April 23, 2010 5:55:46 pm
A Hindu girl from Punjab province was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and is currently being held in a madrassa,leading Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney said today.
Burney said his rights organisation,the Ansar Burney Trust International,had learnt that 15-year-old Gajri,the daughter of Mengha Ram,was abducted by a Muslim neighbour from her home at Katchi Mandi,Liaquatpur,in Rahim Yar Khan district on December 21,2009.
Gajri’s parents later found out that she was beingheld captive in a madrassa or seminary in southern Punjab and that she had been married and converted to Islam,Burney said.
The local administration is “refusing to respond to the abduction” of the girl,who is not being allowed to leave the madrassa or to speak to her parents,he said.
Burney,a former human rights minister,condemned the forceful conversion of the Hindu girl and demanded her immediate release.
“Pakistan is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,which oblige authorities to protect religious minorities under international law,” he said.
According to Ansar Burney Trust,on 21 December 2009 Gajri disappeared from the home of her Hindu parents in southern Punjab.
On December 26 last year,the local police station in Gajris hometown received a letter with an affidavit from madrassa that said she had “embraced Islam and had married her neighbour Mohammad Salim”,Burney said.
The letter did not enclose a marriage certificate,he said.
Police did not immediately inform Gajri’s parents about the letter even though they had tried to file a First Information Report after she had gone missing.
The parents were discouraged from doing so by police,Burney said.
Mengha Ram and his wife then contacted the vice president of the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony,Ramesh Jay Pal.
With his help,the parents met the priest in charge of Darul-Uloom Madrassa in Khanpur,Maulana Abdul Hafeez.
Hafeez reportedly told the parents that Gajri had “embraced Islam and was not allowed to meet her parents”.
In January this year,the parents of Gajri again tried to file a case of abduction against their neighbour and the madrassa but their application was refused by district police chief Imtiaz Gul.
He allegedly told them that he had no power to intervene in matters of religious conversion and that their daughter was now the “property of the madrassa”,Burney said.
Burney said Gajri is a minor and “cannot arbitrarily be removed from the custody of her parents”.
He urged President Asif Ali Zardari,Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer to intervene to ensure Gajri’s released.
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