In a sad reflection of the perennial persecution of minorities in the country, despite the government’s tall claims regarding their protection and equal status, at least 22 houses belonging to Hindus were demolished by district authorities in Bahawalpur in May this year.
As members of minorities’ rights groups and the civil society at large raised their voices against the atrocity, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) sent a fact-finding mission to probe the incident. In its report, published last month, HRCP found that the local authorities in Yazman, Bahawalpur, were responsible for demolishing the Hindu community’s homes in the village of Chak 52-DB.
Detailing origins of the incident, the mission states that fifty acres of land owned by the provincial government, consisting of dunes, was lying vacant in Chak 52-DB. On January 4, 2018, local residents Mian Ram and Ruya petitioned the additional deputy commissioner (ADC) to secure certain tracts of land for the Hindu community as per the ‘five-marla’ scheme since they had no residential area of their own.
Resultantly, on December 7, 2018, the Board of Revenue, Punjab issued a notification proposing that 12.5 acres be allocated to the Hindu community in the prescribed area. The ADC was directed to take finalise the allocation and a map of the five-marla scheme was drawn up under the name of ‘Jinnah Colony’. Thankful to the government, almost two dozen Hindus began constructing their homes on the assigned land from their own pocket.
However, their dreams were to be short-lived. A local Muslim, Muhammad Boota, filed a petition against one of the community members, Mansha Ram, and two of his associates. The complainant accused Ram of illegally occupying government land and making money by allegedly selling it to other community members. Using local political connections, Boota frightened the already-beleaguered Hindu community of Yazman — many of whom are illiterate and live below the poverty line. Moreover, Hindu locals wield no influence or power as they mostly work as tenants of local landowners or on daily wages.
As per HRCP’s investigation, Boota, along with the local stamp-paper vendor and marriage registrar, had unlawfully demanded five acres of land from the Hindu community. On the community’s refusal to give up the land, they filed a misleading report with the assistant commissioner of Yazman who, without checking the records, ordered the demolition of the Hindu community’s houses — a coincidence that reeks of collusion.
Despite strong protests by the Hindu community, their homes were torn down under a dubious order and they were forced to live under the open sky.
In its report, the HRCP has demanded the government to immediately reconstruct the demolished houses and take strict action against the accused and local administration.
Editor’s Note: Sabaat has published a follow-up to this story wherein the assistant commissioner denied any illegal action on the government’s part, claiming they had only demolished structures which had encroached on state land and were unlawful. The complete story can be found here: https://www.sabaat.net/reconstruction-of-demolished-hindu-homes-under-way-in-bahawalpur/