Pakistan elected its first Dalit woman Senator, Krishna Kumari Kohli, in the recently-held election. But this is very rare occurrence, as Dalits are the most disadvantaged sections of the Pakistani society.
Before Partition, Muslim League under Muhammad Ali Jinnah co-opted Dalits to divide Hindu society and the nation. After the formation of Pakistan, the Dalit population in that country has been dwindling. Their rights are violated with impunity.
Jinnah made Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Dalit leader, a minister in his cabinet much to the chagrin of hawks in the party. In March 1949, Mandal supported the Objective Resolution – the same resolution that today continues to generate political debates in Pakistan where the progressives believe that it has been exploited to transform Jinnah’s ‘secular Pakistan’ into a ‘religious state’, writes Akhtar Balouch, a Pakistani analyst. The Muslim League used Mandal, a votary of Muslim-Dalit unity, to divide the Hindu community. Finally, the Muslim League dumped him because in Pakistan Hindus of all castes and creed were an expendable lot irrespective of whether they supported the idea of Pakistan or not.
Although Dalits were subjected to social disabilities for centuries, Pakistan has never cared to take any affirmative action to improve their condition. Although they constitute about 80% of Sindh’s Hindu population, they are not getting their share of jobs in state services. They also have their grievances against upper caste Hindu brethren too, as they think the latter come in way of their demand for reservation.
Radicalisation of Muslim youths in rural Sindh is a cause of concern for all minorities. “Partitioning of common graveyards into Muslim and non-Muslim sectors and the incidents of expulsion of the bodies of non-Muslims from the common graveyards have made them extremely bitter and apprehensive of what will happen next,” writes IA Rehman in Dawn.
According to him, Hindu temples and shrines are attacked and perpetrators are offered relief by being declared mentally challenged persons, “while no mitigating factor is accepted if a non-Muslim is accused of an offence relating to religion”. Their lands are grabbed in the name of development through new land disposal policies.
“The scheduled castes of Sindh have long been protesting against the government’s failure to allot the lands taken over by the Enemy Property Board and the Evacuee Trust Property Board to the landless from among them. Had a rational policy been adopted, the rural economy could have been improved years ago. Now some of these lands are alleged to have been allotted to madrassas that their hardline sponsors are setting up amidst all-Hindu settlements,” adds Rehman. The administration is also complicit in this land-grab. The government is colluding with the extremist religious parties who are carrying out massive conversion activities to alter the demography of the region.
Photo courtesy: Pakistan Today