From the ed­i­tor-in-chief

India Today - - FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF - (Aroon Purie)

Democ­racy is a sys­tem in which the ma­jor­ity rules. It should, how­ever, never be­come a sys­tem that prac­tises brute ma­jori­tar­i­an­ism. Pak­istan has taken baby steps to re-es­tab­lish elec­toral democ­racy over the last four years. Un­for­tu­nately, it has gone out of its way to deny its re­li­gious mi­nori­ties their ba­sic rights, their right to prac­tise their own faith, and even more fun­da­men­tally, their right to life. The coun­try’s hard­line blas­phemy laws have been used to tar­get hap­less Chris­tians. Those mod­er­ate Pak­ista­nis who have spo­ken out to op­pose the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians, such as the gov­er­nor of Pun­jab, Sal­man Taseer, have met the same fate as some of the per­se­cuted—death.

The plight of Pak­istan’s 3.5 mil­lion Hin­dus, a smaller mi­nor­ity than the coun­try’s Chris­tians, has been sim­mer­ing un­der the sur­face for a while. It came to the fore in the rather sen­sa­tional and de­press­ing case of 19-year-old Rin­kle Ku­mari, a Hindu girl from ru­ral Sindh, who in Fe­bru­ary this year was kid­napped, forcibly con­verted to Is­lam and mar­ried to a lo­cal goon. Un­like many oth­ers, she came out fight­ing, vow­ing to re­turn to her fam­ily. Her case went to Pak­istan’s Supreme Court, which un­der se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny, gave Rin­kle a free choice—to ei­ther re­turn to her fam­ily, or re­main with her hus­band. In a dra­matic volte-face on April 18, Rin­kle chose to stay with her hus­band. Peo­ple close to her say she was forced to do so to safe­guard the se­cu­rity of the rest of her fam­ily. Lo­cal lead­ers, in­clud­ing a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, had threat­ened dire con­se­quences if she ad­mit­ted to be­ing forcibly con­verted.

Rin­kle’s case is not an iso­lated in­ci­dent. There are tens of such cases each month where young Hindu girls are ab­ducted, raped, forcibly con­verted and then mar­ried to their tor­men­tors. So­cially ex­ploited and eco­nom­i­cally back­ward, an in­creas­ing num­ber of Pak­istani Hindu fam­i­lies are try­ing to make their way across the bor­der into In­dia where they hope to find some em­pa­thy and, in most cases, a new home. In­dia’s wel­come, if one can at all call it that, has been cold. Thou­sands of Hindu refugees from Pak­istan pop­u­late refugee camps in Delhi, Pun­jab, Ra­jasthan and Gu­jarat. They live in mis­er­able, un­hy­gienic con­di­tions, with­out jobs, with­out any form of so­cial se­cu­rity. In­dia’s politi­cians, al­ways quick to pounce on Pak­istan for its flaws, have done ab­so­lutely noth­ing for these peo­ple who look up to In­dia’s democ­racy and pros­per­ity with hope.

Our cover story, writ­ten by As­so­ci­ate Ed­i­tor Bhavna Vij-aurora with our Pak­istan cor­re­spon­dent Qaswar Ab­bas, tells the story of Pak­istan’s per­se­cuted Hin­dus who have found no haven in In­dia. Our cor­re­spon­dents vis­ited refugee camps in In­dia and heard heart-rend­ing tales of young daugh­ters kid­napped and raped, of the dif­fi­culty in get­ting an In­dian visa, the near im­pos­si­bil­ity of ac­tu­ally mak­ing it to In­dia, only to be in­car­cer­ated in refugee camps with lit­tle hope of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion or cit­i­zen­ship.

The In­dian Gov­ern­ment has made lit­tle ef­fort to press Pak­istan to guar­an­tee the rights of the coun­try’s Hin­dus. The Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs usu­ally takes the po­si­tion that the mat­ter is an “in­ter­nal” one for Pak­istan. The Min­istry of Home Af­fairs is para­noid about Pak­istani spies and prefers to have noth­ing to do with any­one from Pak­istan, even a per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity.

The Gov­ern­ments of both coun­tries need to be shaken out of their ap­a­thy. It is ap­palling that 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple live in such ab­ject con­di­tions, whether in Pak­istan or In­dia.

OUR JAN 2011 COVER

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