Thursday, August 6, 2020

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".

Summary:

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


7 comments:

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

https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/ayodhya-marks-the-twilight-of-the-first-republic/story-QGXeiHufgM31X5zgjeg8hP.html


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.

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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.
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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...

With shattered dreams, 14 #Pakistani #Hindus return home. Hoping to get citizenship in #India and for better economic prospects, disappointed Pakistani Hindus ask government to bring them back to #Pakistan #Modi #BJP #caa_nrc #minorities http://v.aa.com.tr/1969747

At least 14 members of Pakistan's Hindu minority community recently returned from India after six months, saying their dreams of better economic prospects in the neighboring country had been shattered.

Speaking to reporters at the Wagah border crossing, Kanhaya Lal and Nanak Ram, the heads of the families, said they went to India hoping for better economic prospects, but it was a “farce” and they suffered great hardships.

India recently passed a controversial law allowing Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to apply for fast-track citizenship.

Last month, a family of 11 Pakistani Hindus was found dead in a rented farmhouse in the city of Jodhpur in India’s Rajasthan state.

"I knew that family, and most of them were educated. But there are no opportunities for any outsiders in India,” Lal told Anadolu Agency.

"The fact is they were living in miserable conditions and suffered from extreme poverty and there were dangerous threats to their lives."

He said more than 28,000 Pakistan Hindus are stranded in Jodhpur waiting to return home.

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. https://thewire.in/external-affairs/hindu-sikh-pakistani-refugees-indian-citizenship 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...

#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 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/broke-jobless-and-hungry-why-pakistani-hindus-are-leaving-india/articleshow/83404001.cms


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 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/world/india-interfaith-marriage.html

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...

Video of 'domestic feud' in #Pakistan misleadingly shared as '#Hindu woman's abduction'. In response to the misleading posts, Atta Mohammad, the officer in charge of the case in #Sindh province, told AFP the video shows Hindus involved in a "domestic feud" https://news.yahoo.com/video-domestic-feud-pakistan-misleadingly-062833193.html

A video that shows a woman dragged by several men towards a car has been viewed tens of thousands of times in social media posts that claim she is a Hindu who was made to convert to Islam for a forced marriage in Muslim-majority Pakistan. But the video has been shared in a misleading context; it has previously circulated in reports about a woman being assaulted in public after attempting to divorce her husband. Local police told AFP everyone involved in the "domestic feud" was Hindu.

Hindi-language text overlaid on the video reads: "Pakistan: Kidnappers dragged a Hindu woman inside a car in broad daylight to rape her, force her into marriage and convert her [to Islam]."

Local media in both India and Pakistan have previously reported on cases of Hindu women in Pakistan being abducted and forced to convert to Islam for forced marriages.

The cases were reported by Indian media organisation The Wire here; Indian channel NDTV here; and Pakistani news outlet Dawn here in 2021.

The video circulated online after Manjinder Singh Sirsa -- a member of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party -- shared the footage alongside a similar claim on Twitter on December 21, 2021.

The video was also shared with a similar claim on Facebook here and here; and on Twitter here and here.

Screenshots of the video were also shared in this Malayalam-language Facebook post.

But the video had been shared in a misleading context.

In response to the misleading posts, Atta Mohammad, the officer in charge of the case in Sindh province, told AFP the video shows Hindus involved in a "domestic feud".

"The family members fought with each other; one suspect is under custody and four others have been granted bail by the court," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Partab Shivani
@PartabShiwani
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.

https://twitter.com/PartabShiwani/status/1579308980278800385?s=20&t=k8Z3Wqdi1I-gkUSJCi-iZA

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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.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/this-pakistani-pilot-urges-the-world-to-always-stay-united/story-accog6PDTcmnATjMM0TNgL.html

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.