In Pakistan, there is a huge population that constitutes the ‘gypsy community’, which are usually Dalits or belong to other lower castes considered untouchables. There is no official record of the country’s gypsy people, most of whom do not have identity cards and are denied government schemes. According to a Lahore-based NGO, GODH, there are approximately 10 million gypsy people living in Pakistan. They live in miserable conditions because of inaccessibility to basic utilities such as electricity, gas, potable water, etc. They are socially and politically marginalised and persecuted on religious and ethnic grounds.
The gypsy community is spread across the urban and rural areas of Sindh and Punjab and occupies vacant plots along the roads. They are isolated from mainstream society and forced to live in deprivation. I have personally witnessed these injustices in Hyderabad where people did not share utensils and food items with the gypsy community. Forced conversions and forced marriages of Dalit women are also commonplace. Unfortunately, very few human rights activists in Pakistan have raised their voices against the atrocities faced by non-Muslim minority groups.
The minority groups including the gypsy community deserve justice and the right to equality and freedom. In his last sermon, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.” We must adhere to the teachings of our religion and follow the example of our Prophet (peace be upon him). Prime Minister Imran Khan has time and again preached Riyasat-e-Madina. In doing so he must also call for protecting the rights of minority groups especially Dalits without any discrimination or prejudice.