The collective conscience of Indians is undermined over attacks on minorities in any nook and cranny of the world. India, however, reacts angrily on incidents of persecution in Pakistan and remains largely apprehensive on how its neighbor treats its Hindu minority which accounts for a minuscule 1.6 percent of its population.
The recent incident of alleged abduction and forced conversion of two teenage sisters Reena and Raveena, from their home in Sindh province last week, should be seen in this context. The incident has, as was expected, instigated a widespread hue and cry in India with its external affairs minister seeking a detailed report from Indian High Commission in Islamabad and sparring on Twitter with Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Hussain.
India’s note verbale to Pakistan is an explicit message to Islamabad that New Delhi cares about its own people and would not shy away from raising concerns on mistreatment of minorities in a neighboring country despite India’s own abysmal track record in this regard.
India is widely regarded to be the largest democracy on earth. Paradoxically, it allows diverse right-wing fringe groups to burgeon and courageously inflicts terror on a vulnerable group. Moreover, such acts are condoned despite incontrovertible evidence against them.
Over the course of the last few years, India has observed a tendency of culprits capturing the crime in their smartphones and posting it on social media for wider publicity of their offense. Still, the law enforcement authorities find it difficult or are unwilling to act to bring such perpetrators to books. Undeniably, there are a few exceptions to this but, by and large, this is the sad reality.
Despite all this, India does not miss any chance to take a dig on any reported abuse of minorities in Pakistan. The case of two sisters “Reena and Raveena” is not an exception. India was seen actively engaging and slamming Pakistan prompting the authorities there to take swift action against the perpetrators.
Thankfully, the Pakistani Prime Minister took notice of the case and ordered an inquiry into it. The judiciary, too, played a positive role in handing out the custody of the two underage girls to a government shelter, as the authorities complete their probe into an alleged case of kidnapping and forcefully marrying the two underage girls of the minority community after forcefully converting them to Islam.
These measures of the Pakistani authorities are an explicit manifestation of the damage control and will surely ameliorate the existing crisis but the issue will haunt it again unless the State takes corrective steps in this regard.
The forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam is quite common in the southern province of Sindh. The Dawn, in its editorial on March 26, observed the following: “The fact is that the majority of new converts in Sindh are young women or minor girls from socioeconomically vulnerable Hindu families”. The nexus of power — politically influential families, clerics, and seminaries — behind this phenomenon are also well known to all, while religious minorities have repeatedly pointed to a lack of appropriate concern displayed by police and judicial officers.
If these purported remarks hold veracity in them, then the Pakistani state (Islamic Republic of Pakistan) should take down the constitutional provision of Article 20[i] that mandates it to protect the right to freedom of religion to its citizenry and remove the white color from its flag as it claims that the white reflects its commitment towards the preservation and equal respect of minorities on its soil.
The Islamic Republic should further remind itself that Islam forbids forceful conversions and forces none to embrace it. Holy Quran is explicit in laying out a lucid universal doctrine: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion”. (Quran: 2:256)[ii]
The Prophet Muhammad’s entire life reflects an administration of this rule into practice. In the initial 13 years of his Prophethood in Mecca, he forced none to embrace Islam but unveiled himself as an embodiment of the highest standards of morality, ethics,, and integrity which fundamentally attracted people towards this new thriving religion in Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century CE.
At the pinnacle of Islamic power and glory, the Prophet set an example of the highest level of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness when he led the conquest of the city of Mecca in 629-30 CE. The prophet declared all of his enemies, who inflicted humiliation and torture on him and his followers when they were minor in numbers and feeble in power, free from any possibility of revenge and announced no harm to anyone who shut his door.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan should learn its lessons from these examples of the Prophet and set forth the highest standards of living and respect to its minorities to earn goodwill not only at the domestic level but also at the global level.
Any such move will go a long way in ensuring better chances of the safety of the Muslims in India as the right-wing groups here often invoke the atrocities meted out to the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh and Kashmiri Pundits in the valley.