The Atlantic

Hindu Today, Muslim Tomorrow

What reports of forced conversion in Pakistan say about the country on the 70th anniversary of its creation
Source: Athar Hussain / Reuters

For the first 16 years of her life, Ravita Meghwar was a Hindu girl living in a village in Pakistan. But today her name is Gulnaz Shah, and she is married, and a Muslim. Her family members believe that kidnappers drugged them and abducted their daughter, and that she was forcibly converted to Islam. She says she eloped and married of her own choice.

A decade or two ago, Meghwar’s case would have gone unreported. But in recent years, case after case involving Hindu girls converting to Islam have emerged in courts in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province, home to the majority of the country’s Hindus. The allegedly forcible nature of the conversions, the almost identical pattern of the cases, and the targeting of minor girls have deeply unsettled the Hindu population, which constitutes about 2 percent of Pakistan’s approximately 200 million people. This sense of alarm feeds into a broader reckoning: 70 years after the partition of the Indian subcontinent, some Hindus are reassessing their place in Pakistan.

While Pakistan was. But today Pakistan’s identity is that of an Islamic nationalist state, hardline religious groups are a formidable force, and religious minorities have little voice in society. As influential Islamic shrines and religious groups work to convert people to Islam, some Hindus are leaving their villages and moving to cities in Pakistan, or leaving Pakistan altogether and moving to India.

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