Sindh has been known for its Sufi culture which has kept pushing the extremism off its borders. It has in it several shrines, religious harmony, coexistence and tolerance, not to mention the centuries-old civilization, Mohen-jo-Darro. Sindhis have always claimed to have secularism and Sufism to be present as if in their gene and, thus, they wouldn’t ever side with religious intolerance and extremism.
Well, this is true to a great extent since we can see that where Pakistan has seen surge in extremism throughout the post-9/11 period, Sindh has remained comparatively more peaceful and, especially, incidents of extremist activities have been equal to none. There definitely was an incident of burning NATO oil tankers in Shikarpur, Sindh, but the same was condemned by the Sindhi nationalist parties attributing the incident to the agencies trying to tarnish the soft image of Sindh; in fact, there were massive protests against the blazing up of the oil tankers throughout the land.
Sindh has been home to many religions, all coexisting peacefully. However, there have been certain incidents which would reveal the nature of the ‘rare’.
One such event which took place on the unfortunate day of November 02, 1939, which blotted the humane face of Sindh, was when a saintly Sufi singer and poet of humble and peace-loving nature, Bhagat Kunwar Ram was murdered at Rukk Station, Sukkur (Sindh) in the name of religion – for being a Hindu.
The person booked as the major perpetrator in the murder was Mian Abdur-Rahim of Bharchundi Dargah, a religious center in a small village of the same name. Bhrarchundi Dargah is famous for spreading hatred against the Hindus, and converting them to Islam forcibly for years now.
Thus, to many in Sindh, this news did not come as a surprise, but it did disturb them to come out on roads and protest against the Pirs of Bharchundi — what happened was that Rinkle Kumari, a Hindu teenage girl, was kidnapped on February 24, 2012, forced to convert to Islam and, subsequently, marry a Muslim boy, Naveed Shah (a Punjabi settler). And the person involved is none else than a Pir of Bharchundi Dargah, Mian Abdul Haq (popularly known as Mian Mithoo), the son of Mian Abdur-Rehman, the major perpetrator in the case of Bhagat Kunwar Ram’s murder in the past. Mian Mithoo also happens to be an MNA of the Pakistan People’s Party, the ruling party.
Before the news of her being in the custody of the Bharchundi Pirs, a First Information Report, number 2012/12 was lodged at the Mirpur Mathelo Police Station by the girl’s uncle, Daya Ram.
The same day at noon, the relatives of the girl are informed through a phone-call that their girl was in their custody, and that she had embraced Islam and married Naveed Shah. It was an invitation for her relatives to go to Bharchundi and meet her if they wished to. But the people familiar with the Dargah’s culture knew what it would mean if the Hindu relatives went there.
With a series of events, the matter is taken to the court where the girl demands to go with her family – to this, Mian Mithoo is said to have slapped the girl in the courtroom full of spectators. She made it clear that she did not want to convert to Islam and marry the boy, but, in fact, she was kidnapped and being forced into doing so.
Before this event could occur, there were armed groups all around the court from Bharchundi’s side which, definitely, were there to make their force be loud and visible, and to affect the court’s decision. Familiar with the power of the Bharchundi Dargah, the Civil Judge gave the verdict in their favor in literally no time and allowed them to take the girl with them.
And the Muslims go back celebrating as though they had conquered any fortress, or the Somnath Temple (borrowing words from Asad Chandio, who is being threatened for writing this article against Bharchundi Pirs).
However, the secular civil society and nationalists of Sindh started protests throughout Sindh in which not only Hindus, but Muslims, Sikhs and Christians participated equally to voice the unheard voice of Rinkle Kumari. Although the news has been not been highlighted from this perspective in the mainstream media since the story involved religious figures and had the essence of Hindu-Muslim contrast, the social media has played an important role in propagating the struggle and organizing demonstrations, walks, rallies and sit-ins at press clubs, especially, in the major cities of Sindh like Karachi and Hyderabad.
The Sindh High Court Chief Justice, Mushir Alam, has ordered Rinkle Kumari to be produced in the court on March 12, 2012. A major decision is awaited by both the parties.
Till then, the protest must continue against this utter violation of human rights by the Dargah of Bharchundi, which has a history of such criminal acts.
Silence of the women’s and human rights activists in this regard is sinning. It has left many like me alarmed that, even after much pinging on the social media accounts of the so-called human rights activists, not a single word of condemnation has come out of their blogs, social media profiles.
A friend on Facebook had status which said (Translated from Sindhi): “Mian Mithoo can harass a helpless, poor girl to say whatever he likes! Let us give this Pir of Bharchundi (alone) to the men of Bal Thackeray and he would convert (to Hinduism) in no time! (sic)”