During the past four years more than 50 Hindu traders, doctors, and professionals have been kidnapped for ransom. 300 families have migrated, 100 of these to India
The July 28, 2012 abduction of three Hindu traders of the same family in Kalat District has caused intense fear among the Hindu community in Balochistan.
The kidnappings of Sunil Kumar 25, Ratan Kumar, 23 and Ramish Kumar, 35 have not received much official or media attention. Unfortunately such incidents have become the order of the day in the province.
Hindus are considered to be ‘soft targets’ for kidnappers. Refusal to pay ransom irks the kidnappers who then immediately kill the abducted individuals, throwing their dead bodies to show the community what will happen if their demands are not met.
The unpredictability of these kidnappings has plunged Hindus into a state of unrest and uncertainty. Those with enough financial resources either flee to relatively safe places such as Balochistan’s Lasbela District or parts of Sindh, or they move to India permanently. Many Hindus in Balochistan prefer Lasbela District because it is close to Karachi and it promises better economic incentives once they start a new life.
Hindus in Balochistan contribute enormously to Balochistan’s economy. Historically they own major businesses in the districts of Kalat, JhalMagsi ,Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Bolan, Sibi, Khuzdar, Dera Bugti, Mastung, Quetta and Lasbela. Since law and order began to deteriorate in 2006, the Hindu community feels the heat of the military operation and increasing lawlessness. In its 2005 report “Conflict in Balochistan,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a list of 31 Hindus, including 19 children, 3 women and 11 men, who were killed by the security forces in an attack on the fort of Nawab Akbar Bugti on March 17, 2005.
According to recent media reports about the exodus of Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan, at least 100 families from Balochistan have migrated to India.
Balochistan’s former Chief Secretary, Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri, once told the media that most of the kidnappings took place in Kalat which is home to a major Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. Abducted Hindus are usually taken to the neighboring Khuzdar District that borders Sindh and which has a limited police presence.
The Chief Secretary claims that “common criminals”, not the Baloch separatists, are behind these kidnappings.
On December 21, 2010 a prominent Hindu religious leader, Maharaj Lakshmi Chand Garji was kidnapped along with his four companions near Surab. The Hindu community across Pakistan values his spiritual leadership. While the kidnappers released three people within hours, they detained Maharaj and Venud Kumar, the son of a well-known Quetta-based Hindu trader, for more than three months. Recalling their ordeal, the Maharaj reported that the kidnappers tied his hands with a rope and blindfolded them throughout this period. They were eventually released on March 26, 2011.
“Hindus are the natives of Balochistan but now they feel unprotected”, says Maharaj Lakshmi, who attributes the change in local people’s behavior to a “deviation from the Baloch culture and traditions.”. He says the days are gone when Balochistan’s tribal society was regarded as a “safe haven” for religious minorities.
The Hindus say they are left with “no option” but to flee the country once the government fails to provide them any kind of protection from the criminals. Maharaj Lakshmi says a breakdown of law and order and an upsurge in cases of abduction for ransom has compelled 100 families to migrate to India while another 200 families have left various districts of Balochistan and settled in Hub, Balochistan’s industrial town bordering Sindh, and other parts of the country.
“I don’t think these families, mainly those who are migrating to India, will be able to adjust to the new environment,” fears the Maharaj. According to local Hindu community leaders, during the past four years more than 50 traders, doctors, and professionals have been kidnapped for ransom. Contributing further to the community’s pessimism is the fact that local security institutions, such as the police, were not able even once to secure the release of a kidnapped Hindu. In every instance the community had to pay ransom to ensure the release of a kidnapped member.
Zahoor Shahwani, the president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, says these abductions have become an “alarming issue”. He says that the government has failed to fulfill its responsibilities and has not taken any tangible measures.
Mr. Shahwani, who is also a Council Member of the HRCP says, “We urge the government to make immediate efforts to protect the life and property of the Hindus. So far, the authorities have not responded positively to our calls.”
Burj Lal, a notable of the community in Noshki District, told Viewpoint that they have lived in Balochistan for thousands of years but now his relatives have begun to leave Noshki and settle in other cities. “The Hindus do not feel safe when they go out to do a job nor are their children secure when they go out to get education. They are afraid of traveling inside Balochistan. Many of the Hindus are now selling off their properties and shops at half the price and leaving Balochistan,” reports Burj Lal. Rajeve,22, a Hindu from Kalat who recently migrated to India with his family, said that they did not make their decision willingly but were compelled to do so. He says his family did not want to leave Balochistan, but regular cases of abduction and looting of shops belonging to Hindus forced them to flee to India. “We find India a safe place for us,” he says, “We do not face serious hardships here and we can go wherever we want. We also plan to bring our other relatives to India as we consider ourselves very protected here.”