HAF Highlights Plight of Pakistani Hindu Refugees at Capitol Hill Briefing
Washington, D.C. (April 25, 2013) -
He fled to India with his two children. His wife was no longer his. She remained somewhere in Pakistan where she had been kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to a Muslim man against her will. He had not heard from her since.
This refugee story was one of many shared by the Hindu American Foundation’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights, Samir Kalra, Esq., at a Capitol Hill Briefing earlier this week. Describing first-hand accounts of squalid camp conditions and heart-wrenching stories of persecution, a panel of medical and legal experts from HAF highlighted the plight of Pakistani Hindu refugees in India. The panelists were part of a humanitarian and human rights fact-finding team that visited three Pakistani Hindu refugee camps in the northwestern Indian city of Jodhpur this past January.
While the briefing focused on the general human rights, legal, socioeconomic, and health conditions faced by this growing refugee population, panel speakers also provided several personal anecdotes from the refugees.
"The refugees’ stories are heartbreaking. Wives and daughters kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. The police refusing to help, and often times siding with the kidnappers," recounted Kalra. "The situation for minorities in Pakistan continues to worsen."
Beyond the kidnappings and forced conversions, Kalra identified a number of other factors contributing to the large-scale migration of Pakistani Hindus to India and its repercussions on Indo-Pakistan relations.
As conditions continue to deteriorate in Pakistan and Hindus increasingly migrate to India to escape religious persecution, the humanitarian and geopolitical implications for South Asia are significant and may potentially exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan,” added Kalra. “Given the impact that this escalating refugee crisis has on India and the region at large, it’s incredibly disappointing that the Indian Embassy declined an invitation to attend the briefing.”
The briefing attracted widespread interest from Congressional staffers, non-governmental organizations, religious freedom advocates, journalists, and an official from the Pakistani Embassy.
In addition to Kalra, the briefing featured Dr. Umesh Gidwani, Assistant Professor of Medicine in Cardiology and Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, and Dr. Aseem Shukla, HAF Board Member and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Division of Pediatric Urology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr. Gidwani’s presentation focused on the specific medical conditions most prevalent amongst the refugees, with particular emphasis on the high incidence of psychological trauma and occupational health problems. Similarly, Dr. Shukla noted the lack of medical infrastructure in the camps, while broadly discussing the impetus for HAF’s trip to Jodhpur and involvement in other medical service projects.
"The Pakistani Hindu refugees we encountered in Jodhpur suffer from a multitude of medical challenges and are in dire need of ongoing assistance,” said Shukla. “In order to address their many needs, the Foundation plans on conducting additional trips to the refugee camps as part of our larger commitment to serving the needs of underserved Hindu populations throughout the world.”