Hindu Americans Condemn Supreme Court Ruling in Pakistan
Washington, D.C. (April 24, 2012) - Hindu Americans widely condemned a decision issued by Pakistan's Supreme Court last week in the case of three Hindu girls, who were reportedly kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to Muslim men against their will. A special three-judge panel ruled that the girls, Rinkel Kumari, Asha Kumari, and Dr. Lata Kumari, were free to decide whether they wanted to return to their parents or live with their new Muslim husbands. Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court Registrar announced that the girls had decided to live with their husbands. The girls' official statements of decision were not made in open court, raising concerns by the girls' families about the fairness and transparency of the process. In addition, the families were not allowed to meet with the girls at any point during the latest court proceedings.
The Hindu community and many rights activists in Pakistan maintain that the girls have been coerced, threatened, and intimidated by their alleged abductors.
The April 18 hearing was originally scheduled for March 26, but postponed by the Court to ostensibly give the girls more time to think about their decision. During the three week interlude, the girls were ordered to stay at the Dar-ul Aman, or shelter, where they been staying since March 12. Both Rinkel Kumari and Dr. Lata Kumari, however, reportedly declared that they wanted to go home with their parents, and Rinkel stated that she would rather die than return to the Dar-ul Aman. She also proclaimed that there was no justice for Hindus in Pakistan.
"The Pakistani Supreme Court's decision is a clear miscarriage of justice," said Arvind Chandrakantan, M.D., HAF Executive Council Member. "The entire judicial process has been highly biased and prejudicial from the beginning, and has failed to take into account the immense pressure and duress the girls have faced from their powerful and highly influential abductors."
According to numerous media accounts, a conservative Muslim politician and Member of the Pakistan National Assembly from Sindh province, Mian Mitthoo, was involved in the kidnappings. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)’s Sindh Chairman, Amarnath Motumal, has accused Mitthoo of being in the “business of not only converting and encouraging forceful marriages, but also selling Hindu girls.”
Mitthoo was seen celebrating the conversion of Rinkel Kumari with several armed tribesmen outside the Sessions Court in Ghotki, Sindh in February, after legal action was first initiated. The Sessions Court Judge ruled that Rinkel had converted out of her own free will, disregarding her earlier testimony that she had been forced to do so. She also reportedly informed her mother during a brief meeting that the conversion was not voluntary. The Pakistan Hindu Council subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the case.
Rinkel's parents later received threats and were forced to flee their hometown in Sindh for neighboring Punjab province, where they sought temporary shelter in a gurudwara.
"The abductions and forced conversions of Hindu girls in Pakistan continues to be used as a weapon of subjugation and a means to intimidate the Hindu minority into submission," said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. "The Pakistani government, police, and courts are all complicit in this phenomenon, and must be held accountable by the international community for their abject failure to protect the fundamental rights of Hindus."
Human rights organizations, including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), assert that at least 20 - 25 Hindu girls are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam every month in Sindh province alone. In many instances, the abducted Hindu girls are then sold or forced into prostitution. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has documented such incidents in its latest human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2011.
HAF has also collaborated with the Pakistan Hindu Post to raise awareness of Rinkel Kumari's case and the plight of Hindus in Pakistan through a petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.