pressure on Pakistani Hindus to migrate is highly exaggerated. No more than a few thousand among 8 million Pakistani Hindus have migrated to India. And those who have migrated have been deeply disappointed. India is no paradise for Pakistani Hindus. Conversions and marriages involving Hindu girls are often incorrectly characterized as "forced".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

South Asian Contrast: Ayodhya & Kartarpur

Dalit Woman Elected to Pakistani Senate

Thari Hindu Women Riding High on Development Boom

Myth of Forced Conversions and Marriages in Pakistan

Caste Discrimination Rampant Among Silicon Valley Indians

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC


Riaz Haq said…
Hindu nationalism has been the bedrock of the Indian State and polity. Nehruvian secularism was the fringe

by Prof Abhinav Prakash Singh
Delhi University

The first Republic was founded on the myth of a secular-socialist India supposedly born out of the anti-colonial struggle. However, the Indian freedom movement was always a Hindu movement. From its origin, symbolism, language, and support base, it was the continuation of a Hindu resurgence already underway, but which was disrupted by the British conquest. The coming together of various pagan traditions in the Indian subcontinent under the umbrella of Hinduism is a long-drawn-out process. But it began to consolidate as a unified political entity in the colonial era in the form of Hindutva. The Hindutva concept is driven by an attempt by the older pagan traditions, united by a dharmic framework and intertwined by puranas, myths and folklore, to navigate the modern political and intellectual landscape dominated by nations and nation-states.

Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hindutva is a Hindu political response to political Islam and Western imperialism. It seeks to forge Hindus into a modern nation and create a powerful industrial State that can put an end to centuries of persecution that accelerated sharply over the past 100 years when the Hindu-Sikh presence was expunged in large swaths of the Indian subcontinent.

India’s freedom struggle was guided by the vision of Hindu nationalism and not by constitutional patriotism. The Congress brand of nationalism was but a subset of this broader Hindu nationalism with the Congress itself as the pre-eminent Hindu party. The Muslim question forced the Congress to adopt a more tempered language and symbolism later and to weave the myth of Hindu-Muslim unity. But it failed to prevent the Partition of India. The Congress was taken over by Left-leaning secular denialists under Jawaharlal Nehru who, instead of confronting reality, pretended it did not exist.


Hindu nationalism has never been fringe; it is Nehruvian secularism that was the fringe. And with the fall of the old English-speaking elites, the system they created is also collapsing along with accompanying myths like Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb and Hindu-Muslim unity. The fact is that Hindus and Muslims lived together, but separately. And they share a violent and cataclysmic past with each other, which has never been put to rest.

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb was an urban-feudal construct with no serious takers outside a limited circle. In villages, whatever unity existed was because the caste identities of both Hindu and Muslims dominated instead of religious identities or because Hindu converts to Islam maintained earlier customs and old social links with Hindus like common gotra and caste. But all that evaporated quickly with the Islamic revivalist movements such as the Tabligh and pan-Islamism from 19th century onwards. It never takes much for Hindu-Muslim riots to erupt. There was nothing surprising about the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests and widespread riots. As political communities, Hindus and Muslims have hardly ever agreed on the big questions of the day.

What we are witnessing today is twilight of the first Republic. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is but a modern vehicle of the historical process of the rise of the Hindu rashtra. In the north, Jammu and Kashmir is fully integrated. In the south, Dravidianism is melting away. In the east, Bengal is turning saffron. In the west, secular parties must ally with a local Hindutva party to survive.
Riaz Haq said…
#India and the world were already heavily #debt-ridden when #COVID19 hit, hence there will be massive #bankruptcies in a businesses. : NYU professor emeritus Edward Altman

Built back in 1968 by Edward I Altman, then a professor at New York University the model is still being used across the world. It helps predict the possibility of a business going bankrupt. And that perhaps explains why Altman is considered an authority in bankruptcy prediction.
Riaz Haq said…
The recent report on commission on forced conversions by Senator Anwer Kakar which comprises of minorities as well had given a report that in majority of the alleged conversion cases the girls were of legal marriageable age and they had married of their own free will. When the parents could not find a legal recourse they fed the media and certain NGOs that the girl was minor and abducted.

He (Kakar) said the committee found out that most or all of the cases of forced conversions had some degree of willingness on the girl's part.

"What we observed is that the majority of the girls and boys had secretly decided to elope and marry. But that was because the families of the two would not accept them as life partners," he said.

Lal Chand Malhi said that the state should take the responsibility of providing shelter and security to such couples who willingly run away, change their religions willingly and get married.

