Minorities in Sindh

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One wonders why PPP that loves to describe itself as “liberal and progressive” party always surrenders to the pressure of right wingers and other influential groups. The Sindh government had recently passed a bill against forced conversions in the province, but it has now been put on the backburner after objections put forward by religious group, that don’t even have representation in the assembly. PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari had personally assured Jamat-e-Islami chief that the bill would not be passed after the latter had announced a protest movement in the province. Then there are land grab groups in the province suppressing the rights of minorities and again, the government appears to have no power and will to stop them.

The prime minister seems to be doing all the right things regarding minorities’ issues lately. From attending Holi celebrations to announcing holidays on minorities’ festivals, he has us wondering if the ruling party is thinking of abandoning its long held right wing approach and turning into a ‘liberal’ party. But when we look at the status of minorities in the country, we can’t help but conclude that all these speeches and promises of eliminating discrimination are nothing more than an eyewash.

Sindh’s Hindu community has been demanding access to the Hindu Gymkhana in Karachi for over ten years but the powerful groups have always managed to suppress their voice. Hindu Gymkhana, a centre that was established for the promotion of social and religious activities of the Hindu community, has been under the occupation of National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA) for the last seventeen years. In 2005, NAPA built an auditorium within the premises of the gymkhana which allegedly is in violation of thr agreement signed by NAPA with the government. The provincial government tried to take back control of the gymkhana but it failed.

Hindu community leaders have time and again demanded the government to make the gymkhana available to them as it was meant for the community in the first place, but all efforts in this regard have gone in vain. In 2012, when the then culture minister tried evicting the gymkhana from the NAPA, the president intervened and supported the NAPA.

We certainly support the important work that NAPA is doing. Cultural spaces of this kind need to be strenghtened. However, the issue of Hindu Gymkhana requires a serious deliberation. The belegaured community must get its due and NAPA should also receive the support that it deserves. This is where the role of government is crucial. We hope that this issue is resolved sooner than later.

In the meantime, statements by PPP leaders on pluralism and interfaith harmony are meaningless until minorities feel protected. Forced conversions in the province need to be addressed on an urgent basis and it is about time the provincial government ignores the pressure and signs the anti-forced conversion bill into law. courtesy Daily Times

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