Rights groups protest against forced conversions | Pakistan Today

Rights groups protest against forced conversions

–More protests planned in multiple cities across country, says activist

LAHORE: Human rights activists and leaders of several minority parties on Saturday gathered at Charing Cross to protest against the alleged abduction and forced conversions of minor Hindu sisters Reena and Raveena.

The Rawadari Tehreek, Minorities Inqilab Tehreek, Human Friends Organisation (HFO) and Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) were some of the rights groups that gathered for the cause.

Reena, 14, and Raveena, 16, two Hindu sisters from Ghotki, were purportedly forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

Interestingly, the turnout at the protest against forced conversions was little to none. Except for the usual heads of participating organisations and NGOs, there were not more than 20 to 25 people present at the occasion.

When asked about the reason behind this rather unusually low turnout, Saeeda Diep from the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) said, “Most people are reluctant to show up because of fear of being attacked either at the spot of protest or later on when their picture shows up in the media. Secondly, in a society where freedom of expression is limited, the people think on a selfish level where they only protect themselves and are not humanists. They do not show up if they are not directly affected.”

However, she added that more such protests have been planned in multiple cities across all provinces in the coming days.

Sikh Committee of Pakistan Chairman Radesh Singh Tony was of the opinion that the marketing for the cause was not effective. “There weren’t many shares and views on social media,” he said.

Radesh and others at the protest lamented that there was no logic behind such incidents.

“Why are only girls converted? Why not boys? And how do girls who have no exposure to the outside world suddenly become impressed with the teachings of Islam?” asked Radesh, while adding that any person with common sense could tell that the girls who claimed to have embraced Islam on their own would have been threatened with grave consequences if they dared to speak the truth.

The teenage sisters said they converted to Islam out of their own free will as they were impressed by its teachings and denied the allegations that they were forced to renounce Hinduism.

However, the girls’ father and brother, in videos circulating on social media, say that the two sisters were abducted and forced to convert to Islam. In contrast, a separate video of the minor girls is also making rounds on social media, in which they say that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

The issue was also raised by human rights activist Jibran Nasir among others.

PM Imran Khan had earlier taken notice of the incident and ordered the Punjab and Sindh governments to probe the sisters who were reportedly shifted to Rahim Yar Khan from Ghotki.

The fact remains that the issue will be wiped out from the public conscious within another day or two while the government probe will not yield any positive results either. Which is why Pakistani Hindus present on the occasion demanded legislation, implementation and most importantly security from misguided Muslims in an attempt to tackle the issue at its roots.

The case of Reena and Raveena is just a drop in the ocean. Days after the two underage Hindu girls’ case came to light, another similar case emerged on March 26.

16-year-old Mala Meghwar hailing from Village Dhani Buksh Pitafi was dragged out of her house on the night between March 16 and 17.

According to the details, Ghulam Haider Thaheem, along with three accomplices, one of whom the victim’s father identified as Ghulam Nabi Shah, broke into the victim’s house at around 3 am and dragged her to a vehicle waiting outside the home after which she was taken away.

Neelum Kumari, a member of the Hindu community from Sindh, said that the Hindu community is helpless mostly due to their geographical location within the country. “Our community is never safe. Most of these cases happen in Sindh, this means that Punjabis and other ethnicities are simply disconnected and least concerned of our issues,” she said.

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