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Sushma, Pak minister in war of words over abduction of 2 Hindu girls

Last updated on: March 24, 2019 18:42 IST

A war of words erupted on Sunday between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary over reports of abduction of two Hindu teenaged girls and their forcible conversion to Islam on the eve of Holi in the Sindh province.

In a tweet, Swaraj sought a report from Indian envoy in Pakistan Ajay Bisaria on the reported abduction of the girls and their forcible conversion to Islam.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered a probe into the matter.

Responding to Swaraj's tweet, Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said: "Maam its Pakistan's internal issue and (be) rest assured it's not Modi's India where minorities are subjugated, it's Imran Khan's Naya Pak where white colour of our flag is equally dearer to us."

"I hope you'll act with same diligence when it comes to rights of Indian minorities," he said.

 

Swaraj, in her response to Chaudhary, said she had only asked for a report from the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad about the kidnapping and forced conversion of two minor Hindu girls to Islam.

"This was enough to make you jittery. This only shows your guilty conscience," she said.

The two girls, Raveena (13) and Reena (15), were allegedly kidnapped by a group of "influential" men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi.

Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls, triggering a nationwide outrage.

In a separate video, the minor girls can be seen saying that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

On Saturday, Chaudhry said that the government had taken notice of reports of the forced conversion and underage marriages of the two girls.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi has directed IG Police Sindh to probe and submit report on abduction of two Hindu girls at the earliest.

In a tweet, he said "both the girls are citizens of Pakistan and it is our binding duty to protect them."

The Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.

Last year, Khan during his election campaign had said his party's agenda was to uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls.

Pakistan Hindu Council chief and Member of National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Ramesh Kumar Vankwani condemned the incident and demanded that the bill against forced conversion, which was unanimously passed by Sindh Assembly in 2016 and then reverted due to pressure of extremist elements, must be resurrected and passed in the assembly on priority basis.

"All of those who are preaching hate under the cover of religion must be handled like banned religious organisations," he added.

Sanjesh Dhanja, President of Pakistan Hindu Sewa Welfare Trust, an NGO, earlier urged Prime Minister Khan to take note of the incident and prove to everyone that minorities were indeed safe and secure in Pakistan.

"The truth is minorities suffer from different sorts of persecution and the problem of young Hindu girls being kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to convert to Islam or get married to much older men is widespread in Sindh,” he said.

Dhanja said the Hindu community had staged several sit-ins in Ghotki district after which police reluctantly registered FIR against the accused persons.

The Hindu community leaders have claimed that the accused belonged to the Kohbar and Malik tribes in the area.

Following the incident, an FIR was filed by the girls' brother, alleging that their father had an altercation with the accused sometime ago and on the eve of Holi they armed with pistols forcibly entered their home and took the sisters away.

A Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who had initially moved a bill against forced conversions, urged the government to get the law passed immediately.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.

According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.

Majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.

India has been raising the issue of plight of minorities, particularly the Hindu community in Pakistan.

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