A 16-year-old Hindu girl’s alleged abduction and forced conversion in Pakistan has created an uproar among the country’s minority community.
The parents of Ravita Meghwar claim she had been abducted by the Syed community of Wanharo village near Nagarparkar in the southeast Sindh province on June 6.
They have filed a kidnapping and forced conversion report with the police, claiming that Nawaz Ali Shah, 37, kidnapped their daughter and forcibly converted and married her.
The girl, who is now named Gulnaz, however, met with journalists in Umerkot yesterday and informed them of her consent in embracing Islam and marriage. “I was married in the presence of Pir Muhammad Ayub Jan Farooqui in Samarro town in Umerkot district,” she said.
Demanding protection for herself and her husband, the girl said that she had not been kidnapped but had eloped with Shah. However, the Hindu community, along with the girl’s family, has insisted that she was kidnapped and forced to convert.
Her father Satram Das Meghwar alleged that influential members of the Syed community had kidnapped his daughter after giving sleeping pills to the family. He alleged that despite frequent appeals, Thar police did not take any actions to trace the girl till she was forced to convert, the report said.
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Ravita’s brother-in-law Lajpat Meghwadh, who married her elder sister on April 29 this year said, “My wife is barely 18 years old. How can her younger sister be an adult?”
Interestingly, the marriage register has mentioned Shah’s year of birth as 1980, and national identity card number on the marriage certificate, but Ravita’s age has been written as “approximately 18” and her NIC number not mentioned. Similarly, the certificate of conversion to Islam also does not mention her date of birth and NIC (National Identity Card) number, listing her age as “approximately 18”.
However, her primary school certificate shows that Ravita is only 16-year-old as she was born on July 14, 2001. The PML-N member of national assembly from Thar and chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, has expressed his concern over the alleged abduction and the subsequent conversion of Ravita.
“A Hindu girl below 18 years of age cannot be converted according to the Hindu Marriage Act,” he was quoted as saying by the report. Terming the abduction of the girl an attempt to vitiate the peaceful and harmonious atmosphere of Thar, activists from various communities and political parties have demanded the early recovery of the girl and her production before a court of law, the report added.
Scores of people have questioned the validity of the marriage certificate issued by the cleric and condemned the incident on social media, demanding a probe into the incident.
Earlier, an FIR was registered on the girl’s request at the Dano Dhandal police station against four persons ? Syed Nawaz Ali Shah, Syed Noor Ali Shah, Mohammad Nohrio Junejo and Sher Ali Junejo.
The latest case of alleged forced conversion and marriage of a Hindu underage girl comes at a time when apparently the government has swept the forced conversion bill, officially known as the ‘Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill’, under the carpet.
The bill was passed unanimously in November last year in the Sindh Assembly following numerous complaints that people, especially children, belonging to non-Muslim communities, were being forced to convert to Islam.
However, many religious parties took to the streets against the proposed law and announced a movement against it if the government did not retract it.