Photos: Pakistan’s Mithi, an oasis of Muslim-Hindu tolerance

Updated On Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Unlike in the rest of Pakistan, cattle in Mithi live very well. They eat as they please, often from rubbish bins, and fall asleep on the roads. At times tuk-tuks and motorcycles navigate a weaving path around the animals. At others the traffic waits patiently for them to wake. Mithi, 320-kms from the city of Karachi, stands in stark contrast to the megacity’s Hindu neighbourhoods under armed surveillance, as a mostly Hindu city of 60,000 people, a rarity in a country where some 95% of the population is Muslim.

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Cows roam freely in the Pakistani city of Mithi, as in India. Sacred animals in Hinduism, they embody the religious tolerance of this community in conservative Pakistan, where minorities face heavy discrimination. Cattle in Mithi live very well. They eat as they please, and fall asleep on the roads. At times vehiclular traffic navigates a weaving path around the animals. At others it waits patiently for them to wake. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Cows roam freely in the Pakistani city of Mithi, as in India. Sacred animals in Hinduism, they embody the religious tolerance of this community in conservative Pakistan, where minorities face heavy discrimination. Cattle in Mithi live very well. They eat as they please, and fall asleep on the roads. At times vehiclular traffic navigates a weaving path around the animals. At others it waits patiently for them to wake. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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Here, “Muslims respect the beliefs of Hindus,” said Sham Das, a 72-year-old retired government official. “They do not kill cows, or only in remote places, but not in Hindu neighbourhoods.” Mithi is a mostly Hindu city of 60,000 people, a rarity in a country where some 95% of the population is Muslim. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Here, “Muslims respect the beliefs of Hindus,” said Sham Das, a 72-year-old retired government official. “They do not kill cows, or only in remote places, but not in Hindu neighbourhoods.” Mithi is a mostly Hindu city of 60,000 people, a rarity in a country where some 95% of the population is Muslim. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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As they enter Shri Krishna temple, the Hindu faithful ring a bell, the sound minglng with the azan, sounded just a few streets away. A relaxed group of young Hindus talk outside the colourful, intricately carved exterior, where not a single guard is employed, in sharp contrast to the Hindu neighbourhoods in the megacity of Karachi, some 300 kilometres away, which are under armed surveillance. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

As they enter Shri Krishna temple, the Hindu faithful ring a bell, the sound minglng with the azan, sounded just a few streets away. A relaxed group of young Hindus talk outside the colourful, intricately carved exterior, where not a single guard is employed, in sharp contrast to the Hindu neighbourhoods in the megacity of Karachi, some 300 kilometres away, which are under armed surveillance. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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Vijay Kumar Gir, a Hindu priest in Karachi, said that of the 360 temples in the city, merely a dozen are still functioning. “The rest of them have been shut down and their land is being encroached,” he said. The situation is representative of the stigmatisation Hindus face across Pakistan, often assumed to be “pro-India because of their religion”, according to Marvi Sirmed, of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission (HRCP). (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Vijay Kumar Gir, a Hindu priest in Karachi, said that of the 360 temples in the city, merely a dozen are still functioning. “The rest of them have been shut down and their land is being encroached,” he said. The situation is representative of the stigmatisation Hindus face across Pakistan, often assumed to be “pro-India because of their religion”, according to Marvi Sirmed, of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission (HRCP). (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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The HRCP describes Pakistani Hindus as feeling “uneasy” in their country, saying in its annual report that “the migration of Hindus to India may soon turn into an exodus if the discrimination against them continues”. The HRCP, citing religious leaders, says the community’s biggest problem is the “forced conversion” to Islam of women and girls, many of whom are abducted before being married off to Muslim men. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

The HRCP describes Pakistani Hindus as feeling “uneasy” in their country, saying in its annual report that “the migration of Hindus to India may soon turn into an exodus if the discrimination against them continues”. The HRCP, citing religious leaders, says the community’s biggest problem is the “forced conversion” to Islam of women and girls, many of whom are abducted before being married off to Muslim men. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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None of this appears to affect Mithi, where Muslims and Hindus say they live together in harmony, even sending one another gifts and sweets to mark their religious holidays, residents say. “Since I was old enough to reason, I have witnessed fraternity, love and harmony between Hindus and Muslims,” said Sunil Kumar, a 35-year-old businessman. “That has been going on for generations of our forefathers... it shall go on forever.” (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

None of this appears to affect Mithi, where Muslims and Hindus say they live together in harmony, even sending one another gifts and sweets to mark their religious holidays, residents say. “Since I was old enough to reason, I have witnessed fraternity, love and harmony between Hindus and Muslims,” said Sunil Kumar, a 35-year-old businessman. “That has been going on for generations of our forefathers... it shall go on forever.” (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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Mithi’s peace is rooted in its geographical location, rising out of the dunes in the Tharparkar desert that borders Rajasthan. Local researchers claim a group of peace-loving Hindus founded the town in the early 16th century, as war and looting raged all around. The barren soil and difficult access to water meant the city attracted only those of little means who had few other options. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Mithi’s peace is rooted in its geographical location, rising out of the dunes in the Tharparkar desert that borders Rajasthan. Local researchers claim a group of peace-loving Hindus founded the town in the early 16th century, as war and looting raged all around. The barren soil and difficult access to water meant the city attracted only those of little means who had few other options. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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“We are the descendants of the original residents of this region, as positive and peace-loving as they were,” said Allah Jurio, a 53-year-old imam in Mithi, which is also renowned for its low crime rate. “Non-violence is inherently our second nature.” (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

“We are the descendants of the original residents of this region, as positive and peace-loving as they were,” said Allah Jurio, a 53-year-old imam in Mithi, which is also renowned for its low crime rate. “Non-violence is inherently our second nature.” (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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Friday prayers in a mosque in Mithi, some 320 km from Karachi. As religious extremism and hate speech flourish in Pakistan, and “faith-based violence in the name of religion continues unabated”, according to the HRCP, the fear that this oasis of tolerance may disappear is palpable. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

Friday prayers in a mosque in Mithi, some 320 km from Karachi. As religious extremism and hate speech flourish in Pakistan, and “faith-based violence in the name of religion continues unabated”, according to the HRCP, the fear that this oasis of tolerance may disappear is palpable. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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The congregation listens to Allah Jurio. Although Chandar Kumar, a 24-year-old Hindu, sees no problems in the long-term among Mithi’s residents, he said “there are elements from outside who aspire to spread discrimination.” Exremist groups, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, labelled a terrorist organisation by the UN, are accused of being active in the area. “They want to end the unity,” said Kumar. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Oct 10, 2018 10:12 AM IST

The congregation listens to Allah Jurio. Although Chandar Kumar, a 24-year-old Hindu, sees no problems in the long-term among Mithi’s residents, he said “there are elements from outside who aspire to spread discrimination.” Exremist groups, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, labelled a terrorist organisation by the UN, are accused of being active in the area. “They want to end the unity,” said Kumar. (Rizwan tabassum / AFP)

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