"Those who run away from their homes should be provided state protection for some time so that the girl may finalise her decision," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
Under the Talpurs, Sindhi Hindus had been forbidden from owning land. That’s not to say they were not commercially active. In fact, Sindh’s Hindus had a long tradition of business success. The British imperialist Richard Burton wrote that ‘throughout Sindh the Hindu element preponderates in the cities and towns, the Moslem in the country: the former everywhere represents capital, the latter labour’.22 It was the Hindus who collected taxes, lent money and managed trade. Nevertheless, a British decision to allow Sindh’s Hindus to own land tilted things in their favour, and with many Muslims heavily indebted to Hindu financiers, some ended up losing their land to Hindu moneylenders. In 1896, a survey of villages in Sindh found that Hindus held 28 per cent of the land; fifty years earlier they had owned virtually none. The British were concerned. The Sindh commissioner Evan James complained that when Hindus obtained other people’s land through usury, the former owners were reduced to a state of abject dependence. ‘The feeling of injustice engendered by this tyranny strikes at the foundations of our rule,’ he said.23 The British worried that if the big estates were broken up, a crucial pillar of support in Sindh would be lost. Under the Sind Encumbered Estates Act a British manager could take over a bankrupt estate and declare many of its debts null and void. For the landowner there was a downside – the manager would take over ownership of the land until such time as the estate was solvent again – but once the books were balanced and the estate returned to profitability, it was given back to the landowner. Doda Khan Bhutto, sharp as well as forceful, was quick to exploit the Act. While some landowners held back, either to preserve their dignity or because they did not trust the British, Doda knew a good thing when he saw it and ensured that his estate was one of the first to be taken over. A manager, appointed in 1876, went through the books and confirmed Doda Khan was heavily in debt. Then, declaring that much of what Doda Khan owed was the result of exorbitant interest rates charged by Hindu moneylenders, the manager wrote off over half of his liabilities. At a stroke, Doda Khan’s situation was transformed. The remaining debts were dealt with by a government loan that the manager repaid from estate income over a five-year period.

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 23-24). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
Riaz Haq said…
243 #Pakistani #Hindus and #Sikhs Seeking Greener Pastures Across the Border in #India Will Return to #Pakistan. They are going back to Pakistan as they continue to face “financial hardships” in India. via @thewire_in

A group of 243 Pakistani nationals, including several Hindu and Sikh refugees, who have been given permission to return, will be going back to Pakistan as they continue to face “financial hardships” in India, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A batch of Pakistani Hindu and Sikh refugees living in India will go back on Thursday, “giving up on their dreams of acquiring Indian citizenship in the face of financial hardships”, The Economic Times reported.

The refugees are among 243 Pakistani nationals, including many stranded in India due to COVID-19 pandemic, who have been given permission to travel via Wagah border on Thursday.

“For the past four years, I have been running to FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) Jodhpur and home ministry in New Delhi to get visas for my wife and children. I have given up now and want to go back,” a 37-year-old refugee, Shreedhar told ET.

Another refugee, Mithoon, who was from Hyderabad city in Sindh province stated that they came to India in “search of better livelihood”. “For the past one year, we have been trying to get LTV (long term visa) but to no avail…My family is facing financial trouble due to lockdown and COVID-19. They have now decided to go back,” he said.

“Officials said applications from Pakistani refugees wishing to go back have been received mainly from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi. In some cases, harassment and corruption during field verification have come to light, adding to the woes of the refugees, said people aware of the matter,” noted the report.
Riaz Haq said…
The figures for 1998 Pakistan Hindu population of 1.3% and 1.6% are from two different sources cited in my post.

1.6% includes Dalits while 1.3% only counts caste (jati) Hindus.

The latest 2017 census shows that the Hindu population of Pakistan has now risen to 2.14% (1.73% caste Hindu and 0.41% Dalit).
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan - #Fakenews about rape & conversion of a #Christian girl, & attack on a church. After the #Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in #Sukkur, but here too the police denied such an act.

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - On May 24, news spread in Pakistan of the alleged kidnapping of a 14-year-old Christian girl, Sunita Masih, in Faisalabad, Punjab Province. She was supposed to have been abducted, raped and then converted to Islam by Muslim men. After the Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in Sukkur (Sindh province), but here too the police denied such an act.
Asif Munawar, Catholic human rights activist from Faisalabad told Fides: "The news about Sunita Masih is false; the photo spread on social media is that of a girl who was kidnapped three years ago. There are people who spread false news about attacks and persecutions against religious minorities. But we have to pay close attention and check carefully. Even the latest news of the attack on a church in Okara has been found to be completely false".
Father James Channan OP, Dominican Catholic priest, Director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, comments to Agenzia Fides: "We condemn the fake news that was released earlier this week about the alleged kidnapping, rape and forced conversion of a Christian girl as well as that about an alleged attack on a church in Okara. Fake news is dangerous, it is horrible, it is a trap, and it adds to the worry and trauma of religious minorities and helps fuel hatred and resentment between communities of different beliefs and is a cancerous growth factor for interfaith relationships and ruin the country's image".
Fr. Channan, who himself works closely with leading Islamic religious representatives to create peace and harmony between people of different faiths, says: "We have to act responsibly, every time we receive a message we have to verify its truthfulness. It should be noted that with the hectic and uncontrolled distribution on social media, such fake news has gone viral, creating frustration and fear among members of religious minorities. We need to be aware of the danger of artificial fabricated messages spreading on the internet and social networks". Fr. Channan points out: "We must understand, denounce and stop those who intend to create havoc by spreading false news, to support their own hidden programs or personal interests. There have been attacks on churches or attacks on members of religious minorities in Pakistan, but alarmism is harmful. We have to be able to rely on the truth and false news is counterproductive and, above all, harms the minorities themselves". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2021)

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Hindus in #India are broke, jobless and hungry. They want to go back to #Pakistan. They came to India looking for a better life, but today they have no means to support themselves. #BJP #Modi #Hindutva #propaganda --- Times of India
Riaz Haq said…
In #Pakistan, #Muslim men marrying #Hindu girls are often accused of kidnapping, forced conversion/marriage. Now in #Kashmir, a #Sikh woman says she married for love but her parents call It coercion. #BJP #Hindutva want to totally outlaw all such marriages

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Manmeet Kour Bali had to defend her marriage in court.

