Ghotki, a small township in Pakistan, is a home to many Pakistani Hindus. Bloodied by the partition’s reminiscences, the people claim to have not found peace since. The increasing number of forceful conversions and abductions validate their claims.
Pakistani Hindus make up 1.6% of the nation’s 207 million people. Mostly concentrated in the Sindh province, Pakistani Hindus have long since complained of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
Ghotki residents, being no strangers to religious intolerance, witnessed widespread rioting in their town on the 15th of September, over a minor student’s allegations that Nautan Lal, the principal of Sindh Public School, had made anti-Islam remarks. Abdul Aziz Rajput, the student’s father, complained to the police and lodged an FIR against him.
Blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, is a sensitive topic in the country, where 98.4% of its 207 million inhabitants are Muslim.
The Logical Indian source, who choose to remain unnamed, told us that a parade of extremists that also included some Islamic scholars, attacked the town’s minority, vandalized Nautan Lal’s school and damaged the structures of SS Dham Mandir and Krishna Mandir.
“The principal was only reprimanding the boy for not doing his homework, but the child alleged that Nautan Lal insulted some ‘Nabi Saab’ and the matter was taken to the police”, our source said.
The provincial government had to deploy paramilitary forces and the Pak rangers to control the one-sided rioting. Several videos showing unruly mobs beating temple walls with sticks, and groups of men provoking people to riot, surfaced online.
مندر تي حملو ڪندڙن تي بہ مذھب خلاف گستاخي جو ڪیس ٺھي ٿو، وڊیو ثبوت بہ موجود آھن۔ انھن کي بہ گرفتار ڪیو۔
The Hindus of the region, already treading carefully, were even more disturbed by the sudden baseless violence.
Against this backdrop, Ghotki’s locals woke up the next day, to the news of Nimerta Chandani’s demise.
Native to Ghotki, final-year BDS student, Nimerta Chandani, was found lying on a charpoy on 16th of September with a dupatta tied to her neck while her room was locked from inside.
Vice Chancellor of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto University, Aneela Attaur Rehman declared that the girl had committed suicide.
However, the girl’s brother, Dr Vishal Sundar who is a qualified FCPS (Fellow of College of Physicians) consultant physician at Dow Medical University in Karachi, alleged that his sister was raped and murdered.
In a video where he is found speaking to a few Pakistani news channels he said that he’d spoken to her a day before her viva exams and she had been the happy girl everyone knew she was. “After she was found dead, her teachers told us that she had been distributing sweets two hours before. What changed after?”, he asked desolately.
Being a doctor himself, he conducted a preliminary check up on her corpse and strongly asserted that she was raped and murdered. Our source told us that the suicide-narrative is the vice-chancellor’s ploy to cover things up.
“It was not a suicide, suicide marks are different, I found cable marks around her neck. There are marks on her hand too. The marks are of a cable but her friend had said that they found her with dupatta around her neck,” said Dr Vishal Sundar.
Yet another killing of a minority in Pakistan's Sindh due to forced conversion pressure? Namrita Chandani, who belonged to Mirpur Mathelo, a taluka of Ghotki, was found lying on a charpoy with a rope tied to her neck while her room was locked from inside. Her brother speaks out. pic.twitter.com/OciA11wIca
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) September 17, 2019
Nimerta’s uncle revealed to DawnNewsTV that her body was taken to Chandka Medical College’s intensive care unit before the family even reached the hospital. They demanded to know why was the step taken without their consent. Her uncle also alleged that the doctors were complicit in the ‘murder’.
As of 17th September, the family hadn’t filed for an FIR and was waiting for the official post-mortem report.
Eventually, post-mortem report declared it to be an act of suicide, but students of Bibi Asifa Dental College came out to protest, standing in solidarity with her family’s claims. “Minorities’ unions and Hindu groups staged demonstrations only after which they were able to grab the government’s and international media’s attention”, our source said.
Protests broke out on the streets of Karachi with people claiming that she was killed in an alleged hate crime. Rallies were also held in Larkana, where the protestors marched towards the press club, raising slogans against the dental college administration and demanding justice.
آصفہ ڈینٹل کالج میں طالبہ نمرتا کی پراسرار ہلاکت کا معاملہ گھوٹکی میں سول سوسائٹی کی جانب سے احتجاج نمرتا سندھ کی بہادر بیٹی تھی، وہ خودکشی نہیں کر سکتی، اسے سازش کے تحت قتل کیا گیا ہے، سول سوسائٹی نمرتا کا قتل پوری انسانیت کا قتل ہے چیف جسٹس معاملے کا نوٹس لے
24 News Ghotki ಅವರಿಂದ ಈ ದಿನದಂದು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಸೆಪ್ಟೆಂಬರ್ 20, 2019
In the lastest update, two of her classmates have been taken into police custody as her phone records show a large number of calls received from their numbers. “When her peers and the hostel’s watchman first entered her room, there was no sign of a mobile handset, but soon after a mobile phone was found lying next to her body which we believed has been tampered with”, our source informed.
The police have sent it for a forensic investigation to see whether it holds important clues towards solving the crime. Our source claimed that messages were deleted from the phone before it was placed next to Nimerta’s body.
Currently a video featuring Nimerta and the two arrested boys, is circulating on Pakistan’s social media. The clip is considered to be of 13th or 14th of September where Nimerta is seen sitting in her college’s auditorium with the boys. The boys can be seen trying to convince her of something and the hearsay is that one of them wanted to marry her.
She was cremated in her hometown Mirpur Mathelo, in Ghotki, on the 17th of September and the Hindu community there shut their businesses and shops in order to mourn her death and register their protest.
After the recent vandalism of Ghotki’s Hindu temples and Nimerta’s alleged rape and murder, the district remains sensitive.
The Sindh government has asked the sessions court of Larkana to hold a judicial probe into the death of Nimerta Chandani. “Section Officer Aijaz Ali Bhatti wrote a letter to the district and sessions judge of Larkana, requesting that a judicial inquiry be held in the matter and reported to the home department within 30 days so that further action can be taken,” the Dawn News reported.
The officials of the district have also registered three cases against the 218 rioters for vandalizing Hindu properties, including temples in the Nautan Lal case.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had condemned the violence, sharing a video of the alleged destruction on Twitter. “The video is chilling. Mob violence against a member of a religious minority is barbaric and unacceptable,” it said in the post.
The rioters have been charged under the blasphemy act, according to BBC reporters in Pakistan, but they face a minor charge of attacking a temple whereas the principal is now in custody facing blasphemy charges. If found guilty, Nautan Lal could face the death penalty.
Rights activists have time and again demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamist military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with religion and are often misused to settle petty disputes and avenge.
Rumour has it that Nimerta Chandani was proposed by a Pakistani Muslim and on refusing she was raped and murdered in her hostel room. Although these allegations are yet to be corroborated by the authorities, forceful conversions of minorities and abduction of young girls is no news in Pakistan.
Every year, around 1,000 young Sindhi Hindu girls between the age of 12 and 28 are abducted, forcibly married and converted to Islam, US-based Sindhi Foundation has said.
According to Pakistan’s own human rights commission, from January 2004 to May 2018, there were 7,430 cases of such abductions of Sindhi girls in Pakistan but the actual number is suspected to be much higher as most of the cases go unreported.
As #JusticeForNimerta trends on Twitter, will the deceased’s memory and family find justice, is for time to tell.