The Hindus in Balochistan are migrating from a hell to an abyss of an unknown death: Sham Kumar
Interview By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Mr. Sham Kumar is a veteran journalist, writer and poet of Pakistan. He simultaneously contributes to several leading English, Urdu and Sindhi newspapers and periodicals. The Baloch Hal spoke to him exclusively to get his opinion about the plight of the Hindu community in Balochistan. A Hindu himself, Mr. Kumar spoke extensively about the origin, contributions and the contemporary challenges of the Hindus living in Balochistan.
How do you trace back the history of Hindus living in Balochistan?
It is not clear in Balochistan’s historic documents how Hindus originally settled in Balochistan. However, some of its areas remained under Hindu rule before the Arabs invaded Sindh in 712 A.D. In those days, Hinduism and Buddhism were prevalent in Sindh and Balochistan. In some parts of Balochistan, they say paganism was the religion of scattered tribal people. It is quite clear that plains of Balochistan were particularly occupied and ruled by unknown dynastic rulers.
Where are some of the sacred places of the Hindus located in Balochistan and what is their significance?
There are mainly two sacred places of Hindu religious community belonging to ancient times. One is in Lasbela district called Hinglaj Shrine in a hilly track. It is abode of sacred Hindu goddess Hinglaj Mata. And the other one is in Kalat town called temple of Kali Devi, consort of god Shiva.
There are some other small temples in Sibi, Dera Murad Jamali, Chaman, Khuzdar, Hub, Lorlai and other places.
The Hinglaj Shrine has remained famous all over the undivided India since times of immemorial because prominent Hindu sect, Nath Panthis, whose founder was Guru Gork Nath, used to visit this shrine in 6,00 A.D. Also, Sindhi mystic poets Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and other used to visit this prominent sacred place of pilgrimage.
In which areas of Balochistan are Hindus populated?
Hindus are mostly populated in Baloch areas. Before the Partition, they also used to live in the Pashtu-speaking areas but due to religious turmoil and riots in the earlier days of the Partition, they were compelled to flee either to Baloch areas or go to India.
Presently, Hindus residing in Baloch-populated areas are facing a situation that is even worse than what the Hindus had to face in the past. As a result, many of the Hindus are compelled to migrate to India in order to save their honor and lives because the government is unable to check and control the situation.
What has been the role of Hindus in economic prosperity of Balochistan?
Hindus predominantly belong to the business community. They are traders, shopkeepers and deal in export and import businesses even since before the Partition. Since then, they have been contributing in development and economy of the country. Besides their being traders, they Hindus are also widely regarded as a peaceful people. Many of them are educated and offering valuable services in the fields of education, health and other departments.
The Hindu community has also remained actively involved in philanthropy across Pakistan. They have built hospitals, schools and libraries in various parts of Balochistan and Sindh since the pre-Partition days. They are richly participating in and contributing to the economy of this backward province.
The Hindus and the Baloch people had lived like brothers for several decades. The situation, unfortunately, changed during the dictatorial days of General Zai-ul-Haq (1977-1988). Since then, we have seen a significant change in the behavior of the younger generation of the Baloch. Unlike their ancestors, the younger Baloch no longer remained friendly and brotherly with the Hindu community.
Now, the young Balochs are also drifting toward religious extremism and intolerance. I suppose sections of the government are also supportive of violence directed at the Hindus in Balochistan.
What has been the attitude of Baloch tribal elders toward the Hindus?
Balochistan’s elders have always shown respect and regards for the Hindu community since pre-partition days. But it is extremely heartbreaking that those elders no longer live in this world. A few of them who still live, they do not have control over the actions of their young generation. Hence, the Hindus have become an agonized community in this part of Pakistan. They are being kidnapped; their young generation is forcibly being converted into Islam. In other cases, they are also being killed without any reasons. Their properties are also being usurped under one or the other pretext.
Are Hindus free in their religious practices in Balochistan?
Currently, the Hindus are living in a constant nightmarish situation where they endlessly fear for their lives, faith, honor and property. The living conditions of a common Hindu have become more precarious and worsened with the passage of time. In the midst of these inhuman conditions, who do you think cares for religious freedom?
Why do you think the Baloch elders cannot safeguard the rights of the Hindus?
As I said earlier, Baloch elders who sympathized with the Hindus and cared for their rights hardly exist in today’s Balochistan. Many of those remarkable men have passed away and they have left behind a generation that no longer champions those valuable qualities.
Some people say that the Hindus are migrating to India because they see brighter economic prospects there. Do you agree?
No sane person or community would give up their connections to their place of birth until circumstances compel them to do so. More than 90 % Hindus living in Balochistan are not economically sound. In a situation of economic uncertainty, no one can even afford to migrate from his motherland to settle in some absolutely unknown place. It is absolutely wrong and misleading to say that the Hindus are migrating because they see better economic prospects in India or elsewhere.
As their lives, honor and property remain under attack, the Hindus have shrunk into a statue of fear. This is the reason they are slowly and gradually migrating from this hell towards an abyss of an unknown death.
Is the government doing enough to prevent the exodus of Hindus?
As far as the government is concerned, it does not seem to exist at all because one does not see its writ anywhere. The government is deliberately snubbing this issue which consequently gives currency to the impression that the government is somewhat unbothered with the exodus of the Hindus.
Balochistan’s Minority Minister, Mr. Basant Lal Gulshan, also a Hindu, denies reports of Hindus fleeing Balochistan. How do you see his claim?
It is a shame on his part to deny this evidently critical situation.
Do you think should be done to stop the mass migration?
This question should be asked from the higher authorities of the provincial and the federal governments and law enforcing agencies who have forgotten their constitutional, religious and moral responsibilities.
In my opinion, most windows and avenues for the Hindu community living in Balochistan and Sindh have been closed down. We need some revolutionary measures to bring prosperity, stability and unity of this country. This is the only way out to get rid of these all problems faced by all citizens of the land, particularly the Hindus.
Published in The Baloch Hal on December 22, 2012