A Sikh by birth, Ms. Bali converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Her parents objected to a marriage outside their community and filed a police complaint against her new husband.

In court last month, she testified that she had married for love, not because she was coerced, according to a copy of her statement reviewed by The New York Times. Days later, she ended up in India’s capital of New Delhi, married to a Sikh man.

Religious diversity has defined India for centuries, recognized and protected in the country’s Constitution. But interfaith unions remain rare, taboo and increasingly illegal.

A spate of new laws across India, in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., are seeking to banish such unions altogether.

While the rules apply broadly, right-wing supporters in the party portray such laws as necessary to curb “love jihad,” the idea that Muslim men marry women of other faiths to spread Islam. Critics contend that such laws fan anti-Muslim sentiment under a government promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda.

Last year, lawmakers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh passed legislation that makes religious conversion by marriage an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, 162 people there have been arrested under the new law, although few have been convicted.

“The government is taking a decision that we will take tough measures to curb love jihad,” Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk and the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh, said shortly before that state’s Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance was passed.

Four other states ruled by the B.J.P. have either passed or introduced similar legislation.

In Kashmir, where Ms. Bali and Mr. Bhat lived, members of the Sikh community have disputed the legitimacy of the marriage, calling it “love jihad.” They are pushing for similar anti-conversion rules.

While proponents of such laws say they are meant to protect vulnerable women from predatory men, experts say they strip women of their agency.

“It is a fundamental right that women can marry by their own choice,” said Renu Mishra, a lawyer and women’s rights activist in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh state capital.

“Generally the government and the police officials have the same mind-set of patriarchy,” she added. “Actually, they are not implementing the law, they are only implementing their mind-set.”

Across the country, vigilante groups have created a vast network of local informers, who tip off the police to planned interfaith marriages.

One of the largest is Bajrang Dal, or the Brigade of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. The group has filed dozens of police complaints against Muslim suitors or grooms, according to Rakesh Verma, a member in Lucknow.

“The root cause of this disease is the same everywhere,” Mr. Verma said. “They want to lure Hindu women and then change their religion.”
Riaz Haq said…
800 Pakistani Hindus return from India

NEW DELHI: Around 800 Pakistani Hindus in Rajasthan, who came to India seeking citizenship on the basis of alleged religious persecution, returned to the country in 2021, according to Seemant Lok Sangathan (SLS), a group that advocates for the rights of Pakistani minority migrants in India, The Hindu said on Sunday.

It quoted SLS as saying that many of the returnees went home after finding no progress in their citizenship application.

Their return is said to be embarrassing for India where the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) initiated an online citizenship application process in 2018. It also made 16 Collectors in seven States to accept online applications to grant citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jain and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The religiously-based citizenship law has been challenged by India’s opposition groups. A bureaucratic red-tape is a hindrance. Though the entire process is online, The Hindusaid, the portal does not accept Pakistani passports that have expired, forcing people seeking refuge to rush to the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi to get their passports renewed for a hefty sum.

“If it is a family of ten, then they end up spending more than Rs1 lakh at the Pakistan High Commission to get the passports renewed. These people come to India amid great financial hardships and to cough up such a high amount of money is not feasible,” an SLS official was quoted as saying.

The MHA informed the Rajya Sabha on December 22, 2021, that according to the online module, as many as 10,635 applications for citizenship were pending with the Ministry as on December 14, of which 7,306 applicants were from Pakistan.

According to Mr Singh, there are 25,000 Pakistani Hindus in Rajasthan alone who have been awaiting citizenship, some for more than two decades. Many of them have applied in the offline mode.

In 2015, the MHA amended the Citizenship Rules and legalised the stay of foreign migrants belonging to six communities, who had entered India on or before December 2014 due to persecution on grounds of religion, by exempting them from the provisions of the Passport Act and the Foreigners Act as their passports had expired.
Riaz Haq said…
92-year-old Reena Verma from #India now visiting #Pakistan said that no Muslim or Sikh lived in the neighborhood (in #Rawalpindi) before the Partition. “All Hindus used to live here. I love Pakistan dearly and want to visit Pakistan again and again"

Ninety-two-year-old Indian woman Reena Verma Chibbar, who has reached Pakistan on a three-month visit visa, was overjoyed when she reached her ancestral home in Prem Niwas Mahalla, situated on DAV College Road, Rawalpindi after 75 years.

Chibbar's decades-old neighbours welcomed her by showering rose petals. The Indian woman danced to the beats of the drum.

Verma, who went to India with her family before the Partition when she was only 15 years old, reached her ancestral home on Wednesday and went to every room on the second floor of her ancestral home and refreshed her memories. She sang while standing on the balcony and cried remembering her childhood.

