The Lost Brethren: Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
A recent development in which the Delhi High Court stayed the deportation of 151 Pakistani Hindus, following expiration of their pilgrimage visas, is a grim reminder of the never ending grievance of the Hindus of Pakistan. If deported, they would be sent back to the agony of religious violence which the fundamentalists of their country inflict on them. This case of victims seeking asylum in India is not unique, and is just a fringe of what these “lost brethren of ours” suffer in two of our Islamic neighbours. Hindus of Pakistan who want to settle in India should be considered in a more humane manner. Why? Let’s see.
The events of 1947 were catastrophic. Partition of India was accompanied by a communal frenzy wave, in which approximately 1 million people were massacred. Hindus and Sikhs in modern day Pakistan suffered the demonic repercussions of a communal hatred, while Muslims in India, though on a smaller scale, faced the similar horrors. The wanton haste shown by Congress, Muslim League and British government is generally regarded as responsible for this preventable tragedy. Had Congress, under the leadership of Gandhiji, Nehru and Patel, shown more pragmatism, the transfer of minorities from hostile lands could have been more peaceful. In India, Muslims who remained here after partition, barring few exceptions, were gracefully allowed to intermingle with its secular society. But, similar was not the story of Hindus in erstwhile East and West Pakistan.
The plight of Hindus in Pakistan can be best exemplified by the unfortunate story of Shri Jogendra Nath Mandal. As a leader of depressed classes, he supported Muslim League’s demand of a separate country for Muslims. He was of the view that a separate “secular” country would prove beneficial to the cause of betterment of depressed Hindu classes. He vociferously denounced Congress and ideas of Gandhiji and went on to join the first Cabinet of Pakistan. He was rewarded sufficiently and was granted the important portfolio of Law and Labour. But he was soon disillusioned with the “secularism” of his new country, when he saw horrible atrocities being inflicted on the innocent Hindus of Pakistan, at the hands of police, military and fundamentalists. He resigned and defected, rather returned, to India.
The story of Shri Mandal shows the hopeless condition of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are discriminated, subjected to humiliation, killed and forcibly converted. The conditions in Bangladesh have improved, thanks to a secular — by the standards of an Islamic country — government headed by highly respected Ms. Sheikh Hasina. But, still Hindus live under a never ending clout of Islamic fundamentalism, best epitomized by groups such as Jamaat-e-Islam. Their situation has particularly deteriorated post 1992, when after the demolition of that disputed structure at Ayodhya, thousands of Hindu temples were razed to ground by Islamic fundamentalists. Those cataclysmic events of anti-Hindu communalism have been chronicled excellently in her book “Lajja” by Ms. Taslima Nasreen. Recently the 2001 general elections brought horrendous nightmares for Hindu community, when supporters of the winning Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] went berserk and attacked them and their establishments.
The malaise of “anti-Hinduism” lies in Bangladesh society that they inherited from the partition of 1947. Those who engineered the “Direct Action Day” of Calcutta on 16th August 1946 and Hindu genocide in Noakhali were the one, who got to the helm in newly formedEast Pakistan. Their prejudice was a hard thing to subside, and predictably it kept on aggravating. The systematic cleansing of 1970-71, with an aim of creating a Hindu free East Pakistan, of Hindu intellectuals, professors, artists and politicians is one such example of that prejudice.
Speaking in terms of statistics, percentage of Hindus decreased from 22 in 1951 to 9 in 2001 – mostly because of their exodus to India.
The situation is much worse in Pakistan. The influx of Hindu refugees in India is a phenomenon which is still continuing. News of forced conversions, kidnappings and religious taxes being exacted from Hindus, keep on flooding the international media. The Jihadis, these days, are systematically targeting the educated and economically stout sections of Hindus. Fundamentalists are also targeting vulnerable Hindu women who are kidnapped, converted and forced to marry their very own tormentors. Hindus have been reduced to ghettos and when all other means of terrorising them ends, they are subjected to strict blasphemy laws. Their population is dwindling; they have negligible representation in Legislature and have no proper platform for redressal of their grievances. And what is their fault? They are Hindus, a product of the legacy of 1947 when their political representatives betrayed them. One horrible morning, they were given an ultimatum that within months, they would have to leave their motherland. Those who defied that diktat are still languishing inPakistan.
Is there a solution of their endless tryst with humiliation? Candidly and bluntly speaking, no there is no feasible solution. The minimum that, we can do for our lost brethren is to raise their voice, so that the deaf international community may exact some compensation for them. This looks seriously dubious, considering the present rise of fundamentalists, and capitulation of civil authorities before them, at least in Pakistan. A delegation of Christians may visit Kandhamal but a Hindu delegation visiting Pakistan, looks beyond any sane imagination. There is a message for Indian liberals: If you cry for Palestine, it’s good. But, why you remain silent for the Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh? Shed tears for them too.