August 1st, 2021
“My captors are still threatening to kill me and my family members, ” 20-year-old Reena Meghwar, a victim of alleged forced conversion and marriage, tells Voicepk.net.
The Badin Hindu girl came to the limelight when a video in which she appeals for help against her captors got viral on social media a few days ago. “Please send me to my parents, I was forcibly taken away. I have been warned of dire consequences with a threat that my parents and brothers will be killed,” Reena Meghwar is seen saying in the viral video.
Meghwar was reunited with her family after three months on the directions of a local court. The girl’s physical and mental condition was affected by the hardships of the incarceration.
The provincial government took notice of the video and ordered the police to recover the distressed woman. According to her family, Reena Meghwar was abducted by three neighbours in March, just two days before her wedding. The family approached the Sindh High Court where she testified that she had converted to Islam and married one of her abductors who was twice her age.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, the Hindu girl says the abductors tortured her and forcibly had her thumb imprint stamped on a blank piece of paper. “Ali Ahmed, Bashir and others forcibly abducted me from my home. They locked me in a room and tortured me when I asked to return home. I did not marry anyone, they forced my thumb print on a piece of paper,” she says.
In April, another video of Reena Meghwar had gone viral in which she screams for help from a rooftop of a house. Her parents again approached the court. However, Meghwar reportedly told police investigators that she wished to stay with her purported husband.
On July 26, Reena Meghwar was produced before a local court in Badin. The Hindu girl testified in court that she had neither converted to Islam nor married anyone. After her statement, the court directed police to hand over custody of Reena Meghwar to her parents.
After recording her statement, the court ordered police to file a case against the three accused who were arrested and sent to jail.
Reena Meghwar says accomplices of the accused are still threatening her. “We are receiving threatening calls. They say we should reach a compromise with the suspects. If we don’t settle, they will ruin our family after coming out of jail. This is a great injustice with us, we should be given full protection,” Meghwar tells Voicepk.net.
The girl’s uncle, Hamero Mal, says the suspects were involved in drug dealing and used to inject Reena drugs while in their captivity. He claims the local police sided with the kidnappers, which was why his niece had suffered so much.
According to Hamero Mal, when Reena Meghwar had earlier testified in court in favour of the kidnappers, she told her mother while coming out of the court that if she had not testified in their favour, she would have been killed.
On the other hand, Harkhio, an official of the Kario Ghanwar police station says that the police are helping the victims and providing them security. “We have arrested all the accused who are now in jail. Police officials have been deployed outside their homes security. In addition, the family have been provide contact numbers of all our officers in case of any emergency. The police have full support from Reena Kumari’s parents and are in touch with them at all times,” he tells Voicepk.net.
The people in Badin have demanded the government to immediately enact laws to protect minorities from forced conversions and marriages as was the case with young Reena Meghwar. Recently, about 50 Hindus from the Bheel community converted to Islam in Matli area of Badin.
According to a report from the Centre of Social Justice, 162 cases of alleged forced conversions were reported between 2013 and 2020 in the country. The CSJ figures show that 54.3 percent of the victims (girls and women) were from the Hindu community, 44.44 percent were Christian while 0.62 percent belonged to the Sikh and Kalash communities.
There is no legislation regarding conversion of faith, especially minors, in the country. A parliamentary committee has been deliberating for a year and half on legislation to stem forced conversions in the country. In a recent meeting of Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversion, Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shirin Mazari said her ministry had finalised a bill on forced conversion. However, it was decided that the proposed bill will be sent to the religious affairs ministry for vetting after Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri objected that the matter pertained to his ministry. The parliamentary committee decided that the human rights ministry will present the draft to the federal cabinet after its approval from the committee within the next two months.