On reaching Prem Nawas Mahalla near DAV College, the area residents gave her a rousing welcome. Drums were played and flower petals were showered on the guest. Chibbar could not control herself and kept dancing as she heard the thud of the drums. The people of the neighbourhood warmly welcomed the guest on her return to her birthplace.

Chibbar said that she did not feel she was from another country. “People living on both sides of the border love each other very much and we should remain as one,” she said.

When she entered the house, she took a look at all the rooms. She said that she was 15 years old when she migrated to India with her parents and other family members. She kept looking at the door and wall of the house including her bedroom, yard and sitting room for a long time. She talked about her life back in those days. Reena told the people of the neighbourhood of the map of Rawalpindi 75 years ago.

The senior Indian citizen said that she used to stand on the balcony and hum when she was little. She sang the same 75-year-old tune to reminisce her childhood and cried. She said that the memories of the house were palpable to her. “I can still see myself here today,” she said, adding that the neighbours living there at that time were very nice. “When someone got married, all the children of the street, including me, used to run and there was happiness everywhere. Now, once again, the heart wishes to remove the hatred between Pakistan and India and start living together again.

“Everyone was sad at that time when we left. Neighbours were considered members of the household and we would visit everyone's house,” she said, adding that those were very good days, not knowing where those people would go.

Chibbar said that all the people of her age have died. The grandchildren of their old neighbours now live in the house where she and her family lived. But the wall has not been changed even today. Reena Verma Chibbar also pointed at a closet in the house. She said that she used to keep books there.

“I moved to India at the time of Partition,” she said, adding that she never forgot her home or the street. “Friends and food here are still fresh in my mind. Even today, the smell of these streets brings back old memories. I did not even imagine that I would ever come back here in life. Our culture is one. We are the same people. We all want to meet each other. A local person found me and sponsored a visa after which I reached Rawalpindi through the Wagah border,” she said.

She said that no Muslim or Sikh lived in the neighbourhood before the Partition. “All Hindus used to live here. I love Pakistan dearly and want to visit Pakistan again and again,” she said.

Riaz Haq said…

Partab Shivani
First ever pilot from Tharparkar n second from Hindu community will fly today to his hometown. Mr. Mahipal (who hails from Chhahro Tharparkar) is very excited to fly over the land wherefrom he dreamt to become pilot. Best wishes.


Mahipal Ladher, a pilot working at Pakistan International Airlines, has been flying people stranded due to the lockdown, desperate to head home. Mahipal is the first pilot from Tharparkar, a poverty stricken district of Sindh province with a population of 1.6 millon people. The Tharparkar desert lies along the Pakistan-India border.

When Mahipal was a little boy, his town didn’t have a single paved road connecting it to any other town. It would take almost 12 hours to reach the nearest town, barely 70 km away. While growing up, Mahipal grazed cattle and at times, walked for a few kilometers to fetch water for his home, like other children of his town. But every time little Mahipal saw an aircraft show up in the sky, his heart would skip a beat. The boy would run after the plane, chasing the contrails, dreaming he would be flying one such aircraft someday.

Tharparkar has always been an example of Hindu-Muslims unity where the two communities draw strength from a shared heritage and history, and perhaps that’s the reason why Mahipal holds the values of co-existence so dear to his heart.

Studying initially in a government school and later an army-run school, Mahipal came to Karachi for higher education and training. “I have been living in Karachi for the past 17 years and thanks to its diversified culture, the two things I have learned here are invigoration and charity. People here just don’t stop living and giving!,” he says.

With COVID19 pandemic being so dangerously contagious, his country is also locked down like other parts of the world. “Like many others, I played my role by raising money for the needy from home. I also had to do my duty. There were people who were stranded and needed to reach home, specifically in the Northern areas of Pakistan where one relies upon the air mode of transport as the roads are covered with snow most of the time. PIA never stopped flying to such areas. I take pride to be a part of the crew that takes such people home and brings a smile on the faces of their loved ones,” he says.

Talking of family, he says the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise that the whole world is connected, like a family. “Sadly, the only time we start acting like one is when we face such a crisis. Having said that, it is still a positive sign that we are all in this together. We have become the best version of ourselves, trying to help each other in every way possible. All I truly want and hope is that this sense of belonging stays even when this pandemic is over,” he says.

Riaz Haq said…
Forced conversions’ of Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan: another perspective

Let’s look at the public discourse around forced marriage (Urd. jabri shadi) or forced conversion (Urd. jabran mazhab tabdili) in Pakistan (but also internationally). Here we frequently find one out of two possible explanations: first that Hindu women wish to embrace Islam due to its inherent attraction (put forward by the Muslim religious right).

The second one emphasised by liberal Pakistani media and Hindu nationalists is that that Muslim predators aim to spread Islam through the forced conversion and marriage of minority women.

But nuanced explanations taking into account Hindu women’s agencies are difficult to find.

The case of Rinkle Kumari, a Hindu girl from Ghotki in northern Sindh, who vanished from her home in 2012 serves as an apt example. Even though her case gained significant public attention, it is still not completely clear why and how Rinkle disappeared. Rinkle gave a few public statements, these, however, were alternately interpreted as coerced by her kidnappers or pressurised by her family. Even though Rinkle talked publicly, her words had no impact on the male-dominated public discussion.

