71 Dalit families leave ancestral village to protest girl's abduction
Sunday, March 07, 2010
By By Jan Khaskheli
In the first incident of its kind, 71 Dalit Meghwar families of the
Aaklee village, comprising 400 members, have left their ancestral
village to protest against the alleged abduction of a 15-year-old
Meghwar girl Daya. According to the villagers, the teenager was
forcibly married to a Muslim influential.
This is the second incident of abduction of a girl from the minority
Dalit community during the last two months. Earlier in January 2010,
Kasturi, a young girl from the Kolhi community in Nagarparker, was
kidnapped and gang-raped.
The Meghwar families have now set up their makeshift huts on the
plains near Mithi Town and are demanding protection for their young
daughters, who they believe are not secure after the kidnapping of
Daya. The protestors said that they not yet lodged an FIR against the
accused out of the fear of more kidnappings of their women. Daya was
kidnapped on January 23 from her hut in the night. Soon after the
incident, it was declared that she has converted to Islam at an old
Madrassa in Samaro town and married with one Mumtaz Hingorjo, son of a
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Sindh
Taskforce, the alleged abductors, Mumtaz and his father Talib
Hingorjo, have threatened the community to stay quite on the issue or
else they would kidnap other girls from the community.
Former Member of the Sindh Assembly, Engineer Gianchand, who also
belongs to the Meghwar community and is the general secretary of
Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan, told The News that the people
are in great trouble. "They are practically living on the ground.
Nobody from the government has come forward, extending a helping hand
in this difficult time.
They are starving and they don't have any access to potable water,"
Gianchand said. The ex-MPA's family has given a piece of land to the
protesting villagers to settle down.
The Meghwar community members are considered traditional supporters of
the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). However, the community elders
maintain that though they had conveyed the issue to the party leaders,
all they received are empty assurances.
Ratna and Khaku, parents of Daya, believe that the accused had forced
their daughter to change her religion. "It is a forced conversion,"
Pirbhu Satyani of Thardeep Rural Support Programme, a local NGO,
rejected the claim of the Madrassa head and the abductors regarding
the girl's change her faith on her will. "The girl is only 15 years
old, which means she is ineligible for marriage according to the law
of the land. Secondly, the girl should be produced before the court
where her statement should be recorded before the magistrate," he
Satyani said that Thardeep was providing the protestors with food and
other necessities. He said the families need shelter immediately and
the cost to build a single hut ranges between Rs15, 000-17,000. He
regretted that the government was doing nothing for these families
except distributing some 100 forms of the Benazir Income Support
Mehendro Meghwar, a local activist, said, "No one can imagine how
difficult it was for us to leave our ancestral village. We have
decided not to go back to our village."
When asked about their immediate needs, majority of the protestors
said that they were worried about the education of their children
because the exams had already started. Besides, they said, they had
lost their jobs. They also sought a piece of land from the government.
According to a statement issued by the HRCP's, Pir Ayoob Jan Sarhandi,
who heads the Madarssa in Samaro, has claimed that they have converted
40,000 non-Muslims to Islam so far. "Not a single case of forced
conversion has been proved against us. In this case, the girl showed
her willingness," the HRCP statement quoted Sarhandi.
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