NO MAN'S LAND

I am a Hindu—and a proud Pakistani

Quartz india
Quartz india

I’m a Pakistani Hindu—and I am fed up with the unending list of unaddressed complaints regarding discrimination, marginalisation and hatred spewed against Hindus in books taught at our schools for the last 68 years.

A few days back, Lal Malhi, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s member of the national assembly (MNA) on a minority seat, seemed to have addressed a similar point.

He commented on how insensitive and outright offensive our parliamentarians usually are when in their rhetoric of jingoism they want to condemn and criticise India, and instead start blaming and hurling abuses at Hindus.

A number of Muslim MNAs, he said, have mocked Hindus for worshiping cows. In their mindless hate-spewing, they ignore the fact that four million Hindus live in Pakistan, and their derogatory words hurt the religious sentiments of the local Hindu community. Perhaps, they need to be sensitised and educated that all Hindus are not Indians, and all Indians are not Hindus. India has over 200 million Muslims and other minority groups as well.

In the current scenario, I wish I had a prodigious political consciousness during my childhood so that I could have asked my grandparents why they and their ancestors preferred this part of the border in 1947, when many Hindus were fleeing to India.

Although I have as much of a right as any other Pakistani to seek better opportunities by fleeing abroad—to anywhere, India or not—and adding my name to the brain-drain list, the thought of leaving my motherland has never occurred to me. Despite the insecurity, the threats, the oppression and the marginalisation, we, members of the local Hindu community, are proud Pakistanis.

Every time there is an incident of violence against my community, an attack on a temple, or a forced conversion, my fellow citizens argue: “Don’t you see the atrocities against Muslims in India, especially in Kashmir and the 2002 Gujarat riots?”

I want to tell these people that as a minority rights activist, I feel deep pain at the atrocities against the Muslims living in India. But attacks on Muslim minorities in India in no way justify the atrocities committed against the Hindu minority living in Pakistan. Two wrongs cannot make a right.

We are Pakistani Hindus, do not equate us with Indians

If there is a doubt about our loyalty or sincerity to Pakistan, then these claims should be supported with statistics—some facts on how many Pakistani Hindus have betrayed the country or have been tried in courts for treason.

But if there is nothing to show in that regard, then the false propaganda must come to an end, and we should be owned and trusted. And the state should play a role in stemming the generalised fiction and fabricated tales taught through hate-mongering and biased history in textbooks.

On March 23, 2015, a Hindu soldier, Ashok Kumar, who laid down his life fighting in Waziristan in 2013, was awarded the Tamgha-i-Shujaat. But surprisingly, his name was suffixed with “late” and not “Shaheed” (martyr) as used for Muslim soldiers who have sacrificed their lives. Did Kumar not die for love of country?

He is perhaps the only Hindu who has sacrificed his life in the Pakistan Army. Hindus were not allowed to join the armed forces until before 2000, and they were only welcomed in the national military during the reign of Pervez Musharraf. This is in contrast with the country’s Christian community whose members have been serving in the army for much longer—with many on senior postings.

At the same time, Pakistani Hindus are discouraged from serving in the country’s secret agencies—to the best of my knowledge—whereas India’s Intelligence Bureau was headed by Syed Asif Ibrahim, a Muslim, for two years.

Come cricket matches, particularly the World Cup, and Pakistani Hindus are always asked which country they support in the Pakistan-India match? Do you ever ask Pakistani Christians this silly question?

Do you ever ask them who they support in a Pakistan-Australia or a Pakistan-New Zealand match? No, never. Then why are the Hindus always asked to prove their patriotism and loyalty to the country in this manner?

That question has always perplexed my mind. Why are we treated as second-class citizens by the state, and why are we discriminated in every walk of life just because we are Hindus?

I can safely say, on behalf of my community, that we often feel like citizens of “no man’s land.” That’s because in Pakistan, we are treated as Indians, and those of us who migrate to India are called Pakistanis. For our love and patriotism for Pakistan, right-wing Indians call us ISI agents, while here, just for being Hindu, we are labelled agents of RAW.

Where should we go?

Kapil Dev is a human rights activist and a freelance writer. This post first appeared on Dawn. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

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