Karachi: Monday, March 26, was the first time that Rinkle Kumari, the Hindu girl who was allegedly kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, was to appear in front of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Islamabad. The Hindu community awaited her statement with bated breath.
They prayed. They prayed because her statement would make or break the now one month long campaign against forced-conversion, a campaign that had, according to Pakistan Hindu Council patron Ramesh Kumar, brought the Hindu community “closer than ever before.” And then, Rinkle finally spoke: “I want to go to my parents.”
The court, after the hearing was adjourned, sent Rinkle to Darul Aman and announced that the next hearing would be held on April 18. Since Monday morning, regional TV channels have been showing Rangers patrolling the small town of Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki. The images showed that the streets were relatively empty, and that a majority of the shops were closed. Tension was in the air.
The statement Rinkle Kumari registered in front of the Chief Justice of Pakistan has brought the exchange of salvos between the Hindu community, and what one of the Hindu leaders called “society at large”, to an end.
Her family had pinned all of their hopes on the Supreme Court. As Rinkle’s maternal uncle Raj Kumar said, “I am happy that she finally spoke from her heart, but the thing that confuses me is that we never called it a case of forced conversion. It was kidnapping. Despite this, our daughter has been sent to Darul Aman in Karachi.”
According to Raj Kumar, Rinkle was crying when she was being taken to the police van. She said that she wants to go with her parents, and that she would not get justice in an Islamic country. “It’s a very important development,” said Amarnath Motumal, Vice-Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Sindh Chapter and President of the Hindu
Panchiyat of Karachi. “Rinkle belongs to a well-to-do family, which is why her case has escalated to the point where the media and civil society are highlighting it so much.
Motumal claimed that such cases of kidnapping and forced conversion in interior Sindh are a common occurrence. He lauded Rinkle’s courage in standing up and speaking the truth. “The Hindus in Pakistan are happy, but when issues like forced-conversion surface, it really becomes unbearable.”
Though there was a general consensus amongst the leaders of the Hindu community that the decision of the Supreme Court could be trusted, there are some Hindu leaders who believe that sending Rinkle to Darul Aman, and making her appear again in front of the court on 18th of April, did not make sense, given that she was a victim of kidnapping. But Ramesh Kumar, the Patron of Pakistan Hindu Council said that he understood the sensitive turn this case has taken and realised that the Supreme Court needed time to conclude the proceedings. He also said that the court’s decision to send her to Darul-Aman could have been for reasons of safety and security.
Mufti Muhammad Naeem, head of the Jamia Binoria International, had, on 13th of this month, demanded security for Rinkle Kumari and said that she had accepted Islam and should be allowed to practice her new faith. He claimed that he was not aware that Faryal Shah (Kumari’s Muslim name) had retracted her statement.
He believed that she had accepted Islam off her own free will, and suspected “Hindu pressure” had forced her to change her statement in front of the Supreme Court. When asked if Islam allowed forcible conversions, Mufti Naeem pointed out that the Quran explicitly ordained that there was no compulsion in the matter of religion. “If the girl wants to walk out of the Nikah, she can ask for a Khulla, or simply declare that she is a Hindu. The Nikkah will automatically be nullified.” But Mufti Naeem insisted that Kumari had accepted Islam and married Naveed Shah of her own free will.