Engaging with Hindu patriarchal structures
Finally, if we wish to fully understand why these girls disappear, I believe it is crucial to engage with the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. I believe that behind some cases of forced conversion we actually find a family’s attempt to avoid social stigma.

Rural parts of Sindh (but also other parts in Pakistan) are highly patriarchal and daughters who decide to marry a man of their own choice are frequently a reason for shame.

By labelling an eloped daughter as the victim of a crime, Hindu families avoid ridicule and embarrassment. I base this assumption on my lengthy collaboration with Hindu rights groups in Sindh as well as the study of affidavits taken from Sindhi newspapers (called Qassamu Namo in Sindhi).

My work with Hindu right groups in Sindh.
Women commission such documents with the help of court clerks. These affidavits are published a few days after the girls have left their families and serve as proof that they had willingly eloped.

I believe that explaining cases of forced conversion with religious zeal, fails to see the complexities behind the economic, social, and political realities of many Pakistani-Hindu women.

This short essay shows the myriad ways in which non-Muslim women are commodified within Pakistan’s patriarchal society. Local influential elites, for example, might utilise religious sentiment as an insidious tool to cover up sexual harassment.

Rinkle’s conversion to Islam has shown how today’s mediatisation turned her body into a mute token of male honour, bereft of the ability to speak for herself. Finally, social workers in Sindh confirm that a portion of these incidents consist of women who willingly leave their homes to marry into Muslim families. Such incidents of female agency also need to be considered when dealing with cases of forced conversion.

The last word I would like to offer Kalpana Devi, a Hindu woman from Sindh and a human rights lawyer, who has been working on such cases for many years.

Willing conversions to #Islam and marriages of #Hindu girls to #Muslim men are in #Pakistan are often labelled as "forced". #Pakistani #Hindu activist Kalpana Devi on how #media hypes and distorts #ForcedConversions and #ForcedMarriage in #Sindh.
Riaz Haq said…
Lies, Insistence and Disregard for Evidence: The Journey of 'Love Jihad' Laws

When arguments in Shafin Jahan v. Asokan concluded on March 8, 2018, the Supreme Court passed a short order setting aside the annulment of Shafin’s marriage with Hadiya, and directed that she was at liberty to pursue her life and future endeavours as she pleased. Once again, however, the court clarified that investigations by the NIA may continue.

Finally, by a resounding judgment dated April 9, 2018, the court set aside Justice K. Surendra Mohan’s judgment, upholding the absolute right of a major to choose her life partner as well as her faith, and to change her faith if she so desired. CJI Dipak Misra, speaking for himself and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and now CJI, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in his concurring opinion, minced no words in holding that faith and marriage were personal choices protected by the right to privacy, and that no third party, whether parent or otherwise, could interfere with these choices.

Both CJI Misra and Justice Chandrachud reiterated that the NIA was free to continue with the investigations set in motion by the Supreme Court in August 2017, though it could not interfere with the marriage of Hadiya and Shafin Jahan.

This last direction is significant, as it helped nail the monstrous lie of ‘love jihad,’ which almost destroyed the lives of two young adults.

Riaz Haq said…
Hindutva's Blatant Lies About Forced Conversions

It’s almost a truism that whenever the BJP comes to power, ‘Hinduism is in danger’. Not because Hindus are dying of poverty, unemployment, destitution, or even Covid. It’s because 14 per cent Muslims and 2 per cent Christians in our land are aggressive.

This bogey of the diminishing Hindu race has been around for more than a century. A 1909 pamphlet published by one U N Mukherji was titled ‘Hindus, a dying race’, in which he asserted, allegedly based on the Census, that within 420 years, all Hindus would have disappeared from the face of the earth. It is now over 111 years since that prognosis, and the Hindu population has trebled from 305 million in the 1950s to 966 million by the time of the 2011 Census. Besides, the share of population of Hindus, Muslims and Christians has remained fairly stable in the last 60 years. What’s more, the fertility gap between Muslim and Hindu women has shrunk from 1.1 to 0.5 children. Obviously, there is no prospect of the Hindu race dying, but the BJP has to keep the pot boiling. A majority of those who do convert are Dalits and tribal folk. They convert not because they are offered salvation in the next world but because of schools, colleges and hospitals provided here and now by the missionaries. What they seek by converting is social empowerment, equality with fellow human beings, and dignity that is so brazenly denied by the Hindu caste hierarchy of injustice and oppression.

Read more at:
Riaz Haq said…
There are more Indian migrants living in Pakistan than the United States,now%20live%20in%20the%20US.

While many Indian migrants move to far-flung, wealthy countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, a large number of them ends up right next door in Pakistan. According to a new study by Pew Research, in 2015, Pakistan was home to the second-largest number of Indian migrants after the United Arab Emirates.

In the past 25 years, the number of international Indian migrants has more than doubled, growing nearly twice as fast as the world’s total migrant population. In 2015, 15.6 million people born in India were living in another country; that means one in every 20 migrants globally was born in India.

In a 2010 study, Pew Research found that India’s religious minorities were migrating at a much higher rate than Hindus, who made up 80% of the country’s population. About 19% of the migrants from India are Christian, though they form only 3% of the country’s population. Also, Muslims made up 27% of the Indian migrant population living abroad, compared with roughly 14% of the population in India.

