Karachi: On a usual day, her brother would pick her up from the parlour she frequented to take a beautician’s course. The 15-year-old girl had keenly enrolled for the course in her hometown of Jacobabad around two-and-a -half months ago.
But one fateful day, when her brother went to pick her at 10:00 pm, not an unusual time, the owner of the parlour said that she had left some four hours ago. It’s been more than a month since, and Aisha Kumari is still missing.
Her eldest brother Vinod Kumar said Aisha did not have a cell phone. “She never went outside the main door of our house on her own. Somebody had to accompany her. That’s how we raise our daughters. Now it has been a month and she is still away,” he said.
Aisha’s brother and uncle came to Karachi in search of help to find their “little child”. They approached a number of media outlets because they felt their plight was being ignored by the mainstream media, unlike the other cases of abduction. They did not know anybody in the city and were staying at a temple near Cantt Station.
The Hindu community in Sindh launched a string of protests against abduction and “forced conversions” of young girls from the community including the one held in Karachi on Sunday.
“We are witnessing an excruciating trend,” said Dr. Ramesh Kumar, Patron of Pakistan Hindu Council, “There is a rise in the number of kidnapping and forced conversion cases like never before.” Ramesh claimed that 20-30 Hindu girls are reportedly abducted every year in Sindh alone for forced conversion “apart from the ones that go unreported”.
But Aisha’s family says it considers her as a case of just kidnapping. “If she is being forced to convert or not is something we do not know because we don’t know where she is and what is happening to her,” said Sundar Mal, the uncle.
The case of Aisha’s abduction is one of the three cases noted and being heard by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan alongside the cases of Rinkle Kumari and Dr. Lata. “The chief justice asked law-enforcement agencies to produce the girl by 18th of this month (April),” said Mr. Mal. “We are pinning all our hope that she will be produced.
Compared to the high-profile cases of Rinkle Kumari and Dr. Lata, the story of Aisha was given less coverage in the media which saddens her family members. The reason for this, said a social activist who chose not to be named, is said “Aisha’s family is not financially strong and socially influential, like the other two.”
“The situation is at its most urgent. It’s not a question of religion or anything. In the cases of Dr. Lata and Rinkle Kumari, we know they are alive, but my sister is missing. Despite the urgency of the situation, nobody is interested in our story,” said the brother.
SP Jacobabad Zafarullah Dharejo, who is investigating the case, said that the owner of the parlour is in custody and the police in Jacobabad are making every effort to recover the girl. “We are doing our best. We raiding places and acting on every bit of information.”
But such statements mean nothing to the family of Aisha. “The stoves in our house have gone cold. Nobody feels like eating. We stopped cooking. Our family’s honour, name and everything is hanging by a thread. It’s impossible to explain what we are going through. We want Aisha back,” said her brother.