It has been 10 days since Chanda Maharaj was proven to be a minor as per an age determination test ordered by a court in Hyderabad, Sindh. Yet, the child, who was abducted in August by a Balochi Muslim man named Shaman Magsi, has not been reunited with her parents and is being forcefully kept in a so-called shelter home (Dar-ul-Aman) by the Pakistani authorities.
Members of the local Hindu community staged a demonstration, led by Pakistan Darawar Ittehad chairman Faqir Shiva Kachhi, Chanda’s mother Shirimati Amri, and sisters Sona and Bahgwati, outside the local press club in Hyderabad on Sunday to protest the delay in handing Chanda over to her family.
Speaking to media, Kachhi stated that the medical examination established her age as 16 years (her family claims she is younger, just 14-15) but court remanded her custody to Darul Aman, where her parents were not allowed to meet her. But Shaman Magsi – the man who abducted her along with his accomplices and then raped, forcibly converted and ‘married’ her – had been ‘meeting’ her regularly.
Kacchi said that Chanda’s marriage was illegal (Sindh law prohibits marriage of anyone aged under 18) and, therefore, she should be handed over to her family. He demanded that a forced conversion and unlawful marriage case should be registered against Magsi and all those responsible for this marriage should also be taken to task.
Now, consider how this protest by Chanda’s suffering family was covered by Dawn, Pakistan’s largest and oldest English-language newspaper founded in 1941 by Jinnah as a mouthpiece of the Muslim League, which is considered as a flagbearer of ‘modern, educated’ Pakistani viewpoint.
1. First, the headline –
Chanda is 16 as per a panel of doctors appointed by the Pakistani court. This automatically means she can’t be married as per Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013. In any civilized nation, conversion of minors without consent of their parents/guardians is banned. The girl was abducted as per testimony of her sister, and the pain that was writ large on Chanda’s face when she had a brief tearful reunion with her family after her court appearance, is enough to tell any sane person of what transpired with her. Yet, Dawn blithely ignores these facts to report her conversion and marriage as legal acts.
2. Casting doubt on the reality that she is underage
There is no doubt that Chanda is underage – even a medical test has confirmed it. Yet, Dawn insists on using scare quotes to question this basic fact. Stating that the minor child ‘wedded’ her abductor, as if she acted out of her own choice, is beyond reprehensible!
3. Use of weasel words and qualifiers like ‘alleged, claimed’
Through such qualifiers, Dawn is casting doubt on what Kachhi is saying. Why doesn’t Dawn independently verify what the medical examination found and report the same? How difficult can it be for a national newspaper to access medical and court records? Instead, they are choosing to deliberately obfuscate the matter.
This is the approach of a so-called ‘liberal’ newspaper of Pakistan when the abduction-rape-forced conversion-illegal marriage of minor Hindu & Christian girls is a proven issue. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has estimated that 1000 such girls fall victim to this racket each year in Sindh province alone.
In 2017, Dawn carried an article titled ‘The truth about forced conversions in Thar‘. The article starts off on the right note, informing us about the ugly face of ‘syncretic’ Sufi Islam –
“When a girl is brought before a qazi for conversion to Islam, the qazi must comply immediately. If he delays the conversion even to say his prayers, he himself becomes kafir,” said Pir Waliullah Sarhandi, a younger brother of Pir Mohammed Ayub Jan Sarhandi. The latter, who is gaddi nashin of the Sarhandi shrine in Samaro tehsil of Umerkot district, claims to have converted thousands of Hindu girls and young women to Islam.
But then the article takes a bizarre turn, ruing about the decline of the ‘religious tolerance’ in Thar region of Sindh –
It is a story that is playing on repeat in Tharparkar and Umerkot, districts that are home to large communities of Hindus — Tharparkar’s Hindu population is in fact around 50 per cent — and it threatens to wreck centuries of inter-communal harmony in the area. This is a part of the country where religion has traditionally been worn lightly. Instead, cultural commonalities bind the communities. At one time there was even social acceptance of Muslim men marrying Hindu women: former Sindh chief minister Arbab Rahim’s maternal cousin is one-time MPA Ram Singh Sodho, whose mother converted to Islam after marriage. Now locals profess increasing concern that Thar too like the rest of the country is becoming polarised along religious lines.
So this is what ‘liberal’ Muslim reporter Naziha Syed Ali informs us is the sign of ‘inter-communal harmony’ – “social acceptance of Muslim men marrying Hindu women”. And look at the example the reporter furnishes – a Hindu woman from a rich family who converted to Islam for her marriage! Isn’t this just another way of saying that the Hindus have become ‘polarised’ by refusing to accept ‘marriages’ of their women with Muslim men?
The thought of a Muslim woman marrying a Hindu man doesn’t even enter the mind of such ‘educated’ Pakistanis, because sharia clearly forbids any such thing. But when Hindus protest grooming/love jihad in Bharat, these same ‘liberals’ and their Indian counterparts start lecturing us on ‘intolerance and Islamophobia’.
More details on Chanda’s case
After her abduction, Chanda was reportedly sexually assaulted, forcefully converted to Islam, and ‘married’ to her abductor. Initially, police refused to take any action based on the family’s complaint. It was only later, when activists like Faqir Shiva Kachhi raised their voices in protest and arranged legal aid for the family, and the matter went international through social media, that the Pakistani authorities were forced to act and recover Chanda. But they still did not arrest Shaman Magsi Baloch – he is roaming free and has reportedly been given anticipatory bail.
At her first court hearing, the brief yet tearful reunion of the clearly traumatized and frightened Chanda, told us all we need to know. The threatened and intimidated child did not dare to utter a word to her family although her pain was palpably visible. Her abductor claimed she is 19 years old, and it was only when the family challenged this that the court ordered an age determination test. Now, even after doctors found Chanda to be a minor, the court is still refusing to send her back home to her parents. Meanwhile, we can only imagine the horrors the child is facing in Pakistan’s notorious shelter homes aka ‘Darul Aman’.
It is common knowledge in Pakistan, as Hindu leader Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani once stated, that girls are intimidated and tutored to give such statements in favor of their abductor at the religious shrines/madrassas like Bharchundi Sharif which act as the hubs of this conversion and sex slavery racket. If the Sindh court and Pakistan government end up sending Chanda back to her abductor based on any such coerced statement and by fudging the medical examination report, it will be another travesty of justice in this Islamofascist nation.