By far the largest numbers of Indian migrants—about 3.5 million— live in the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan is the second-most common destination with two million, while 1.97 million Indian migrants now live in the US.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan Ranks 4th Highest Source of Foreign Remittances to India

February 27, 2016Pakistanis sent nearly $5 billion to help their relatives in India in 2015, according to data released by the World Bank. This makes Pakistan the 4th largest source of foreign remittances to India, putting Pakistan ahead of Kuwait and the United Kingdom. Only United Arab Emirates, United States and Saudi Arabia sent more money to India.

Source: Wall Street Journal 
With over 1.4 million Pakistanis born in India, there are literally millions of family connections between the two countries and millions of reasons a person in Pakistan might find a way to get money to relatives in India. The money could be sent for a brother in need, a cousin’s wedding, an uncle’s funeral or even to help educate a niece, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Source: Hindustan Times
I personally know people in my own circle of friends and family in Pakistan who regularly send money to relatives in India to help them out in times of need. Such remittances are used to build homes, educate children, pay for health care or girls' weddings.

While Muslims in Pakistan have prospered, the Indian Muslims have become the new untouchables in their land of birth. They suffer widespread discrimination in education, employment, housing and criminal justice. Muslims make up 13% of India's population but 28% of Indian prisoners. Similarly, Christians make up 2.8% of India's population but 6% of India's prison population.  Meanwhile, the newly elected parliament has just 4% Muslim representation. Housing discrimination in India is so bad that an Indian MP Shashi Tharoor recently tweeted: "Try renting an apartment using a #Muslim name (In #India )".

The latest World Bank remittance offers yet another confirmation that the South Asian Muslims who migrated from what is now India to Pakistan have fared relatively better in terms of economic and other opportunities. Pakistani Muslims have the means to help their relatives in India. It reinforces my own anecdotal observation during my visits to both countries.  I see that my own relatives in Pakistan are much better off than those in India. My Pakistani relatives enjoy better opportunities for education and jobs giving them higher standards of living than those in India.

In fact, Pakistan has continued to offer much greater upward economic and social mobility to its citizens than neighboring India over the last two decades. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class had expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future.
Riaz Haq said…
India is a top source and destination for world’s migrants

India’s religious minorities have been more likely to migrate internationally. Religious minorities make up a larger share of India’s international migrant population than they do among the nation’s domestic population, according to 2010 Pew Research Center estimates. For example, about 19% of the Indian international migrant population was Christian, compared with only 3% of the population in India. Similarly, an estimated 27% of the Indian international migrant population was Muslim, compared with 14% of the population in India. The reverse is true for Hindus: Only 45% of India’s international migrant population was Hindu, compared with 80% of the population in India.


India is also one of the world’s top destinations for international migrants. As of 2015, about 5.2 million immigrants live in India, making it the 12th-largest immigrant population in the world. The overwhelming majority of India’s immigrants are from neighboring countries such as Bangladesh (3.2 million), Pakistan (1.1 million), Nepal (540,000) and Sri Lanka (160,000).
Riaz Haq said…
Fishel BenKhald
Congratulation to Me as a Pakistani

I exported first batch of Pakistan ���� food products to Israel ���� market

Dates, Dry fruit, Spice single container. My video


Rare Trade Occurs Between Pakistan, Israel

An association of American Jews on Thursday hailed what it said was the first shipment from Pakistan of food products offloaded in Israel.

The transaction this week involved Pakistani-Jewish businessman Fishel BenKhald and three Israeli businesspeople, the American Jewish Congress said in a statement from its New York headquarters.

BenKhald lives in Karachi, the largest city in the Muslim-majority nation, where he runs a Jewish kosher certification business for food manufacturers exporting products to destinations worldwide. He disclosed the rare bilateral trade via Twitter on Tuesday.

The businessman posted a video clip of his items, including dates, dry fruit and spices, on display in a Jerusalem market. The clip has since garnered more than 640,000 views.

"I was not expecting it to be taken that big of a deal," BenKhald said in written comments to VOA, adding that this was not the first export of Pakistani products to Israel.

"The Israeli government and buyers have no problem accepting the direct shipment from Pakistan,” he said, adding that Israel does not have a problem sending payments to Pakistani banks.

BenKhald's initiative was mainly praised by his Pakistani Twitter followers, including journalists, politicians and businesspeople, some of whom asked for his advice on how to sell their products to Israel. He attempted to reply to every message.

"Congrats brother, you are doing excellent service that diplomats and politicians couldn't do," wrote Syed Wiqas Shah, a prime-time television news show host.

"Time for both the countries to initiate dialogue and for this citizens-to-citizens contact could play a vital role in bringing both the countries close to each other," wrote Zameer Ahmed Malik.

Pakistani officials did not immediately comment on the rare trade.

Islamabad does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and refuses to recognize it as a sovereign state until the state of Palestine is established — a long-running policy of many Muslim-majority countries.

But the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain forged relations with Israel in 2020 under the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords. Sudan and Morocco followed suit.

