September 20th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Members of a Hindu Bheel family were tortured allegedly by local landlords after being forbidden to use a water tap outside a village mosque in Rahim Yar Khan.
The incident happened on Basti Kahoor Khan, on the outskirts of the Rahim Yar Khan city on September 11. A Hindu temple in Bhong town of the district was ransacked by a mob last month following the release of an eight-year-old Hindu boy arrested on charges of blasphemy. The temple was reopened after renovations as scores of Hindus fled the town in the wake of the temple attack.
Farm worker Alam Jee, a resident of Basti Kahoor Khan, was picking cotton along with other family members when he went to fetch water from a nearby tap outside a mosque. However, Alam Jee was barred from filling water from the water by a local landlord for violating the sanctity of the place.
“They told us not to fill water from the tap outside the mosque and not to venture anywhere near the mosque,” Sahib Jee, father of Alam Jee, said. “They started beating and torturing my son, grandchildren, my wife and other family members upon being told we can’t be barred from standing on the road which was a public property,” he added.
Sahib Jee said any citizen could not be deprived of potable water, calling on the authorities to stop abuse of the influential landlords against the minority Bheel community.
When the family was returning home after unloading the picked cotton, the landlords held them hostage at their dera (outhouse) and tortured them again.
Peter Jan Bheel, a leader of the Bheel community and member of the district peace committee, lamented that the Airport Police Station officials did not act swiftly to arrest the suspects who had tortured the Hindu family despite registration of a first investigation report. “The FIR was registered on September 12 but police did not arrest the accused who were able to secure pre-arrest bail from a court the next day,” he told Voicepk.net. Apart from the nominated suspects, police officials made no efforts to arrest the other five unidentified suspects in the case, he added. The suspects are to appear in a court for bail confirmation on September 23.
The Bheel community had held a demonstration to highlight the torture on the Hindu family as well as denial of water to the minorities.
Deputy Commissioner Dr Khuram Shehzad held meeting of the district peace committee over the reported torture of the Hindu family.
According to Peter Jan Bheel, the deputy commissioner told members of the minority communities on the peace committee that they should have brought the matter of torture of the Hindu family to his attention when the incident happened. “The deputy commissioner told us that he would personally look into the matter and work towards amicably resolving the dispute,” Peter Jan Bheel told Voicepk.net after attending the peace committee meeting.
The Hindu community leader said Hindus who fled Bhong town after the temple attack have all returned home, adding that the situation in the district remained peaceful.
Chela Ram, head of the National Commission for Minorities, said the commission takes action on incidents of abuse and violation of rights of the minority communities on the basis of complaints lodged with it. “The commission does not take note of incidents reported on social media,” Ram said in response to the question of whether the National Commission for Minorities has taken notice of the reported torture of the Hindu Bheel community members in Rahim Yar Khan.
“Any member of the minority communities can lodge a complaint about violation of their rights with the commission in Islamabad,” he said, adding that the commission takes action after receiving a written complaint.
In recent years, there have been a score of cases of forced marriage and conversion of Hindu girls in Sindh and Punjab. Minority lawmakers have also called on the government to expedite legislation to stem incidents of forced conversions in the country. The religious affairs ministry and the Council of Islamic Ideology are currently vetting a bill to prevent forced conversions prepared by Federal Ministry for Human Rights. In an interim report, the Council of Islamic Ideology had stated that the Human Rights Ministry’s draft bill had clauses in conflict with Sharia law. The council had rejected two earlier bills on the same grounds that the age of conversion cannot be set at 18 years.