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Scarred and scared, these Pakistani Hindus seek refuge in India

New Delhi, Nov 27, (IANS):

Sitting hunched with his face cupped in his hands, 42-year-old Shobhamal dreads going back to Pakistan's Sindh province where he has earned the status of a pariah and ''bore the brunt of being a non-Muslim''.

A group of 146 Pakistani Hindus took refuge at capital's Majnu ka Tilla Sep 8 after crossing the Attari border Sep 4.

"I don't fear for my life but for my family. I decided to come here as there is no place for Hindus in Pakistan. Sexual assault, forced conversion, abduction and humiliation is all this country (Pakistan) has given us," Shobhamal told IANS.

Shobhamal's 18-year-old son died of cancer here earlier this month. 


With their tourist visas expired some two months ago, these people from Bagidi community are reluctant to go back to Sindh where, they say, there is no security of their life and property.

Hindus form around seven percent of the total population of Sindh province.

"We don't want to go back. We are outcast there. We appeal to the government that please just give us refuge and we don't want any citizenship," rues 45-year-old Ganga Ram.

Gang Ram has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting extension of their visas and shelter.

They are currently living in 12 tents and share one dilapidated toilet -- but say they don't have much complaints.

"We are happy here. Though life is tough here, it's not an ordeal what it used be in Pakistan. There, you bear the brunt of being non-Muslims," said Sagar, a mechanic, who was robbed of all his tools with which he used to make his ends meet.

"They force us to convert to Islam and threaten of dire consequences. They abduct our children  and loot our property. If we complain, nobody listens. There, even the prime minister is not safe, let alone Hindus," says Mithalal, who is in his 50s.

When this IANS correspondent tried to speak to the women in the community, a sense of reluctance took over. However, a few narrated their ordeal, after much convincing. 

"When our husbands are away for work, we keep our doors locked and live in constant fear. We are not allowed to wear vermillion on our foreheads," said Rukmini.    
            
"We don't eat our food until our children come back as you never know they might be kidnapped or circumcised," said a woman, refusing to reveal her identity.

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