"Trade exhibits hosted by the UAE helped Pakistani and Israeli businessmen conclude a deal that enabled this week's Pakistani shipment to Israel," the American Jewish Congress noted. "We welcome this small step that can have wider implications for Israeli and Pakistani economies and for the region at large."

Pakistan is an acknowledged nuclear power and Israel is widely understood to have nuclear weapons. The two countries have held secret meetings on security-related issues since their foreign ministers met publicly in 2005. Pakistani Islamic groups and right-wing parties vehemently oppose forging bilateral ties with Israel over the Palestinian issue.

Pakistani citizens are barred from visiting Israel because the country's passport clearly says it is valid for all countries of the world except Israel.

BenKhald was among a group of Pakistanis who undertook a rare trip to Israel last year and visited the Jewish prayer site in Jerusalem known as the Western Wall. The 15-member group of primarily Pakistani Americans, who traveled on their U.S. passports, was organized by an American Muslim women's activist group in collaboration with an Israeli organization promoting ties with Muslim countries.

Riaz Haq said…
‘Forced conversions’ of Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan: another perspective

Let’s look at the public discourse around forced marriage (Urd. jabri shadi) or forced conversion (Urd. jabran mazhab tabdili) in Pakistan (but also internationally). Here we frequently find one out of two possible explanations: first that Hindu women wish to embrace Islam due to its inherent attraction (put forward by the Muslim religious right).

The second one emphasised by liberal Pakistani media and Hindu nationalists is that that Muslim predators aim to spread Islam through the forced conversion and marriage of minority women.

But nuanced explanations taking into account Hindu women’s agencies are difficult to find.

The case of Rinkle Kumari, a Hindu girl from Ghotki in northern Sindh, who vanished from her home in 2012 serves as an apt example. Even though her case gained significant public attention, it is still not completely clear why and how Rinkle disappeared. Rinkle gave a few public statements, these, however, were alternately interpreted as coerced by her kidnappers or pressurised by her family. Even though Rinkle talked publicly, her words had no impact on the male-dominated public discussion.

Engaging with Hindu patriarchal structures
Finally, if we wish to fully understand why these girls disappear, I believe it is crucial to engage with the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. I believe that behind some cases of forced conversion we actually find a family’s attempt to avoid social stigma.

Rural parts of Sindh (but also other parts in Pakistan) are highly patriarchal and daughters who decide to marry a man of their own choice are frequently a reason for shame.

By labelling an eloped daughter as the victim of a crime, Hindu families avoid ridicule and embarrassment. I base this assumption on my lengthy collaboration with Hindu rights groups in Sindh as well as the study of affidavits taken from Sindhi newspapers (called Qassamu Namo in Sindhi).
Riaz Haq said…
Meet Sangeeta, Pakistan's richest Hindu woman and actress who is aunt of Jiah Khan;

One of the wealthiest women in Pakistan is a Hindu actress named Sangeeta, who is also a relative of late Indian actress Jiah Khan.

While Pakistan has a dominantly Muslim population, there are several Hindus residing in the country ever since the Partition in 1947. While the country is going through a crippling financial crisis, it is interesting to know that some of the richest people in Pakistan are Hindus.

While the richest Hindu in the entire country is a fashion designer and actor named Deepak Perwani, the richest Hindu woman in Pakistan also belongs to the entertainment industry. Sangeeta, a famed actress, is the richest Hindu woman in Pakistan, as per ABP News.

Sangeeta is also commonly known as Parveen Rizvi and was born in British India before the partition. Despite living in Pakistan all her life as a Hindu woman, Sangeeta has touched many heights and is now considered to be the richest Hindu woman in the country.

Sangeeta aka Parveen Rizvi is a Pakistani actress and film director who has been active in the Pakistani film industry since she turned 21. She made her debut on the big screen with a movie called Koh-e-Noor around 45 years ago.

Sangeeta has been working in the Pakistani film industry under the name Parveen Rizvi because of her religion. Despite all odds, she is one of the most successful actresses in the country and has appeared in top films such as Nikah, Mutthi Bhar Chawal, Yeh Aman, and Naam Mera Badnaam.

What is interesting is that apart from being a Hindu woman in Pakistan, Sangeeta also has a strong connection to India. The Pakistani actress is the aunt of the late Indian actress Jiah Khan, who passed away in 2013 after taking her own life.

While her exact net worth is not known, it is estimated that Sangeeta earns over Rs 39 crore per year, making her the richest Hindu woman and one of the richest people in Pakistan overall.
Riaz Haq said…
In Pakistan’s Karachi, South Indian immigrants keep the taste of Tamil food alive over decades

The southern Pakistani province of Sindh is home to a small community of Tamils, a Dravidian ethno-linguistic group, who migrated from southern India in the 1930s. There are around 5,000 Tamils currently living in Pakistan, who include Muslims, Hindus and Christians, according to the Swamis, according to the community members. Some of these families have been settled in the Pakistani culinary and commercial hub of Karachi since the pre-partition British Colonial era.

The small community speaks Tamil, which is the official language of India’s Tamil Nadu state, while some of its prominent dishes include dosa (a thin pancake made from a fermented batter of ground black lentils and rice), idli (savoury rice cake usually served in breakfast), upma (a thick savory porridge made from dry-roasted semolina) and vada (savoury fried snacks made with ground chickpeas and lentils).

