Their forefathers made a choice 60 years ago and stayed back in Peshawar despite Partition. And today their unhappy descendants — a group of Hindu families — have been forced to flee by the rising influence of the fundamentalist Taliban. See
“I think our forefathers committed a mistake by staying back in Peshawar during Partition and we are now correcting this mistake so that our coming generations will not suffer what we faced in Pakistan,” said Vijay Kumar from Peshawar in Pakistan. <b1>
Kumar sold off his house and every household item he could, and left for India with his wife and children. They are part of a group of five families — 16 men, 16 women and three children — that reached Amritsar recently. They are seeking Indian citizenship.
The Taliban have won major successes recently and wrested crucial administrative concessions for themselves in the northwest frontier areas of Pakistan such as the Swat Valley. They are now closing in on one of the biggest urban centres in those parts, Peshawar.
Posters carrying the Taliban’s messages and rulings have begun popping up all over, and are specially disconcerting for these Hindu families in villages around Peshawar — directing men not to shave and women not to go to school.
“The Taliban are approaching Peshawar,” said Jagdish Sharma, a hakim (practitioner of local system of medicine) from Peshawar. “We’ve heard stories of molestation and cruelty against women there.”
Sharma sold a family business started by his forefathers and left with his family. “I don’t know what was the situation during Partition, but the present situation is so bad that no one can breathe with freedom. I don’t want to bring up my children in a war-like situation.”
And they are not going back now. Hardwari Lal, resident of Orkzai, about 180 km from Peshawar, said, “I was running a grocery shop which was forcibly taken over by the fundamentalists, who also captured all our property.”
Laxmi Narain simply went out of business because of the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. He ran a cosmetics store and got no customers after a while because women were forced to wear burqas — “demand nose-dived”. He sold his store and left.
But Narain is not bitter about it, only practical. “When law-enforcement agencies are feeling helpless, how can a common man feel secure? We are not blaming the government, but it’s just that terrorists are calling the shots now.”