by Vicky Lal
Once the land of love and harmony, Sindh is becoming the most dangerous region for young Hindu women.Kunri, the town of District Umerkot, is known for its fiery red chilies and Sufi and tolerant culture, which was ideal for Moolchand Kolhi to settle with his four children—two daughters and two sons—and restart life. Although the majority of the population was Muslim, many Hindus and Christians were also living there.
Moolchand Kolhi left his hometown due to the 2011 floods. The family settled in Kanjeti Mori near Kunri City in the Umerkot district. They built their home on a plot worth PKR 120,000. After moving to Kanjeti Mori, Moolchand found a job in construction as a laborer, so the new beginning kicked off.
Education was a distant dream for his children for two reasons; first, his earning did not allow it; second, he would not feel safe if his children went to school; an unsettling concern was always there back in his mind for the security of his kids.
Moolchand married off his eldest daughter Hemi Kolhi to Assan Das from a nearby village. The marriage didn’t last long, and on 30 November 2020, Hemi returned to her parents with a couple of months old baby girl, Payal.
It was 5:30 AM PST on 7 September 2021 when the tragedy struck that unfortunate family. Hemi Kolhi came out of the home to run some errands; four men from a nearby village Haji Shaukat Punjabi tried to abduct her from the fields. Armed with guns, the abductors were on bikes while a car was waiting for them on the main road. They shoved Hemi in the car and drove away.
Devastated, Moolchand, during the interview, recounted the incident and said that he immediately rushed to help her, but they had bikes and guns in their hands. He couldn’t get there on time. He further stated that on return, he inspected the place of the incident and saw his daughter’s footprints. It showed that she struggled to free herself from the abductors, but it was impossible for a weak girl against four grown men.
Losing the eldest daughter is painful for already stress-ridden Moolchand who had tried everything to keep his family safe and happy.
While crying for his daughter Moolchand stated that he immediately rushed to meet the local landlord and pleaded before him for the safe recovery of his daughter. The landlord assured him that his daughter will be recovered within a day or two; the landlord further asked him not to file a complaint in the police station or any case against the perpetrators. Moolchand sought help from other well-known social persons of the locality for the recovery of Hemi who also said that they will speak on the matter and nothing will happen to his daughter. He also met other activists which include Misan Bux Kapri, Chaudhry Nisar, and Master Jameel who also kept Moolchand on false hopes.
The abductors of Hemi were identified by Moolchand as Akbar Kapri S/O Shabeer Kapri, Mushtaque Kapri, Afzal Kapri, and Riaz Kapri S/O Haji Sodho Kapri; Riaz is also the maternal uncle of Akbar Kapri whereas Haji Sodho Kapri father of Riaz Kapri is a notorious criminal.
Hemi is only 18-19 years old whereas her parents did not enroll her in any school and her national ID card was also not prepared due to which her accurate date of birth is not clear. Hemi’s nine-month daughter Payal often cries for her mother but she has to survive without her mother. Payal is now under the care of her maternal grandmother and father.
Later on, on September 11, 2021, Moolchand went to the Police station to lodge an FIR against the abductors of Hemi where the station head officer (SHO) clearly refused to lodge an FIR instead he informed the local landlord of the Kapri community who is a relative of the abductors. Disappointed by police, Moolchand consulted with a lawyer and filed a petition 491 to free her daughter from the abductors through a raid and present her in court.
After filing a case in the session court at Umerkot, the court instructed the local police to raid and recover the abducted girl and present her in court on September 18, 2021, and on that day Hemi was presented in the court in Umerkot Session court, Moolchand and his wife were also there along with Payal in the court that day.
They noticed that during the session Hemi’s eyes were wet. At the time they were called inside the courtroom, Moolchand hoped that his daughter would be returned today but unfortunately, that could not happen; when Hemi’s parents entered the courtroom, the judge told them that the statement of Hemi had been recorded and they could leave now. Hemi’s helpless parents were sent back and the girl was asked to accompany her abductor.
“If my daughter willfully wants to go with her abductor, I have no issue over it but I want to meet and know her will,” said Moolchand. He further stated that his daughter was forcibly abducted and requested the law enforcement agencies to provide him an opportunity to meet her to know the reality.
The land of Sindh is becoming increasingly dangerous for young Hindu girls like Hemi Kolhi. According to an independent database — Violence Register Pk that records faith-based attacks on the Hindu community in Pakistan, there are 51 ‘reported’ cases of abduction since 2010.