“It was the dark night of February 18th, 2023 when three armed men broke in my house and forcibly took away my daughter at gunpoint and later converted her to Islam,” Ramesh Bheel narrates the abduction of his daughter
Bheel is a resident of Naunkot city, district Mirpurkhas who stated his daughter 17-year-old Karishma Bheel has been converted to Islam after the abduction.
“We are Hindus and the accused party is powerful having links with local lords and religious groups so this, I think, is a tactic to trouble us,” he said while crying for his daughter.
Bheel narrated the incident: he was at his house when three men who were heavily armed, burst into the house and abducted his daughter. He put up much resistance but could not protect her daughter as they had heavy arms and we were weaponless. Abductors had links with influential locals, too.
When armed men took his daughter and retained her in the car, he and his relatives followed the armed men, but they opened fire to halt them from chasing, added Bheel.
Bheel clarified his daughter was only a 17-year-old student. She has been forcibly converted to Islam with her age shown as 19 in the conversion certification. The Rise News has possession of a conversion certificate.
“I have been constantly visiting police and local lords, they are not even asking me what actually happened because my daughter has now converted and they think she has become Muslim. However, I believe she is not even aware of her own religion so how she would convert herself,” Bheel stressed, adding, “I appeal to higher authorities to help me get my daughter back as soon as possible.”
Station House Officer (SHO) Naukot, Aslam Jamali, however, stated the incident happened on 18 February as Karishma Bheel went to school and later went away of her free will to marry Suhail Ahmed Rind, who is a neighbor of the girl.
Previously, he said, the same incident happened more than two times, as the girl left the home of her own will but her parents got her back through local sources, there is nothing like abduction as per eyewitnesses.
He elaborated that the girl has also told the local court that she went with her own will and will never return to her parents as she had converted and married Suhail. “We will produce documents and Nikkahnama of the couple as the court has ordered to produce the report of the case because the family has filed the petition about the alleged abduction,’’ SHO told about the legal procedure of the case.
However, through phone calls, the alleged abduction, Suhail, denied the abduction, saying he did not abduct the girl but married her according to her wish.
“Police is not even ready to register a complaint against those involved in the abduction, forced conversion, rape of minority girls which is an injustice to local communities who are already in fear,” Faqir Shiva Kacchi, Chairman of Pakistan Darawar Ittehad, and a minority rights activist pointed out.
Hundreds of Hindu girls had been forcibly converted to Islam and then got married to Muslims but unfortunately, the government, law enforcement agencies, and courts have become silent spectators instead of taking notice of such human rights violations, he added.
“Persistently kidnapping, conversion, forcibly marriages, occupying graveyard lands, demanding extortion and threats have forced Hindus to migrate from Sindh,” he stated while raising concern about forced conversion.
Kacchi, however, refuted the conversion of religion to underage and reports of love marriages.
“On December 2, 2022, in Kot Ghulam Muhammad City of Umerkot district, a Hindu girl Laali Bai was abducted by a policeman, Abdullah Khoso, and married after forcibly converting to Islam, when the family approached the police station they were denied of registering the case. Laloo Kacchi, the younger brother of the girl approached the local court for recovery of his sister and police produced the Laali before the court where she wished to go back to her parents and the court permit her to go with her brother,” Shiva Kacchi recalled.
“Laloo Kachhi took her sister to Kunri city at the house of her younger sister to protect her from possible abduction, later, on 25 December, when Kacchi along with his mother and sister, Laali, was on the way to their home a car was following them and at a point, Kacchi was stopped by armed men in the car. Then, he was severely beaten up by a mob as he offered to resist kidnappers who were trying to abduct his sister, Later, Kachhi succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.” Shiva Kacchi recalled.
Abduction of minority girls in Sindh
Human rights activists have raised concern over the rise in abduction, forced conversion, and underage marriages of minority girls. This is not the first case of alleged forced conversion in Sindh; most minorities fall victim to such vulnerable situations.
Kachhi says, it is not the first time that a Hindu girl is kidnapped, raped, and converted, previously, he said, similar incidents have been happening in Sindh.
Recently, UN experts expressed distress at the reported rise in abductions, forced marriages, and conversions of underage girls and young women from religious minorities in Pakistan and called for immediate efforts to curtail the practices and ensure justice for victims.
“We are deeply troubled to hear that girl as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to locations far from their homes, made to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam, all in violation of international human rights law,” the experts said.
“We are very concerned that such marriages and conversions take place under threat of violence to these girls and women or their families.”
“Family members say that victims’ complaints are rarely taken seriously by the police, either refusing to register these reports or arguing that no crime has been committed by labeling these abductions as “love marriages,” the experts said.
It is pertinent to mention here that in March 2022, 18-year-old Hindu girl Pooja Kumari was killed for offering resistance to abduction, forced marriage, and conversion of religion in the Sukkur district.
In September 2022, 14-year-old girl Chanda Maharaj was abducted, raped, and converted to Islam. Later, the First Information Report (FIR) was registered after the police recovered her and made a medical test to define her age, which she was found to be minor. Despite stating minor age, Chanda was sent to Dar-ul-Aman, a place to protect women and she is still there.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in 2021, around 60 cases of forced conversion were reported in the local media, of which 70 percent were girls under the age of 18. Whereas, more cases of forced conversions go unreported.
Mir Kerio, is a journalist and lives in Karachi. He tweets @ImamKeerio1