Minorities speak up against discrimination

A group performs a folk dance in the Frere Hall garden before the start of the first minorities march, held on the occasion of National Minorities Day, on Friday.—Shakil Adil / White Star (Dawn)

KARACHI: For the first time in the country, minorities marched for their rights on National Minority Rights Day at the Frere Hall here on Friday. There were members of the minority communities as well as those who empathise with them. All chanted slogans, all held up placards and all marched.

Seeing the commotion, a young woman in tattered clothes asked someone if they knew what was going on? When informed it was Minority Rights Day, she said she also belonged to a minority group. “My name is Sumaira Murad. I’m a Christian. I have studied till class eight and have been looking for a job. I have been everywhere, looking even for a sweeper’s job, but they have nothing for me,” she told Dawn.

Listening to her, an invalid man on a motor tricycle came to present his case, too. “I’m a Hindu. My name is Dilip Kumar. As you can see, I’m disabled. After my wife’s death, I have to feed and educate my two little girls but no one is willing to give me a job. I’ve been working with Bykea to give rides on my tricycle to commuters but in this inflation, it is not enough,” he shared.

Pastor Emanuel Subah of the United Church of Pakistan shared that he had witnessed in rural and backward areas of the country in the past that people even used to have an issue eating on the same table at chai khanas or dhabas. “They were unaware that members of other religions also take care of cleanliness and remaining pure. In fact, Muslims do ablutions before their prayers and we Christians have to bathe and shower before attending services or saying our prayers,” he said.

Up on the stage, protected by a human chain formed by volunteers, there was a tableau under way showing a young sixth class Christian student, who enjoyed studying and attended school. But his Muslim classmates would tell him to clean gutters. They wouldn’t let him come near them. One day, when he was very thirsty, he drank water from the same water cooler as the other children and they accused him of dirtying their water and beat him to death.

This was accompanied by chanting of slogans against discrimination, about all human beings having equal rights, deserving equal respect. Songs were sung to inspire people to stand up, speak up for human rights, create tolerance in the hearts of others who had rigid beliefs.

Luke Victor, a student, spoke about blasphemy laws. “We are afraid to speak up about this law because we don’t want to be penalised. We are not saying that these laws should be done away with. We are only saying that kindly don’t misuse this law to fix personal scores,” he appealed.

Sheema Kermani, one of the organisers of the Minority Rights March, said that she could see how conditions in Pakistan were being made such that minorities were being forced to leave this land. There is too much persecution and too much violence here, which is why we felt that we must not just celebrate the National Minority Rights Day but also raise our voice that we have to bring diversity and justice back into our society,” she said.

Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab also visited the march. He said that minorities had made great sacrifices along with Muslims in the establishment of Pakistan and that the white colour in the green crescent flag of Pakistan represented minorities.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Junior also attended the Minority Rights March to show solidarity with the minority groups.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2023

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