Editorial: Guarding Minority Rights
The recent killing of a kidnapped twenty-four year old Hindu trader Ravi Kumar is extremely outrageous. Mr. Kumar had been abducted on October 22 in broad daylight from Quetta’s Satellite Town by armed men. His kidnappers sought an exorbitant amount from Kumar’s family in return of his release. While the kidnappers had initially asked for Rs. 20 million in return of Mr. Kumar’s release, they eventually reduced the amount to Rs. 10 million.
Even Kumar’s family found the lowered demand of Rs. 10 million beyond ‘justifiable limits’. As a result the captors killed Kumar after keeping him in their custody for around two months. His dead body was found near Western Bypass.
It is further depressing how the kidnapped trader became a victim of lack of coordination between his family and the police. While Dr. Mehar Chand, Kumar’s uncle who also serves as the minority secretary of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s Balochistan chapter, blames the deputy inspector general (DIG) for not showing ample interest in the case, the police, on its part, say they were asked by the victim’s family to stay away from the case so that they could resolve the kidnapping saga with the help of tribal notables.
One truly understands the insecurities of the families of those who are kidnapped for ransom. They avoid going to the police either because they doubt the efficiency of the police force or fear the backlash from the kidnapers. Hence, in most such cases, members of the minority groups contact local tribal notables and influential political figures begging them to play their role to secure the release of a kidnapped person. Sometimes, intervention by influential people pays off but such approaches also subvert the significance of the law enforcement institutions.
We are deeply alarmed over the increasing violence directed at Balochistan’s Hindu community. Hindus, just like rest of the religious minorities, have played a proactive role in the development of Balochistan’s economy. Their involvement in local trade and business is highly commendable. They have lived as the true sons of the soil and asserted their loyalty to this land by offering all their services for the progress and welfare of Balochistan. In recent times, the Hindu community has also stepped outside the stereotypes of business-related occupations and established a hallmark of excellent performance in medical and law professions.
The reason why the Hindu community in Balochistan flourished steadily is largely because of Balcohistan’s secular culture. The Baloch majority population does not discriminate Hindus based on their religion. Most Hindus in Balochistan live in Baloch dominated districts of Mastung, Kalat, Noshki, Khuzdar, Lasbela, Sibi, Jaffarabad and Naseerabad where they are treated with respect and equality.
The fresh attacks on the Hindus are masterminded by criminal elements who do not subscribe to any political or religious group. They are simply criminals who deserve no sympathy or immunity from the law. The government of Balochistan should take solid measures to bust these gangs which are responsible for troubling the Hindu community and other residents in the province. It is the government’s responsibility to protect religious minorities and do whatever it takes to offer them a complete safe atmosphere. Every religious minority in Balochistan should be assured equal rights and opportunities.
If Kumar’s killing was intended to force the Hindu community to confine its activities and force them to live in ghettos then it is going to be a setback for our society because we can’t afford to move forward in any sphere of life without the full participation of our religious minorities in daily life. We sincerely hope that the Balochistan government will act swiftly before the criminal read Kumar’s killing as a symbol of Hindu community’s weakness and vulnerability.
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR (Twitter: @MalikSirajAkbar)
The Baloch Hal