January 2013

 

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The Rape of a 6-Year-Old Girl and the Negligence
of the Police and Doctors in Pakistan


Abbas Kassar
 

A Hindu girl, Vijanti Meghwar, 6 years of age and a first-grade student, was raped in the town of Ghulam Nabi Shah in Pakistan’s Sindh Province on Dec. 2, 2012, while she was playing in the street. She was admitted to the hospital in critical condition—first to the Mirpurkhas Civil Hospital and then to the Karachi Lyari Hospital. Vijanti was discharged on Jan. 6, more than a month after the incident and during which time she received little or no attention from the doctors. To date, she has not fully recovered. Her father More and Uncle Iserdas, who belong to the Hindu minority community of Pakistan, took her first to the district headquarters hospital in Umerkot; but as there was no doctor present at that time, they rushed her to Mirpurkhas Civil Hospital.

Mirpurkhas is a metropolitan city located 76 kilometers from her village. Vijanti was admitted to the hospital only after the intervention of a ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) minister, Mardan Ali Shah, as the doctors at Mirpurkhas Civil Hospital had refused to admit her. Instead, they had demanded a letter from the Ghulam Nabi Shah police station of Umerkot District. The parents alleged that the doctors there were indifferent to treating their daughter so they took her to Lyari Hospital in Karachi after one week.

The citizens of Ghulam Nabi Shah immediately closed their shops in protest against this gory and shameful incident. A minority member of the Sindh Assembly, Khatoomat Jeevan, and Abdul Wahid Arisar and Mir Alam Mari, leaders of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), a political party which is striving for the freedom of Sindh from Pakistan, and others condemned the incident and demanded the arrest of the culprit.

The citizens of Ghulam Nabi Shah immediately closed their shops in protest against this gory and shameful incident. A minority member of the Sindh Assembly, Khatoomat Jeevan, and leaders of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), a political party which is striving for the freedom of Sindh from Pakistan, Abdul Wahid Arisar, Mir Alam Mari and others condemned the incident and demanded the arrest of the culprit.

The Umerkot District police initially arrested a young man, Naval Meghwar, who belongs to the victim’s family, and two others, but the father and uncle of the girl have accused the police of making these arrests only in an attempt to calm people’s anger. The police are now avoiding the arrest of the alleged culprit, who is by caste a Mangrio, as he is said to be the son of a politically influential landlord of the area.

It was appalling that the police did not register the case for three days and, instead of arresting the culprit, arrested a man whom the father of the girl clearly described as being innocent of the crime. The parents of the girl stated that the footprints of the accused led to an otaq (guesthouse) of a powerful local landlord. Sniffer dogs also identified the trail; but in an effort to save the landlord, the police instead later arrested Rano Mallah.

The incident sent a wave of terror and shock among the minorities whose girls have given up going to school or even out of their homes. Zarina Mallah, the mother of Rano Mallah, expressed suspicion that her son was innocent and accused the police of possibly killing her son in a fake encounter. (Killing innocent people in fake encounters and then throwing their dead bodies outside their homes or villages is a common occurrence in Pakistan). Zarina Mallah said that the footprint size of the original accused person is size 9 while that of her son Rano is size 7.

It may be recalled that the lives of minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others, have been made miserable. Thousands of Hindus have migrated to India, which they consider safer than Pakistan. The rape and abduction of Hindu girls is common in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, where the rulers have shut their eyes to such crimes against humanity. The leader of the Pakistan Hindu Panchayat (PHP), Kishan Chand Parwani, a member of Parliament (MP), has said that not a month passes when more than 20 Hindu girls are not kidnapped, raped and then forcibly converted. He said 50,000 or more Hindus from Mirpurkhas Division alone were ready to migrate to India as Pakistan has now turned into a “land of bigots.”

Vijanti Meghwar is weak because she belongs to the minority Hindu community and in this community again to a peasant family of Meghwar, Bheel and Kolhi that are considered and treated in Pakistan as Dalits, or Untouchables. They work on the farmlands of Muslim landlords and have been used as bonded labor for generations. Vijanti cannot get justice due to a crumbling society where law and order has worsened, especially in Sindh.

In another development, a brother that the landlord accused in the rape case injured the journalist Mushtaq Kumbar in a murderous attack on him in Ghulam Nabi Shah. The journalist was reporting the follow-up of the rape case. He also threatened another journalist, Arbab Bheel, with murder if he continued to report the facts of case. The police and administration have not taken notice of these attacks on journalists and the threats of death as the police themselves are frightened of the sons and the landlord. The system in Pakistan is such that it allows kidnapping, rape and the killing of girls. The accused, however, roam freely while the victim is left to die because of inefficient police officers who are recruited on the basic of political connections.

The chief minister of Sindh Province, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, was in Mirpurkhas when Vijanti was still lying in bed in the civil hospital in this city, but he did not bother to visit her. This insensitivity is the climax of discrimination against minority girls and stands in contrast to the reaction of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari who visited a hospital in the United Kingdom where another Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, was being treated. She was injured in an attack on a school bus in a northern province of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The president also donated US$10 million to Malala from government funds; but for Vijanti, not a single dollar has been announced nor any treatment paid for by the government.

The secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), Imdad Kazi, has condemned the incident of rape and has observed that minorities in Pakistan are treated worse than animals.

The relatives of the rape victim, who were staying in Karachi to look after the treatment of their daughter, have said they have received death threats to withdraw from the case or they all will be killed, and, in view of these threats, they will not go back to their town of Ghulam Nabi Shah until the real culprit believed by them for the rape of Vijanti is arrested.


* Abbas Kassar is a journalist and human rights activist in the city of Hyderabad in Pakistan and can be contacted by e-mail at <kassar_hyd@yahoo.com>.