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Baloch Hindus threaten poll boycott and emigration

Baloch Hindus threaten poll boycott and emigration

Author: Malik Siraj Akbar
Publication: Daily Times
Date: February 2, 2008
URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008%5C02%5C02%5Cstory_2-2-2008_pg7_21

* Protest abduction of four Hindus in one week
* Hindu leader says threats not religiously motivated

Hindus, the largest religious minority in Balochistan, threatened to boycott the February elections or "migrate to safer places" if the government did not protect them.

The warning came after four Hindus were kidnapped in two incidents within a week.

"We feel extremely insecure," said Hindu leader Basant Lal Gulshan, a former member of Balochistan Assembly. "There is widespread concern among the Hindus of Balochistan. The government has taken no action so far to recover the kidnapped Hindus."

The Sindh-Balochistan Hindu Panchayaat threatened to boycott the February elections but Gulshan and other leaders opposed the measure.

Four men with weapons abducted a 13-year-old boy Ravi Kumar from his father Herpal Das' rice mill on January 30 in Dera Allah Yar area of Naseerabad district. The boy was a student in Quetta and had returned home for a vacation.

Two days earlier, three Hindus were kidnapped from a passenger van in Jaffarabad district. One of them, Kundan Das, is a doctor, and the others, Dilip Kumar and Parkash Lal, are businessmen.

"If our men are not recovered, we will convene a grand conference of Hindus living across Balochistan," said Hari Chand, the former secretary general of the Hindu Panchayat. "We will consider all options of protest." But he said any protest by the Hindus would be legal and peaceful.

Kishor Kumar, the vice president of Balochistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Hindus had been peacefully living in Balochistan for centuries and had made significant contributions to local business. But he said they now felt insecure because of "repeated attacks on the community". He said the government had not addressed their problems.

"The government must protect Hindus," Basant Lal Gulshan said. "Otherwise, at a time when the international observes are coming to Pakistan to monitor the general elections, such incidents will send a very negative message about the state of minority rights [in Pakistan]," he added.

Not religiously motivated: "We do not suspect anyone," he said, but added that the violence against Hindus was not religiously motivated. "We believe it is the local outlaws," he said. "They want us to leave our homes as some people did in 1992 after the demolition of the Babari Masjid."

"If we are denied protection, we will be compelled to migrate to somewhere safer," he said.

He said he had told former Balochistan chief minister Jam Muhammad Yousaf about the abductions and Yousaf had taken up the issue with the Balochistan Police inspector general (IG). "But the IG never contacted us," he said. "No one from the provincial government has met us to say a word of sympathy." He made an appeal to President Pervez Musharraf to intervene and take notice of "the discrimination" and the threat to their lives and property.

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