Thousands of miles still to go
Daily Times (Pak)
July 15, 2009
KARACHI: Following the recent announcements from the Indian government, regarding the issuance of visas to the Hindus of Karachi so that they may take the ashes of their loved ones to India, the local Hindus have started preparing for the trip in full swing. They have shifted the ashes into transparent jars and have put these jars into large parachute bags.
The ashes of about 150 Hindus, who passed away during the last three decades, have been travelling from one room of the cremation ground to another and finally they will make their longest journey yet; they will travel thousands of miles to their holy river, Ganges, in India for their eternal transformation.
The local Hindus had been trying to take the ashes of their loved ones to India for quite some time now but the Indian government was not issuing visas and other necessary travel documents to them.
Majority of Pakistani Hindus, especially those who live in Sindh, bury their loved ones, but a few cremate their deceased and believe that for the eternal transformation these ashes must be immersed in holy water. Some Hindus are content with immersing the ashes in River Indus, as this river also holds some importance in Hinduism and is considered holy by some, while others prefer to make the tedious journey to India so that they can immerse the ashes in the River Ganges.
Very recently, as in on June 25, the Indian government agreed to issue visas to those Hindus of Karachi who wanted to go to India to immerse the ashes of their beloved deceased. This decision, which was taken at a meeting between he Union Ministries of Home and External Affairs South Asia Fraternity (Indian chapter), was welcomed by the Hindus of Karachi, although they opined that the visas should be extended to the Hindus living all over Sindh.
Nevertheless, this announcement was a ray of hope for the local Hindus and they rushed to the cremation ground to collect the ashes so that they could take them to India before the Indian government changed its mind. “The room, where these ashes have been lying in for the last several years, is in deplorable conditions and when the local Hindus started pouring into the cremation ground to pack the ashes of their relatives, we had to temporarily move the ashes to the main hall of the historical library, which was known as Gujjar Hindu Cremation Ground Library. When the families will finally get their visas they will take the ashes from here,” said Murad Baloch.
On one hand, the local Hindus have been celebrating the recent announcement made by the Indian government while on the other hand, Hindus from other parts of the province are demanding that the Pakistan government talk to the Indian government so that the visas are given to all Hindus of Sindh besides those of Karachi.
“The decision to issue visas to the Hindus of Karachi is a good one and we welcome it,” said Pakistan Hindu Foundation D M Maharaj, adding that Karachi only includes four districts of Sindh while Hindus live in 19 districts of Sindh. He went on to add that although he is happy with the decision it is unjust to the Hindus living in other parts of the province. “We demand the government of Pakistan to talk to India so that the visas are extended to other cities too,” Maharaj said.
The messy state of the Hindu temples in Pakistan
Tuesday 7 July 2009
Of the 300 Hindu temples that Pakistan inherited in 1947 atthe time of partition, hardly three dozen have managed to survive,many of whom are in ruins and set to disappear with the passage oftime if due attention is not paid to their maintenance.
Following the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in India in 1992by Hindu extremists, over 200 Hindu temples were destroyed acrossPakistan by angry Muslims. Many of the Hindus living in Sindh andNorth West Frontier Province lost their homes as the largest outwardmigration of the Hindu community since Partition took place duringthese years. But despite all that, Hindus still exist in Pakistan,numbering more than 2 million. The Hindu population is largest in theSindh province followed by the North West Frontier Province of thecountry, but there are Hindu communities dotted all over Pakistan whocontinue to suffer constant threats against their security, propertyand lives by extremist Muslims.
Together with the apathy of the general public, the Hindus of Pakistanremain a forgotten and voiceless people who have to live a low profileexistence and have to put up with many insults to their honour anddignity, without any safeguards. The Pakistani authorities rarelyintervene to help their Hindu nationals, despite the fact that there are frequent reports of the kidnapping of Hindu women and children andlooting of Hindu property, besides other forms of discrimination and persecution.
