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20 Hindu girls forced to convert in a month: HRCP

LAHORE: Emotions ran high as the families of Rinkle, now Faryal, and Lata Kumari attended a press conference by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Saturday.

The press conference was organised over the rising trend of abducting Hindu women and then forcing them to convert, a situation which has rung alarm bells among the country’s minority community. Even as Rinkle admitted to having married of her free will, while speaking recently to the press in Sukkur, her family adamantly refuses to accept her statement as true.

As the cases of forced conversions increase, the families of these girls demand that their daughters be kept in the safety of santuaries like the Darul Aman during the hearing of their cases, so they are not ‘influenced’ by anyone.

Rinkle’s brother, Inder Lal, was of the view that had his sister been allowed to meet her parents even once, she would never have converted. “Despite the president’s orders for the girl’s rescue, we are still waiting and hoping that something might be done.”

Narrating the ordeals his family had to go through, Lal said while his family protested on the roads for getting an FIR registered, the boy, who had allegedly kidnapped the girl, was set free on bail.

Dr Lata Kumari was the fifth girl in the family to be kidnapped and converted by the same people, her sister, Dr Jyoti informed The News. Dr Kumari, a doctor at the Aga Khan University Hospital, was kidnapped on February 28.

Dr Jyoti said when she met Lata Kumari in court, her sister said she “needed help”, the only thing she managed to whisper before being roughly pushed aside by some clerics who had come to witness court proceedings.

“Why would she say that if she had converted of her own choice?” asked a doleful Dr Jyoti.

Reena Saklani, another one of Lata’s sisters, reasoned that if the girls were converting of their free will, why were they being kept away from their families, and why the boys’ family felt the need to keep them surrounded with armed men.

Lata’s mother said her daughter was too caring, too loving to have deserted her own family like that. Now that the case was to be filed at the country’s apex court, she said they were ready to fight for their girl “till the very end”.

Among the families who attended the press conference, there were some who had been waiting to hear from their daughters for over a year, while some kept coming back to Amarnath Motumel of the HRCP for help in such matters.

A bleary-eyed Narayan Das, father of Bharti, or Ayesha, as she is now called, was also present on the occasion. He said he did not get enough support from the court and had decided to fight her daughter’s case himself.

Addressing the press, Amarnath Motumel of the HRCP revealed that within a month, 20 forceful conversions had taken place. “Apart from minor school girls, married women with children are not spared either.”

He said a decision to marry someone outside one’s faith was fine with them. What was not acceptable, however, was how the girls were abducted and their families warned of dire consequences if they tried contacting her.

He said that the courts and the police have greatly disappointed these hapless families. “Whenever a Hindu girl is converted and her family files a case in court, hundreds of religious zealots take to the streets and use pressure tactics, creating an atmosphere of fear.”

“Many lawyers do not take up the girls’ cases at all, and prefer to fight for the other party,” he said.

Motumel said he had requested the court many times to send the girls to Darul Aman, atleast during the hearing of their cases, but his requests always fell on deaf ears.

“Pakistan is where we want to live and die. We do not want to run away from here. Help us before it is too late,” he said.

The News