71 Dalit families leave ancestral village to protest girl’s abduction
By Jan Khaskheli
Karachi: In the first incident of its kind, 71 Dalit Meghwar families of the Aaklee village, comprising 400 members, have left their ancestral village to protest against the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old Meghwar girl Daya. According to the villagers, the teenager was forcibly married to a Muslim influential.
This is the second incident of abduction of a girl from the minority Dalit community during the last two months. Earlier in January 2010, Kasturi, a young girl from the Kolhi community in Nagarparker, was kidnapped and gang-raped.
The Meghwar families have now set up their makeshift huts on the plains near Mithi Town and are demanding protection for their young daughters, who they believe are not secure after the kidnapping of Daya. The protestors said that they not yet lodged an FIR against the accused out of the fear of more kidnappings of their women. Daya was kidnapped on January 23 from her hut in the night. Soon after the incident, it was declared that she has converted to Islam at an old Madrassa in Samaro town and married with one Mumtaz Hingorjo, son of a local influential.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Sindh Taskforce, the alleged abductors, Mumtaz and his father Talib Hingorjo, have threatened the community to stay quite on the issue or else they would kidnap other girls from the community.
Former Member of the Sindh Assembly, Engineer Gianchand, who also belongs to the Meghwar community and is the general secretary of Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan, told The News that the people are in great trouble. “They are practically living on the ground. Nobody from the government has come forward, extending a helping hand in this difficult time.
They are starving and they don’t have any access to potable water,” Gianchand said. The ex-MPA’s family has given a piece of land to the protesting villagers to settle down.
The Meghwar community members are considered traditional supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the community elders maintain that though they had conveyed the issue to the party leaders, all they received are empty assurances.
Ratna and Khaku, parents of Daya, believe that the accused had forced their daughter to change her religion. “It is a forced conversion,” they claimed.
Pirbhu Satyani of Thardeep Rural Support Programme, a local NGO, rejected the claim of the Madrassa head and the abductors regarding the girl’s change her faith on her will. “The girl is only 15 years old, which means she is ineligible for marriage according to the law of the land. Secondly, the girl should be produced before the court where her statement should be recorded before the magistrate,” he added.
Satyani said that Thardeep was providing the protestors with food and other necessities. He said the families need shelter immediately and the cost to build a single hut ranges between Rs15, 000-17,000. He regretted that the government was doing nothing for these families except distributing some 100 forms of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
Mehendro Meghwar, a local activist, said, “No one can imagine how difficult it was for us to leave our ancestral village. We have decided not to go back to our village.”
When asked about their immediate needs, majority of the protestors said that they were worried about the education of their children because the exams had already started. Besides, they said, they had lost their jobs. They also sought a piece of land from the government.
According to a statement issued by the HRCP’s, Pir Ayoob Jan Sarhandi, who heads the Madarssa in Samaro, has claimed that they have converted 40,000 non-Muslims to Islam so far. “Not a single case of forced conversion has been proved against us. In this case, the girl showed her willingness,” the HRCP statement quoted Sarhandi.
Source: The News