In the backdrop of a 14-year-old Hindu girl’s abduction in Pakistan’s Jacobabad city in Sindh province three days ago, a controversy erupted when a delegation of 150 Hindus was detained by Islamabad for seven hours on Friday before being allowed to enter India for a pilgrimage.
Head of the delegation Anup Kumar said they were supposed to cross over to India in the afternoon, but their arrival was delayed because the Pakistani authorities were apprehensive that they may not return due to the law and order problems in the southern province of Sindh, where most of Pakistan’s estimated seven million Hindus live.
Before leaving Pakistan, members of the delegation had to give an undertaking to the authorities that they would not seek asylum from the Indian government and would under all circumstances return to Pakistan within 30 days, Kumar said.
He said Hindu families were not safe in Pakistan and kidnapping of young Hindu girls and brides at gunpoint by fundamentalists had become a routine affair. “There is no law and order in Sindh and the government is watching the activities of fundamentalists as a mute spectator.”
Kumar said the recent abduction of the teenager in Jacobabad had sparked fear among the minority community, which was now planning an exodus.
He said it was possible that the majority of the delegation members would never like to go back to Pakistan in the prevailing circumstances. He said Hindu girls were being forced to convert to Islam after being abducted.
In Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari took serious note of reports of a "sense of insecurity" among Hindu families in Sindh and directed the authorities to allay the minority community’s grievances.
Media reports from Jacobabad said seven Hindu families comprising 90 people had decided to move to India for good. “We are businessmen but have been compelled to leave our motherland because of harassment, lawlessness, looting, kidnapping of girls and their forced conversion to Islam," said Amesh Kumar of Bakhshapur area in Jacobabad.
An unnamed Hindu man from Quetta told the Dawn newspaper: “Pakistan is our homeland and at the moment we are going to India for visiting our sacred places. But if I find the situation in India better than in Pakistan, I will prefer to settle there and others also think the same way.”
Government officials in Delhi said it was too early for them to comment, particularly since decisions on visa and citizenship are taken on a case to case basis after inputs from security agencies.
Pakistan expert Air Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak said, “The kidnapping and conversions, especially of Hindu girls, has created a fear psychosis, resulting in many members of the minorities to rush to Indian borders. India should give them visas and allow them to stay till conditions improve and should also advise Pakistan to act against such intolerance.”