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Ismailis in India worry about their relatives across border

While the Gaulanis are Sindhis, there are many other minority sub-sects like Ismaili Muslims who have left their homes in Pakistan.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published: May 14, 2015 5:10:15 am
Santosh Gaulani  (left) with two of his brothers in India. Santosh Gaulani (left) with two of his brothers in India.

Minutes after he heard the news of the attack on Ismaili Muslims in Pakistan on Wednesday, Santosh Gaulani, 52, from Indore called up his nephew, Vivek Gaulani, in Karachi. “Sab theek wahan?” he asked.

With rising sectarian attacks in Pakistan, such calls have become frequent. While the Gaulanis are Sindhis, there are many other minority sub-sects like Ismaili Muslims who have left their homes in Pakistan.

Zenia Shaukat, 38, an Ismaili Muslim from Karachi, said her relatives are shifting to Europe, Canada and the United States due to the constant attacks on the Shia community. “Nobody wants to see their child grow up in an insecure environment,” said Zenia, who works with an NGO.

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Mumbai-based Salim Alware said he has urged his uncle, Abdul Gafoor, who lives in Karachi, to shift base to India.

Sabir Karbali, a businessman and social activist who visited the hospital in Karachi to meet today’s victims, said, “They are all very critical. I don’t know how many of them will survive. I saw two children who were in the bus, but luckily they escaped injury.”

While Shia Muslims form 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population, Sindhis are a tiny minority.

Santosh and three of his brothers have migrated to Indore — the first in 1986 and the last as recently as last year — but two of their siblings are still in Pakistan. “I spoke to my brother yesterday. He said it was peaceful over the last few days. And today I heard about this attack. Life in Pakistan is uncertain,” said Santosh.

In 1986, when a riot led to the burning of a local temple in Sindh, Santosh’s father sent him and his elder brother to India to start a business. The two brothers started a printing ink factory in Indore. Slowly, as the security threat increased, more of their family members joined them in India, one by one.

While Santosh’s younger brother, Bharat Gaulani, lives in Sindh, his sister’s sons live in Karachi. One of his nephews, Garvesh Gaulani, who lives in Karachi, told The Indian Express over the phone that attacks could happen any time. “It is expected and still unexpected where it can happen next,” he said.

He said there was a blast just 200 metres from his house in 2004. “The police and government response is zero. Compensation is poor too,” he said.

Bharat, however, does not want to move. “My wife, children and brothers are in India. I have nothing but the business here. But life is not as dangerous as they say. Sometimes, certain elements spark terrorism,” he said.

With his family putting pressure on him to shift to India, Bharat is in the process of selling their property across the border. His neighbours, mostly Hindus, have also started migrating, citing security concerns.

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