09-09-2012, 04:14 PM
‘Fleeing persecution’: 171 Bheel pilgrims to seek asylum in India
Dozens of Pakistani Hindu pilgrims who reached the Indian state of Rajasthan on Sunday say they don’t intend to return to their country, according to BBC Urdu Service.
The “Thar Express” train, carrying 171 Pakistani Hindu pilgrims, chugged into the city of Jodhpur on Sunday. Although these Hindus are on a pilgrimage trip (yatra), their leader said they would not go back to Pakistan.
The Samenath Lok Sangathan (SLS), an Indian organisation working for the welfare of Hindus, has appealed to the Indian government to issue “refugee visas” to these pilgrims.
At the Jodhpur railway station, the Pakistani Hindus were received by SLS volunteers who made arrangements for their lodging and food. For years, the SLS has been working for the settlement of Pakistani Hindus in India.
According to a spokesperson for the SLS, all 171 Pakistani Hindus – among them 32 women and children – are residents of Sanghar and Hyderabad cities of Sindh province. They belong to the Bheel tribe. Complaining about the “miserable condition” of Hindus in Sindh, one of the Hindu pilgrims told the BBC that his father died recently but local Muslim residents did not allow him space to perform his last rites.
“We are feeling insecure because of the alarming rise in Islamic extremism in Pakistan. We would rather die here (in India) than go back to Pakistan,” he added.
The SLS spokesperson said the Pakistani Hindus who reached Jodhpur were visibly shaken. “Fear is writ large on their faces. They are worried about their future because it is a matter between two countries,” he added.
Reports say Hindus, particularly those in Sindh, are facing persecution, including forced conversion to Islam. It was also reported in Pakistani media that a sizeable number of Hindus is planning to seek political asylum in India.
On August 10, President Asif Zardari had formed a parliamentary committee to investigate the reported persecution of Hindus in Sindh.
The committee – comprising Senator Maula Bux Chandio, MNA Lal Chand, Senator Hari Ram Kishori Lal and Dr Khatumal Jeewan – visited different cities of Sindh and met with Hindu community leaders.
In its report submitted to President Zardari earlier this month, the committee said some Hindus did complain about abduction of their girls and their forced conversion to Islam which had caused resentment and sense of insecurity among them. The committee also proposed correctional measures.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.
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