Another February 24
Today is February 24. Last year, on the same date, Rinkle was picked up from her house. Her house was left in a state that suggested that a burglary had occurred and valuables were stolen. Her dupatta and her chappals were left lying on the doorstep.
When she was first presented in a court in Mirpur Mathelo, she requested to be returned to her parents. The court, instead of listening to her, replied that she ‘was confused’ and therefore, should spend time reconsidering the predicament and handed her back to her abductors. It was as if the court was confused itself.
She was presented in court again on Feb 28, where, in her statement, she recited the kalma and became ‘Faryal Bibi’ from Rinkle. The entire process took less than 10 minutes. Her conversion to Islam was greeted by aerial firing by her captors who had brought her to court surrounded by armed guards. This was a new victory for them.
‘Faryal Bibi’ was then taken to Dargah Bharchondi’s seat-bearer and PPP’s Mian Mithu, while the gunfire echoed across the town. She was his guest and was taken to and from court surrounded by his guards. Actually, this victory was not the only feather in the dargah’s cap. The dargah’s deeds, ranging from the Manzalgah mosque that became famous for its role during the pre-Partition communal riots in Sindh to the assassination of the singer Bhagat Kunwar Ram of the Hindu faith, were oft repeated. The dargah commonly converted non-Muslims to Islam before the Partition and this exercise continues steadily today.
This dargah is an ideal example in endeavours to increase the Muslim population from every corner of Sindh, starting from the Thar Desert to Kashmore. Then, how was it possible for the tilak-anointed schoolmaster, Rinkle’s father to fight for his kidnapped daughter’s return in this godsend Islamic republic state? Such news usually reaches the ears of human rights organisations or the media, a nutcase or two then run towards the news source just like the mullah runs towards the mosque to take up the case and bring it to justice. Bibi Faryal was familiar with Islam. Either Naveed Shah’s ishq was at its peak or the matter really was one of kidnapping and force that was being blamed upon Bharchondi’s seat-bearer Mian Mithu.
When the hue and cry became unbearable, the dargah’s owners brought Bibi to Karachi Press Club (KPC). But what was she going to say here? The dargah’s guards sat in their vehicles outside while the owners sat beside her inside. Bibi Faryal, fearfully, publicly repeated the kalma and revealed herself to the masses. The incident fanned criticism and protests by the civil society further, due to which, the high court was forced to take notice of the case. In the chambers of Justice Bajwa, a Sindh High Court judge, Bibi said that she ‘had been wronged’. It is unknown whether she was able to say anything else or not.
On March 26, she kept shouting that the court should ‘send her back to her mother instead of the shelter house in the court no. 1 of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). But just like the judge in Mirpur Mathelo’s court, the IHC judge mistook her yelling for anxiety and sent her to a shelter house instead of back to her mother so that she may, once again, reconsider her ‘predicament’. Unable to hug her weeping mother (as she was led away by female police women as if she were the criminal), at least she managed to tell her one thing,
“Mother, who are you asking for help? This country belongs to the Muslims. Everyone from the bottom to the top is an accomplice.”
This wasn’t the lament of the newly-converted Faryal but that of Rinkle whose voice had been suppressed amidst the noise in the courtroom. The next statement was taken in the registrar’s office instead of a courtroom and the newly-converted girl was sent home under police custody.
It was an end to the court’s story but just the beginning of a tale of pain and despair as no one expected any justice from any court. After Rinkle, it was the turn of Asha, Lata, Arvna, Devi and Bhagwanti. The chain of such events had changed so much.
Once, an uncle of another girl Durga came and showed me her birth certificate. Her date of birth was 2001. She was a minor who had been kidnapped from the street. About three days later, the news that she had converted to Islam was published in local newspapers. Her upset uncle asked me if there was any court in this land that would fight his case.
The grandmother of another minor girl, Vijanti from Umerkot who had been raped, broke down as she said that she would migrate to India with her granddaughter and their entire family if they didn’t get the justice they deserved. Their food and water was diminishing. Meanwhile, the Pakistani nation had wrapped itself in the coat of the Muslim ummah and had begun travelling on the road where there was no section for the identification of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Another February 24 has arrived. The students of influential dargahs and/or madrassas are entering their youth. O you kafirs, protect your girls! The era of ulfat-e-Islam is about to begin for them as the list of young girls, newly-converted to Islam, is being prepared.
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The writer is an activist and columnist who struggles to fit in society.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.