HINDUS IN LINE OF FIRE
Three doctors are killed in one of Pakistan’s worst attacks on minorities
Three doctors of Pakistan’s minority Hindu community were gunned down in Sindh province on Eid-ul-adha. A pharmacist, Sathpal, is battling for life at Karachi’s Aga Khan Hospital. Doctors Ashok Kumar, Naresh Kumar and Ajeet Kumar were shot dead in their clinic in Chak town, 400 km north of Karachi, when two unidentified men on a motorcycle opened fire. The incident, one of the worst attacks on minorities in Pakistan, has sent shockwaves through the Hindu community. Police investigations are yet to begin formally because the terrified families of the victims have not filed a first information report.
A police source says Dr Ashok Kumar was killed because he demanded a fee for treating an yet-to-be-identified leader from the influential Bhayo tribe. The Muslim tribe with a population of 10,000 controls the local agriculture-based economy of the town on the banks of the Indus. Tribal elders enjoy a fearsome reputation and are believed to have established private torture cells and labour camps.
Following the altercation over the fee, the source says, the tribe’s elders waited to exact revenge. They seized the opportunity provided by an interreligion row that broke out on Diwali. Three Hindu youths were arrested with a Bhayo nautch girl on the night before Diwali. The tribesmen said the girl had been raped and demanded a young Hindu girl of their choice to be raped by four Muslims as compensation. “It was a preposterous demand as she was neither raped nor forced to dance. She was a professional mujra artiste who was paid handsomely for her performance,” says Manohar Lal, a prominent member of the Hindu community. Even as tensions simmered, two weeks later, hired killers sent by the Bhayo elders struck the clinic on November 7.
Shikarpur district, in which Chak falls, has a population of 40,000, of which between 5,000 and 7,000 are Hindus. Most community members run wholesale businesses and are forced to pay protection money to the Bhayos. The amounts range between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh per year. Of late, the
bhatta (protection money) had stopped. This further angered the Bhayos. The last rites of the dead took place on November 8 at the Sathu Bela temple near Sukkur. Hindus allege the police are protecting the criminals. President Asif Ali Zardari directed Member of National Assembly Ramesh Lal and Sindh Minister for Minority Affairs Mohan Lal Kohistani to look into the matter. Both attended the funeral and assured that the culprits would be arrested. “Once the FIR is registered, police will move forward,” says Lal.
Violence against minorities is on the rise in Pakistan. In March, assailants shot dead federal minister Shahbaz Bhati, a member of Pakistan’s Christian community, in Islamabad. The assailants are yet to be caught. The Religious Freedom Report released in the US in September says Pakistan is among 10 countries which fail to protect religious rights. Kidnapping of Hindu women and converting them to Islam is common practice in Sindh. Hindus make up a little over 1 per cent of Pakistan’s population of 18 crore.
DEMONSTRATORS PROTESTAGAINSTTHE KILLING OFDOCTORS, IN SINDH’S HYDERABAD