As things stand, most Hindu temples in Pakistan are non-existent whileidols in many ancient temples of historical importance are missing.The famous Temples at Katas, near Kalar Kahar, are in a dilapidated condition and require renovation. This is despite the fact that Pakistan had been already signed an agreement with India to restorethe Katas temples. The temples had been falling into disrepair, and parts of them had been cemented before Indian leader L K Advani’s 2005tour to Pakistan. One of the Katas temples in Pakistan had even beenconverted into a library, though Katas is sacred to Hindus.
The Katas Raj temples are located on a hill six kilometres from ChoaSaidan Shah of the Chakwal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.Katas is mentioned in the Mahabharata, one of the three major ancientSanskrit epics of India. According to the Hindu religious belief, bothKatas and Paskar (Ajmer) are the eyes of Shiva, one of their gods.Paras Nath Jogi drew his last breath on Katas which also holds greathistorical significance, being the place where renowned Muslimscientist Alberuni attempted to measure the circumference of theEarth, studied Sanskrit and wrote his “Kitab-ul Hind”.
Similarly, the Doodhwali Mata Mandir and the Sheetla Mandir in Lahore,the aapital of the Pakistani Punjab province, built before theinvasion of Alexander, are in dilapidated condition. The ancient idolsat these temples have either been looted or are missing and thegovernment has denied permission to install new ones in place ofthese. The Sheetla Mandir at Lahore, built before the invasion ofAlexander, has seen many of its precious idols either looted or handedover to archaeological department. The Doodhwali Mata Mandir betweenthe Shah Almi and Lahori Gate in Lahore has somehow managed to survivein its dilapidated sanctum sanctorum.
The famous Parahlad Mandir and Jain Mandir near Anarkali in Lahore,which were largely damaged by fanatic Muslims after the demolition ofBabri Mosque in India in 1992, have been locked and an Islamic schoolis being run in its compound. Bhagat Hakikat Rai’s Samadhi in Lahore,where a fair used to be held every Basant day is also in a bad shape.However, the Pakistan government is not allowing local Hindus to lookafter their desolate temples on the pattern of Sikh gurdwaras, for unknown reasons.
Tharoor asks Pak to protect minorities from Taliban
Economic Times (India)
30 Jun 2009
NEW DELHI: India has asked Pakistan to take necessary measures to “protect” minorities who are reportedly being targeted by the Taliban in the
Battagram district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. Reacting to reports that the Taliban has demanded a tax from the minority Hindu community in the district, minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor said, “We would hope that the Pakistani government would take necessary measures to protect people from extractions of a group like Taliban.”
Media reports from Pakistan had said the Taliban had allegedly demanded Rs 6 million as “jiziya”, a tax imposed on non-Muslims, from the Hindu community in Battagram. Last month a group of around 35 Sikh families were forced to leave their homes in the Aurakzai tribal region after they were unable to pay the “jiziya” of Rs 50 million demanded by the Taliban.
Mr Tharoor said that India would watch the developments but it was up to the Pakistani government to look after its people. “We do expect Pakistan to look after all its people, after all they are citizens of Pakistan. Since Pakistan is in effect in war with Taliban in its own territory, I think it is safe to assume that Pakistan will have no sympathy for such demands from such people,” Mr Tharoor told reporters.
At the same time, Mr Tharoor, talking about the composite dialogue process, said that it could resume only after Islamabad gives enough assurances that a Mumbai-type attack would not take place again. “The message is to take necessary steps in your own country to bring to book those who perpetrated these horrors on our soil and then give us enough assurance for your own conduct that we will not have to fear this again,” Mr Tharoor said, and added that the first steps would also have to come from Pakistan.
But the status of Indo-Pak ties will be decided after the meeting of the foreign secretaries which is likely to take place in Egypt on the sidelines of the NAM summit next month. Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir are likely to meet in Sharm-el Shaikh in Egypt to specifically discuss the issue of terrorism and the steps that will be taken by Pakistan on terrorism.
New Delhi will be closely watching the developments of the meeting as it will precede the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, to be also taking place on the sidelines of the NAM summit on July 15. Though the venue has been finalised, the dates for the foreign secretaries’ meeting are still being worked out by the two countries. Both the foreign secretaries’ will be in Egypt from July 11 for the NAM summit.