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


2 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.