At least seven people, including a man who assisted in solemnising the wedding of two teenage Hindu girls after their alleged abduction and forced conversions, have been detained in Pakistan, amid reports that the victims approached a court seeking protection.
The two girls, Raveena (13) and Reena (15), were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi. Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls, triggering a nationwide outrage.
On March 20, the girls’ family lodged a First Information Report against their alleged forced conversion to Islam.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered a probe into the incident after the two separate videos started doing rounds on social media.
Citing police, Dawn reported that several raids were conducted on Sunday night in Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan district – where it was believed the girls were taken from Ghotki – and arrested the Nikah Khwan who solemnised their marriages, a leader of the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, and some relatives of the two men who had married the two girls.
The detained suspects were handed over to Sindh police, it added. Superintendent of Police Farrukh Lanjhar, who paid a visit to the girls’ father Sunday night, said that action was being taken on all available information to recover the girls.
According to Geo TV, the girls have approached a court in Bahawalpur in Punjab province seeking protection.
The Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.
Last year, Khan during his election campaign had said his party’s agenda was to uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls.
Pakistan Hindu Council chief and Member of National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Ramesh Kumar Vankwani condemned the incident and demanded that the bill against forced conversion, which was unanimously passed by Sindh Assembly in 2016 and then reverted due to pressure of extremist elements, must be resurrected and passed in the assembly on priority basis.
“All of those who are preaching hate under the cover of religion must be handled like banned religious organisations,” he added.
Vankwani said he would present a resolution in the National Assembly in its next session demanding an end to forced conversions.
Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday that the prime minister has ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to devise a joint action plan in light of the incident, and to take concrete steps to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province.
According to media reports, approximately 25 forced marriages take place every month only in Umerkot district in Sindh province.