Extremism, kidnappings take gloss away from Holi celebrations | Pakistan Today

Extremism, kidnappings take gloss away from Holi celebrations

KARACHI – Hindus would not be able to celebrate their religious festival Holi with traditional enthusiasm due to the recent floods, kidnappings for ransom of adults and children from Sindh and Balochistan, and increasing religious extremism.
Residents of several towns and cities of Sindh – the hub of Pakistani Hindus – have announced that they would observe the festival with simplicity for various reasons.
Holi – the festival of spring – would be observed on Saturday and Rangoli – the festival of colours – would fall on Sunday.
Pakistani Hindus are believed to be the biggest religious minority of the country with a population of, according to the 1998 census, 2.7 million people, majority of whom live in Sindh. In the northern districts of the province, the recent waves of kidnappings for ransom of minor Hindus have adversely affected the community in the districts.
A detailed research conducted by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child National Manager Salam Dharejo reveals that between 2008 and 2010, at least 23 minors – some as young as three years old – were kidnapped for ransom in Kashmore and Kandhkot towns, nine of whom were Hindus, including four girls.
The study also stated that recently, 12 more child kidnapping cases were brought to light, and half of the victims belonged to Hindu families, whereas most of these children have not been recovered yet. Due to increasing kidnappings for ransom of Baloch Hindus in Balochistan, several families have so far migrated to India and other countries, whereas many others are planning to leave.
“In the northern districts of Sindh, most Hindus are businessmen, so their children are being kidnapped for ransom. Under these circumstances, how can Hindu families celebrate the festivals of happiness,” said Revachand, a resident of Kashmore Town. In the past, the Sindhi Hindus of Umerkot, Tharparkar and Sanghar – the districts with thick Hindu population – celebrated the colourful festival of Holi on a massive scale, but in 2009, a tragic incident occurred, because of which the local Hindus are still in fear.
On March 11, 2009, the Hindu community was celebrating Holi when some Muslims in the area, who found some things written on the road with colours in connection with Holi celebrations, considered the writings sacrilegious. Several towns in the districts and nearby districts were closed down while angry mobs attacked the properties of Hindus. “Though it was the first incident of its kind, we have restricted our celebrations to limited areas to avoid any unpleasant event,” said a resident of Vahro Sharif village near Umerkot.
Besides that, in the recent floods, a large number of Hindus, who were working as landless peasants in kutcha area – the worst flood-hit area of the province – were rendered homeless, and despite the passage of several months, many of them are still living at relief camps; therefore, they would also be unable to celebrate their religious festival. Since centuries, Sindh – also known as the land of Sufis – has been a model of religious harmony, and Sindhi Muslims usually celebrate Hindu festivals with their Hindu friends, but times have changed.
Increasing religious extremism in the Pakistani society has also affected the Sufi Sindh, and many Sindhi Muslims, despite willing to join their Hindu friends in their celebrations, are unable to do so, which is a bad omen for Sindhi Hindus.

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