The resignation of MLA Ram Singh Sodha, 67, from Pakistan’s Sindh provincial Assembly last year, and migration with his family to Kutch had created waves both in India and Pakistan. His move was seen as a signal of the increasing persecution of Hindus by radical Islamists in Pakistan. Sodha, a lawyer, spoke to India Today’s Senior Editor Uday Mahurkar in Nakhatrana in Kutch but he was cautious, as many of his relatives are still in Pakistan. Excerpts:
Q. How do you see the situation in Pakistan today?
A. Pakistan still has a large number of moderate Muslims willing to live cordially with Hindus but they have been overwhelmed by the fear of the bombs and guns of militant Wahhabis who are ready to die while killing their religious rivals. The situation is turning grave though things are better in lower Sindh where the local Sindhi Muslims follow Sufism and take care the Hindus.
Q. What was the immediate provocation for you to flee Pakistan?
A. Militant Wahhabism has almost entered upper Sindh, travelling down from Punjab. Unless a miracle happens, it’s a matter of time before it percolates to lower Sindh too. I migrated as a long-term self-preservation measure. Plus, we Sodhas of lower Sindh have always married in the Jadeja Rajput clan in Kutch. So we have historical ties on this side. Otherwise there was no immediate provocation for me to leave Pakistan.
Q. Do you fear retaliation? Is that why you are hiding the real truth?
A. Not at all. I will speak only the truth. You can’t ignore the fact that militant Muslims are targeting moderate Muslims with more violence.
Q. What is the difference between Jinnah’s Pakistan and today’s Pakistan?
A. In Jinnah’s Pakistan, religious minorities were protected while in today’s Pakistan, even moderate Muslims who want to peacefully co-exist with people of other religions are insecure now. Jinnah’s word was betrayed immediately after his death but the real change came in the ’70s when General Zia-ul-Haq gave a long rope to radical Islamists taking advantage of the Afghan war. He also created separate electorates for Hindus thus virtually making them second-class citizens.
Q. What is that thing that amazes you the most in Pakistan?
A. The irony that the land which produced Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, should produce the most dreaded Islamic militants on the face of the earth.
Q. When was the first time that you felt insecure in Pakistan?
A. In 1986-87 when, in reaction to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in India, some temples were vandalised in Sindh province.
Q. What is the solution?
A. Both India and Pakistan should wage a joint war against the militants and I am of the firm opinion that the common people of both the countries want aman (peace) from the violence of the militants.
Q. What will be the fate of Hindus of Pakistan?
A. Apart from the worsening religious situation, the fate of Hindus also depends on the Indian Government. The government should be more liberal in its treatment. A Hindu Pakistani migrant gets citizenship only after seven years of stay in India, during which time he cannot work or even start a business. This minimum period should be brought down to three. As for Hindus who choose to stay in Pakistan, their future appears bleak.