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No more safe at home, Pak Hindus flee to India

No more safe at home, Pak Hindus flee to India

Publication: Rediff.com
Date: March 16, 2009
URL: http://specials.rediff.com/news/2009/mar/18sld1-hindu-families-face-the-heat.htm

In May 2008, Pakistan's tribal province of Orakzai was in the news. The majority Muslims did not allow the Hindus to cremate their dead at the place that had been the designated crematorium for over a century.

The next month, the Pakistan government signed a peace treaty with the Taliban. It was among many other such treaties and not much was made of it, especially since the latter agreed that it would recognise the writ of the government.

But in the next couple of months, the few Hindu families began facing the heat.

"It was like the smoke before the fire. The Taliban's presence was not very evident in the following two months. But things were becoming obvious. A group of locals who supported the Taliban gave us the distinct feeling that we were not wanted there," says Jagdish Lal Sharma, who says he is a Pandit from the region.

Though there were no direct threats, the Hindu families were never left in any doubt about their minority status. Sometimes it would be a warning not to stare at Muslim women for long, at other times, it would be the subtle coercion of the local administrators to sell their land when the situation was still normal. The families were weighing their options until October when they were asked to wear a red patch in their pagadis (turban).

"We were told Hindus are not supposed to wish a Muslim even inadvertently and that is why, in order to make it obvious for a passing Muslim that we were Hindus, we ought to have some element of red in our headgear," Hardwari Lal, who is now in Amritsar with his family of 13, says.

In Amrtisar, they found Surinder Kumar Billa, a local religious leader at the Durgaina temple in Amritsar, who has promised to help them get Indian citizenship.

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