I belong to that white part of our flag, the part with the same amount of patriotism, the part that pays the same amount of taxes, the part that owes this land the same way as the green part does. The flag that symbolises Pakistan’s commitment to Islam is the same flag that guarantees the rights of religious minorities as well as their duties.
To be more specific, I belong to the Hindu community of Pakistan. And we are most peaceful community in the country.
We’re raised with the notion that to respect every human regardless of caste, creed, color, language, ethnicity and most importantly religion.
When a mosque was attacked with mass shooting somewhere in New Zealand, resulting in the loss of 51 lives of our Muslim brethren, we celebrated our annual fiesta ‘Holi’ with utter simplicity as token of respect and love. We are the first ones to greet Eid to our fellow Muslims. Most of us despite being vegetarians, wholeheartedly respect the annual ritual of sacrifice of animal on Eid ul Adha.
Our organisations such as the ‘Pakistan Hindu Youth Council’ and others actively take part in arranging Iftar and Sehar drives during Ramazan for our Muslim friends and neighbours. We were on the front line running petitions against the anti-Islamic cartoon contest and on the roads to protest against disrespectful movies because we understand how feels.
The Hindu community comprising more than four thousand people (as stated by Al-Jazeera ad Dawn in 2017) residing in Islamabad wished for a temple to be built there. The capital of Pakistan doesn’t have any temple and the Hindus residing there have to travel to the other places for worship. And this temple could also serve as a community center for the Hindu population. A place to celebrate annual festivals and to perform final rituals at the time of death. And considering their valid demand, government of Pakistan announced funds of 10 crore for the construction of this temple.
However, we all know about the outrage against this decision. Those who oppose this decision say that a temple cannot be built from the money of Muslim tax payers.
Last year, 3.72 trillion were collected as taxes in Pakistan. Given their population ratio, the Hindus contributed almost Rs.7500 crores in this annually. Total funds allocated yet not issued for Islamabad temple were Rs.10 crores only. So if the government is allocating funds for a temple, it is not exclusively from the Muslim taxpayers’ money. The outrage was meaningless and frankly too hurtful for us.
A renowned Islamic page made a video as a sign of disagreement for the construction of temple where they were chanting unethical slogans that totally go against the values of Hinduism. But what was even harder to digest is, their video received massive applause by most viewers. Not only that, many Facebook users mocked our idols in the worst possible way and that was a clearly blasphemous. No words are enough to describe how badly it hurt the sentiments of a community who only respects other religions and strives for inter faith harmony. Is this the way to treat a peaceful community?
Despite this, the Hindu Panchayat of Islamabad gathered all their courage and donations from the Hindus residing there and initiated the construction of boundary walls for the temple with their own help, but due to the hate mongers and immense pressure of clergy, that little initiation was called off by CDA. The disagreements and disputes could’ve been solved with a dialogue but they chose the other was. Such a condemnable act it was.
One of the mainstream media channels, 92News which claims itself as sympathetic to the minorities claimed that it was their victory that the temple construction had stopped. This channel has never bothered to cover the serious issues faced by minorities in Pakistan such as forced conversions, lack of opportunities etc. The headline on their website read as follows: “92 News efforts bears fruit as CDA stops construction of temple in Islamabad.”
Fruit? Success? What made the Hindu community hopeless and marginalized was celebrated as success?
As if this was not enough, a local resident of Islamabad demolished the small boundaries erected by the Hindu Panchayat and the Hindu citizens without any assistance of government. The way the temple was demolished gave a visual representation of the removal of white from the flag of Pakistan. However, that too was glorified and the incident was circulating on social media as a symbol of bravery.
These developments over the past few days have left us all traumatized and raised many questions.
Who should be blamed for associating demolition of temples with bravery? The curriculum that glorifies temple attackers or the hate mongers who can’t see us in peace. For how long do we have to wait for the Pakistan that Jinnah promised, a country where everyone would have religious freedom in every way? For how long our voices will remain unheard? How long the officials will take to act in our favour?
And how much effort and sacrifices do we have to make to prove our patriotism?
Jawala Rathi is an 18-year-old Pakistani Hindu student.