Judge refuses to send with parents Hindu girl forcibly converted to Islam

Karachi: A 14-year-old Hindu girl, who was allegedly kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man in Pakistan’s Sindh province, has appeared before a district court which refused to send her with her parents despite her insistence that she wanted to go with them.

Sohana Sharma Kumari was allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint from her home in the Benazirabad district of the southern Sindh province on June 2 in front of her mother by her tutor and his accomplices.

Her father Dilip Kumar filed a complaint with the police, saying she was kidnapped. Later, the girl appeared in a video stating clearly under duress that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.

Her parents however insisted that she was underage.

The girl was recovered by police from a house in the district, five days after being kidnapped, after a lot of hue and cry on social media.

Sohana was brought to the district court in Larkana on Friday where she in her statement told the judge she was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and wanted to go with her parents.

However, the judge adjourned the hearing until June 12 stating that she appeared to be under pressure while giving her statement and sent her to a shelter home for women.

Her mother, Jamna Sharma, told the media at the court that her daughter was taking tuition at home and a few days back the teacher had told her he needed a Rs 100,000 loan.

“When my daughter told me about this I told the teacher he shouldn’t be discussing such matters with Sohana and he went away. But he returned after a day with some people and forcibly took her away at gunpoint. I pleaded with him to take the money and jewellery but leave my daughter but they didn’t listen,” Jamna said.

Her father told the media that all the documents produced by the accused to prove that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man of her own free will were fake.

“I don’t know how government officials can stamp such documents when the girl is 14 years old,” he said.

Kidnapping and forced conversions of young Hindu girls in the interior of Sindh have become a menace for Hindu families.

In recent months there has been a surge in such cases in interior Sindh with the lower courts flooded with applications from affected parents seeking justice and the return of their daughters, sisters and wives.

In March, a minority organisation, Pakistan Darawar Ittehad (PDI), even held a protest march from the Karachi Press Club to the Sindh Assembly Building in which a number of affected families joined the demonstration from rural areas.

Shiva Kachhi, President of the PDI, said despite the organisation’s efforts, it was rare for a Hindu girl to be returned back to her family as in most cases the police were not willing to cooperate.

“There have been dozens of cases since last year and most of these girls are underage be it Sheela Meghwar, who was abducted from Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki on March 19 this year, Chanda Maharaj, Simran Kumari, Pooja Kumari, Satran Oad, Kaveeta Bheel, Vijjya Kumari or Sohana now,” he said.

He said in one case the police ignored a complaint even after a kidnapped girl’s father told them the man who abducted and forcibly married her already had two wives and four children and was a labourer.

“How can a 14-year-old girl decide to marry a man twice her age and already with two wives and who was a labourer,” Shiva questioned.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.

According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in the Muslim-majority country.