Terror stalks Hindu community in Sindh

In Sindh, Pakistan, Hindu community lives under constant fear of being accused of blasphemy by radical Muslims and extremist groups like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), all of which enjoy patronage from the Islamic state.

Even for those who have been discharged by the court for being wrongly accused of blasphemy, there is constant danger of being lynched.

Take the case of Notan Lal, Principal of a private school and a resident of Ghotki, Sindh. In 2019, some of his students accused him of blasphemy. It was not an ordinary accusation–the charges would lead to life imprisonment or even a death sentence under the most heinous penal clauses in the world. Pakistan, over the years, has made the law against blasphemy so retrogressive that more often than not people charge others, especially minorities, of blasphemy for revenge, taking over property or forcibly marry.

Notan Lal’s case triggered an orgy of violence in Ghotki. Hindu temples were razed. Hindu families were attacked and driven to fear. The school where Notan Lal worked was attacked by arsonists. The attack against Hindus was led by Mian Mithoo, an influential Sunni leader who have been accused of promoting forcible abduction, rape, conversion and marriage of young Hindu girls. A fact finding committee, appointed by the Ministry of Human Rights, concluded that the attacks on temples and riots were premeditated, politically motivated and had tacit political support. In 2022, Notan Lal, a father of four children, was sentenced to life.

Early this month, a High Court judge threw out the case against the Hindu teacher on the ground of the case being investigated shoddily and prosecution failures to produce material witnesses to prove the charges against the teacher.

Back at home, Notan Lal and family are haunted by an equally deep rooted fear of being attacked by militant groups. The local community wants security for Lal. They fear that powerful Sunni groups could either frame him on trumped up charges or kill him brutally.

Such fears are widespread in the Hindu community in Sindh. In Kandiyari Sanghar for instance, a woman and her three children were abducted. The main accused is an influential cleric in the region, Maulvi Mula Baksh. Her husband has been trying his best to file a criminal complaint but without any success so far. The police, as often in cases of atrocities against Hindus, are doing everything possible to fudge the case.

Members of the Bheel community in Sindh have also been protesting for long against forced acquisition of their land by local Muslim communities. Their houses have been demolished or burnt by marauding Muslim locals. The community lives under constant fear.

The fear stalks Hindus elsewhere too in Sindh. Young girls and women, even married, constantly face harassment from Muslim men; many of them are abducted, raped and forced to convert before being forcibly married. Police, judiciary and political authorities are equally complicit in these heinous crimes.