Muslim guards Hindus in stereotyped Pakistan

Baloch spent life maintaining Hindu burial site


Once Karachi was a Hindu dominated city and most businesses belonged to them.

In creation of Pakistan and modern day India in 1947, most of these Hindus migrated to the Hindu majority cities in Maharashtra state across the newly-carved border.

According to official data, today Karachi is home to over half a million Hindus. Except a few, Hindus mostly are poor and belong so-called lower castes. The poor ones bury their dead, while the rich and upper-caste Hindus cremate their deceased dear ones.

Besides performing a role of traditional pundit (religious leader) in the temple, guarding the land and taking care of other religious rites, Baloch also serves warden for ashes, which were kept in this graveyard.

Hindus burn their dead and preserve the ashes in a cremation ground. Each of 130 earthen pots or plastic jars here is tied with red-and-white cloth, wrapped in flower wreaths and tags carry various identification details in Sindhi, Urdu, Hindi or English language.

The facility is not exclusive to the Hindus as Buddhists, Japanese and Chinese communities also preserve ashes of their dead here.

Ironically, when family members of the deceased wanted to take their ashes to immerse them in holy water of Ganges in India, the Pakistani Hindus were denied such religious rites across the border after 1971.

After India actively patronized Pakistan’s Bengali to break from the country, bitterness soared to the highest point. Both India and Pakistan tightened visa procedures for each other.

Only recently, the Pakistani Hindus won this right from India and ashes Baloch had been guarding for the last 21 year were taken there to immerse in the holy Ganges.

While talking to this correspondent, he was continuously directing some men to keep an eye on the workers, as construction was underway in the cremation ground.

When he was a child, his family lived near the historical cremation ground where people used to spend their evening as there were not many public parks around back then.

As a child, Baloch witnessed several bodies being cremated in the ground.

“I used to wonder why Hindus burn their dead,” his elders used to tell him that it is an important rite of Hindu religion.

He still remembers image of Maharaj Durga Bharati, a Hindu pundit and caretaker of the cremation ground, who used to perform religious rituals during the funerals.

“Bharati was a nice man who distributed candies and toffees among the children and greeted everyone, even Muslims in this Hindu graveyard-cum-cremation,” recalls Baloch.

Nostalgic Baloch says those were good times when nobody discriminated on the basis of religion. People were indentified with their respective profession.

He doesn’t have any problem working here, thus he wants his son Ayaz Baloch to succeed him.

Dr Govind Ram Dheerani, secretary general of Pakistan Hindu Foundation, says, “I am happy to find Baloch as caretaker of the graveyard as only a Muslim can work properly here in a country like Pakistan.”

Though religious extremism is on the rise in Pakistan, since the partition in 1947, inter-communal relations in Sindh remained generally peaceful, and the province has never witnessed any major anti-Hindu violence. Knee-jerk reaction to extremist Hindus’ demolition of Babri Masjid in Indian city of Ayodhya in 1992 is the only incident of its kind.

The Hindus and Muslims of Sindh enjoy a shared cultural heritage besides common Sufi influences.

Though in recent years some of Pakistani Hindus migrated to different countries, but rarely Sindhi Hindus have left the country as majority of Sindhi Hindus still enjoy living in Pakistan.

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User Comments

Very well written!

Very well written!

Just read this article and

Just read this article and found it very moving. It shows that peoples of all religions can share and respect each other. The ones who ruin this are the retarded bigots.

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