July 30th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The small Hindu community is still living in a state of fear in Wadh town following the murder of a trader two months ago in Khuzdar district of Balochistan, members of the minority community told Voicepk.net.
Hindu trader Ashok Kumar was shot dead in his by unidentified gunmen on 31st May. “The killers are still at large despite the passage of two months,” a Hindu trader based in Wadh told Voicepk.net on the condition of anonymity due to fear of any reprisal attacks.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, provincial government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said the family of Ashok Kumar refused to lodge a complaint with the police over the murder.
“The first investigation report of the murder was filed on behalf of the State against unidentified suspects as the family did not name anybody” he said. The police have detained two suspects but the police investigators are facing difficulties in evidence gathering as family members are not coming forward, the provincial government spokesperson said.
No police patrolling in Wadh
The provincial administration had assured traders of beefing up security in the town and early arrest of the killers. The chief secretary had visited Khuzdar city after the murder and met with a delegation of the Hindu community from Wadh. “The chief secretary had assured members of the Hindu delegation of regular police patrolling in the town in wake of threats of extortion to the community there,” the Hindu trader said. He said the promised police patrol did not come about and there have been regular incidents of armed robberies.
However, Liaquat Shahwani claimed that security around the Hindu locality in Wadh town has also been beefed up, adding that a summary has been moved to the provincial government for setting up two new police check posts in the town. He said the provincial government is addressing security concerns of all residents in the province including that of the minority communities as the case is in Wadh town.
Rising incidents of robberies
On July 28, a levies force personnel was shot dead in Wadh Bazaar. The family of the deceased blocked the national highway in protest. A day earlier, armed robbers snatched three motorcycles and valuables from tourists who had stopped in Wadh bazaar on their way back to Karachi.
According to the Hindu trader, there are around 45 Hindu families in Wadh town, who are mostly traders and shopkeepers. “There are around 300 Hindus in Wadh who deal in garments, clothe, perfumery, and groceries,” he added. Most of the Hindu families are living in the town since Independence while some came there three decades ago.
According to another Hindu trader based in Khuzdar, the community has seen an upsurge in extortion threats and violence this year. He said the Hindu traders had often paid extortionists in the past to carry on their businesses in peace and security. However, the COVID pandemic has badly affected all businesses in the town as the rest of the country. “Now, the Hindu traders and shopkeepers don’t have any money left to give to extortionists,” he added.
The Hindu trader said the security situation in Wadh has not improved much after the killing of Ashok Kumar two months ago. “Roads from Wadh to other parts of the province remain unsafe for travelers within a stretch of 30 kilometers,” he said. He said the Wadh police station has a strength of 18 police personnel which is inadequate for effective patrolling of such a wide area.
“A few days after Ashok Kumar’s killing, pamphlets appeared in Wadh, asking Hindu shopkeepers from barring entry of women customers,” the Hindu trader said. The pamphlets were affixed in the Wadh town market and on signboards of the National Highway. He said usually women do not go to bazaars due to local customs but on festivals like Eid, women shop for clothes, shoes, and jewelry in the bazaar.
Hindu families considering relocation
The Wadh resident said Hindu shopkeepers and families were living in a tense atmosphere in Wadh. He said the community had approached the local administration and the police over the worsening law and order situation in the town. He said the government officials assured them of beefing security in the town and surroundings but in reality not much has improved for the Hindu residents. “Even the Levies personnel are targeted and the police do nothing,” he said, referring to the killing of a Levies personnel in Wadh town on July 28.
The Hindu trader claimed that five families from Wadh had relocated to Khuzdar city because of fear and extortion threats. He said if the government did not take immediate actions to improve security in the town, many more families are expected to relocate out of Balochistan.