Anita Joshua, The Hindu /ISLAMABAD, July 31, 2011.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Hindus struggle for marriage registration in Pakistan!
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Faced with a “double jeopardy” — vigilante attacks and a discriminatory legal framework — this is not the best of times for any minority community in Pakistan to even draw attention to itself, let alone make demands. But, fearing that silence would result in more loss of the already negligible space left for any kind of discourse on minority issues, the Hindu community is quietly working with legislators to put in place a mechanism for registration of their marriages without which they cannot get the Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC).
How little space there is left for such discourse was evident in May-end when Jinnah Institute — run by the former Federal Minister, Sherry Rehman who, herself, is a target of fundamentalists for having spoken up for minorities — launched its report: ‘A Question of Faith: A Report on the Status of Religious Minorities in Pakistan.'
The domestic media — described at that meeting as a “lynch mob” by Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch — was kept out so that minority leaders could speak without fear. Even then attendance was thin. And hope in Jinnah's Pakistan waning.
So much so that one member of the Hindu community spoke out in exasperation at frequent references to how Pakistan had moved far away from the vision of founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his August 11, 1947 speech. Referring to that speech of Jinnah's, in which he said: “You are free; free to go to your temples…You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” the young man said: “Apart from these four lines, what direction did Jinnah give for the future of minorities in this country.”
No one had an answer and the minorities present in the room did not expect one. Though some members of the various minority communities have over the years migrated to other countries, this is not an option for a greater segment of the population, which is what keeps people like Ramesh Jaipal, chairman of the Scheduled Castes Rights Movement (SCRM), working at mobilising opinion to change the discriminatory legal framework.
Presently, the focus of the Hindu community is to get a Hindu Marriage Registration Bill passed so that some basic issues — particularly getting the CNIC — can be addressed. The community has been partly encouraged by the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of the plight of a Hindu woman, who was denied a CNIC because she could not furnish a marriage registration certificate. The court intervened in 2009 and also directed the government to address this loophole.
Delays in getting a CNIC are commonplace, but the card is required for practically every single transaction and entitlement, including the right to vote. Even something as routine as a hotel booking for a married couple is an uphill task without a CNIC. They can be subjected to abuse or ridicule as their relationship is challenged.
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