By: Ramzan Chandio
KARACHI: The Sindh government has decided to seek legal assistance of retired judges to make amendments in Hindu Marriage Act 1955 to stop the incidents of forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam.
A meeting, chaired by Sindh Law Minister Dr Sikandar Mandharo in his office in the Sindh Assembly building and attended by minority lawmakers from PPP, MQM and PML-F, discussed the proposal to introduce amendments in the existing Hindu Marriage Act 1955 or replace it with a new one to address the growing complaints of minorities in the province.
Minorities Affairs Minister Gianchand Esrani and other lawmakers took part in deliberations and suggested steps to stop the forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam.
After the meeting, Law Minister Sikandar Mandharo told media people the government would ask retired judges, including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bhagwandas Chawla, Justice (r) Majida Rizvi and Barrister Jethmal, to come up with proposals either making amendments in the existing Hindu Marriage Act 1955 or replacing it with a new law.
All the three members of the proposed committee, comprising two retired judges and one lawyer, are gigantic minds in the field of law. They will frame recommendations to bring changes in Hindu Marriage Act 1955 to stop the forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam.
The law minister said the government would follow the recommendations of the legal minds if they suggested complete repeal of the existing Hindu law or proposed amendments to it.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers from PPP, MQM and PML-F opined the government must fix age of 18 years for the marriage of Hindu girls, which means marriage of any girl below 18 solemnizing marriage on her will should not be accepted and she must be kept at a separate place to think independently. The lawmakers suggested that conversion of Hindu girls to Islam must not be recognised if they are below 18.
It may be noted that rise in the incidents of forced conversion of Hindu girls was witnessed in the last tenure of the PPP government when a large number of Hindus left the country and migrated to India and other countries.
The issue of Hindus’ migration to India was taken up in the Sindh Assembly where a resolution was adopted unanimously, urging the government to stop the forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam and make a law in this regard.
During the meeting, the minority MPAs from PPP became emotional over the conversion issue. PPP MPA Khatumal Jeewan complained that not only women but our minor children, especially girls, are also forced at gunpoint to change the religion,” adding there should be a complete ban on marriage below 18 years.
PPP minority MPAs, Lal Chand Ukrani, Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Giyanoo Mal Esrani and others, as well as officials of the law department attended the meeting.
Dr Lal Chand Ukrani who is also PPP minority wing president said: “Our people cannot move ahead for immigration. It has become difficult for us even to get passports and national identity cards of our spouses because officially we cannot prove our spouses to be ours in the absence of a law for minorities to solemnise Nikah while our marriages being conducted by pundits are not officially acceptable.”