Chronicling the Loss of Civilization

Katas Raj Temple Complex in Pakistan. There is None to Worship at This Pilgrim Site Today

In 1923, a controversial book containing blasphemous content caused much chaos, and created much communal tension. What got forgotten in the process was an incident of 1924 which happened in a remote part of today’s North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan known as Kohat.

Triggered by the inflamed passions, the overwhelmingly Muslim cantonment town witnessed an ethnic cleansing of its entire Hindu and Sikh population, barely constituting 3,500. The non-Muslims were forced to flee to town, leaving their homes for good, just to save their lives, never to return. Even the local police, overwhelmingly Muslim, decided to stand by and watch.

This was neither the first of its kind incident. Nor would it be the last across the Indian subcontinent.

Recently, former Presidential candidate and American Congresswoman from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard talked about a resolution highlighting the 1971 massacre and the subsequent targeting of Bangladesh’s minorities, including Hindus, by the Pakistani Army and the Islamist razakars. The event has been well documented across writings and in Bangladeshi cinema, and in recent times, information declassified in America showed how Nixon and Kissinger stood by as mute witnesses to the ethnic cleansing.

But as highlighted earlier, there have been several incidents that serve as a stark reminder of the fate at the hands of the Islamists for non-Muslims, especially the Hindus and Sikhs. The history of the Indian subcontinent is the story of systematic targeting and cleansing of Hindus over centuries, only to be concealed and ignored in the name of political correctness.

Starting with Muhammad Bin Qasim’s third and only successful attempt of invading Sindh, the persecution of Hindus has gone on for centuries. As recorded in the Chach Namah, Qasim put all Hindus above the age of seventeen to death, and women and children were put into slavery. Even otherwise, the Islamic rule was one of oppression and loathing of the majority under subservience. As historian Andrew Titus wrote in the book ‘Islam in India and Pakistan’,

Throughout the whole period of Muslim contact with India, the attitude of Muslim rulers to their Hindu subjects and their religion has been very largely one of intolerance or indifference.

Their crime? Refusal to acquiesce to the rabid Islamist agenda.

The seven exoduses of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir valley, driven by the barbarism of rabid Islamists, has been well documented, and equally well brushed under the carpet. The latest that took place in the year 1990 qualifies no less than being called an ethnic cleansing, with less than 3,000 Pandits left in the Kashmir valley today.



The 1921 rioting in Malabar under the pretext of the Khilafat Movement rebellion, led by Ali Musaliar and Variyan Kunnathu Kunjahammed Haji, saw the pillaging of Hindu and Christian houses, and the desecration and destruction of numerous temples.

What proved to be the final straw for many was the Muslim League’s ‘Direct Action’ call in 1946, with the Noakhali carnage being described as the darkest period of history in the life of Hindus of undivided Bengal.

Despite whatever one may say, India was partitioned on the basis of religion.

As per the 1941 census of India, India was home to 38 crore people. Of these, Hindus constituted 76 per cent of the landmass’ population. A bunch of Islamists, however, wanted, and got, a state of their own in the form of Pakistan, aided and abetted by the people fighting the Great Game.

In Sindh, undivided Punjab and undivided Bengal, the Hindus were already a minority, and the consequences for those who stayed behind in the partitioned areas is for all to see.

This principle was further validated by none other than the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, when he signed a Pact with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, in 1950, seeking assurance of protection of religious minorities. However, that did not stop the persecution in any sense, as was seen in the riots that broke out across West and East Pakistan on several occasions running up to 1971.

The situation was bad right from the beginning. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, a former premier of Bengal and ironically a Muslim League leader, had noted the discrimination and insecurities of Hindus in West and East Pakistan right after partition. Suhrawardy in fact stated that the Muslim League government was not making non-Muslims, especially Hindus, feel safe within Pakistan and questioned the government’s claims to the contrary.

As Suhrawardy noted in a Constituent Assembly debate in 1948.

‘Why are the Hindus running away from Sindh [if] they were safe and sound, where they had established business on colossal scales and which they made their homes?’

Concerns were also raised by the minority leaders in Pakistan. In a speech against the Objectives Resolution that defined Pakistan as an Islamic state, former freedom fighter and later member of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly Sris Chandra Chattopadhyay had strongly objected to it in 1949.

What I hear in this Resolution not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan – the Quaid-I-Azam (may his soul rest in peace), nor even that of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Honourable Mr Liaquat Ali Khan but of the Ulemas of the land….I am quite upset. I have been passing sleepless nights pondering what shall I now tell my people whom I have so long been advising to stick to the land of their birth? They are passing a state of uncertainty which is better seen and left than imagined from this House… A thick curtain is drawn against all rays of hope, all prospects of an honourable life.

 

The subsequent mass violence against Hindus in East Pakistan, and the escape of Pakistan’s first Law Minister Jogendra Nath Mandal following his resignation letter in 1950 and events like the 1964 anti-Hindu rampage against Hindus across East Pakistan serve as proof of the fate that befell Hindus.

Even after 1971, both Pakistan and Bangladesh continued to silently witness the horrors that its Hindu minorities witnessed.

A 2014 survey by the by the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (PHRM) found that only 20 Hindu temples out of the 428 places of worship are operational. The remaining places of worship had been leased for commercial and residential purposes by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), and 135,000 acres of land owned by around four million Hindus is now under ETPB’s control.

Forced kidnappings and conversions are common for Hindus of Pakistan, as witnessed in several famous cases in recent times.

In Bangladesh, the population of Hindus today stands at 8.5%, down from the 18.5% it had at the time of its independence. A 2016 study by Professor Abul Barakat of Dhaka University found that between 1964 to 2013, around 1.13 crore Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination.

That is, on an average, 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 left the country annually.

The government grabbed the properties of Hindus during the Pakistan regime describing them as enemy property. The same properties were taken by the government of Bangladesh after independence as vested property. These measures, along with continued persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh by Islamists, have led to them seeking life-saving avenues for themselves.

The situation in Bangladesh is difficult, to be charitable. There was a ''Hindu Life Matters'' style campaign in Bangladesh in the wake of the killing of a young Hindu man by the police in Kotalipara under Gopalganj district in Bangladesh on June 2, 2020.


Some people claim that Hindus are not under persecution in any way, given that they are about 80 per cent of the population. This rhetoric however, masks a very important aspect.

Undivided India as of today would constitute 100 crore Hindus. However, the spread, as compared to 1947, would be drastically different. Whereas populations of non-Muslims in 1947 despite being minorities were significant in west Punjab and East Bengal, their presence would be negligible by today’ standards.

This begs one to reflect on the fact that Hindus and their identity have nearly disappeared from lands that literally belonged to their ancestors.

The Indus, on which India gets its western name, is just as holy to the Hindus as the Ganga. Jeshoreshwari and Moheshkhali, Hinglaj and Katasraj are sacred to Hindus of India just as much as they are to the native Hindus, whatever is left of them, in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The melas of Holi in Multan and Lahore were just as important as the Dol Jatras of Barisal and Dhaka.

And yet, not only their numbers, their very cultural imprint today is on the verge of a wipeout.

This begs the question - do Hindu lives matter to anyone?

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