“Over the years, the food [we make in Pakistan] has gone through a transition. It is inspired from the Pakistani cuisine. Some of the masalas (spices) have come in from here,” Swami, a 41-year-old Tamil Hindu who works as a manager at a software house in Karachi, told Arab News.

“[Similarly,] Tamils in Sri Lanka, their food is also inspired by some of the Sri Lankan cuisines.”

Tamil cuisine, according to the Swami family, originated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu that has a rich history.

“We make vada during weddings at the Haldi ceremony,” said Swami’s sister, Sunita Swami, as she mixed the batter before frying it. “It takes place in the morning in our culture. So, we make daal chawal and this (vada). They are deep-fried.”

The savoury fried snack is made with split chickpeas and split lentils, which are ground after being left to soak in water overnight.

Swami’s grandparents moved to Karachi, now a bustling megapolis of more than 15 million, when the South Asian port city had been booming under the British Raj, while their fourth generation is currently residing in Pakistan, according to Swami’s another sister, Renuk Swami, who said it was the food and the language that connected Tamils all over the world, irrespective of the religion they practiced.

“Kolachi (former name of the port city) was a booming industry [back then]. So, he (grandfather) came for better prospects sometime in the late 1930s,” Renuka said. “In Sindh, particularly in Karachi, there would be around 300 households. They are spread across various localities in Karachi. In a land where Tamil [language] is alien, it kinds of connected people.”

Swami’s mother, Annadanam Swami, shared they make dosa on special occasions as it requires a lot of efforts.

They first grind rice and black lentils before combining the two and adding tarka (heated oil or ghee in which spices and onions are well-stirred and browned), according to Annadanam. It is then fried with minimal oil in a non-stick pan.

“People in India mostly make it daily. It is available everywhere now, but it originated in Tamil Nadu. Previously, only Tamils used to make it,” Annadanam said. “The filling is a chutney. It’s up to the people to have it with potato filling [too]. A Tamil will have it with chutney only. Now there are a lot of variations and fillings.”

Many people believe dosa is the only Tamil food, but reality is that rice dominate the Tamil cuisine, according to Swami.

“It [Tamil food] was here [in Pakistan] since the 1940s, but it came to prominence in the early or late 90s with dosa. Most people know dosa,” he said.

“As my father was also telling that they never used to eat roti in the beginning. Everything was rice. Tamil Nadu is a rice-eating nation. Roti came later. If you are not eating rice, you are not a Tamil. We grew up hearing that.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan arrests 129 #Muslims after mob attacks on churches and homes of minority #Christians. The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested. #violence #Jaranwala

Police arrested 129 Muslims after a mob angered by an alleged Quran desecration attacked a dozen churches and nearly two dozen homes of minority Christians, officials said Thursday. Police also arrested two Christian men accused of defacing Islam’s holy book.

The alleged desecration set off a violent rampage Wednesday in Jaranwala, causing Christians to flee to safer places in the eastern city as the mob inflicted one of the country’s most destructive attacks on Christians.

The city police chief, Bilal Mehmood, said officers arrested Raja Amir and a friend who were accused by local Muslims of tearing pages from a Quran, writing insulting remarks on other pages and then throwing the book on the ground.

The regional police chief, Rizwan Khan, said 129 people had been arrested as suspected rioters and the situation was under control. Authorities summoned soldiers to restore order, and Christian residents slowly returned home to see the destruction Thursday.

“We were sitting at home when suddenly we heard that a mob is coming and it is burning homes and attacking churches,” Shazia Amjad said as she wept outside her charred home.

She said that the mob burned household items and furniture and that some of her possessions were stolen while she was staying with her family in a safer area.

Other Christians described similar ordeals and expressed bewilderment.

Azeem Masih wept as he sat outsisitting outside his home, which was one of several buildings burned on his street. He said some rioters brought in vehicles to haul away Christians’ household items after burning furniture and other belongings.

“Why did they do it to us? We had not done anything wrong,” he said.

Local priest Khalid Mukhtar said he believed most of Jaranwala’s 17 churches were attacked and his own home was damaged.

Government officials said all of the damaged churches and homes would be repaired within a week and those who suffered losses would be compensated.

The violence drew nationwide condemnation, and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-ul-Haq Kakar ordered police to ensure rioters were arrested.

The regional police chief said the mob quickly gathered and began attacking churches and Christian homes. Rioters also assaulted the offices of a city administrator, but police intervened, shooting into the air and wielding batons to disperse the attackers with the help of Muslim clerics and elders.

Videos and photos posted on social media show a throng of angry people descending on a church, throwing pieces of bricks and setting it on fire. In another video, four other churches are attacked, their windows broken as attackers throw pieces of furniture outside and set them on fire.

In another video, a man is seen climbing to the roof of a church and removing a steel cross after repeatedly hitting it with a hammer as a crowd cheers him on.

The violence drew condemnation from domestic and international human rights groups.

Amnesty International called for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, often just an accusation can incite mobs to violence, lynchings and killings.

Rghts groups say blasphemy allegations have been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, urged Pakistan to conduct a full investigation. “We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody,” he said in Washington on Wednesday.

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