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Floods Lay Bare the Plight of Pakistan's Hindus

Gurudeva
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 Dr. Arvind Chandrakantan, a New York anesthesiologist and critical care physician, set up the Pakistan Hindu Empowerment Fund with Hindu Heritage Endowment last year. At the same time, torrential monsoon rains sent waters rushing into the flood plains of Sindh Province, home to the vast majority of Pakistan’s 2.5 million Hindus.

He used the fund to send $6,000 in immediate relief to stricken Hindu families. But much more was needed. The Indus River had spilled five to seven miles beyond its banks. The flood affected a quarter of Pakistan and made vivid the plight of Pakistan’s Hindu minority.

“Lots of long-term problems come with a disaster,” Dr. Chandrakantan explained. “Most Pakistani Hindus lack access to education. They are sons of the soil, and a catastrophe like this wipes away their lands, forces some into bonded labor, puts their legal status at risk, and brings on a state of lawlessness.” He added that some Christian sects have taken advantage of the disaster to proselytize.

Before the floods, he had been shocked to hear that twenty to twenty-five Hindu girls per month are kidnapped in Sindh Province and sold into prostitution. He had lamented widespread bonded labor among Hindus and other poor, a system tantamount to slavery that is illegal but widely practiced. He pointed out that Hindus, who have lived for centuries in what became Pakistan in 1947, struggle today with illiteracy, poverty and a complex history of Muslim-Hindu antagonism. Dr. Chandrakantan, the son of Indian immigrants, practices at Stony Brook University Medical Center. He compares his good fortune as a US resident and medical professional with the plight of Pakistani Hindus: “The contrast is appalling.”

Dr. Chandrakantan serves on the executive committee of the Hindu American Foundation, and works with about six other Hindu-Americans to grow the Pakistan Hindu Empowerment Fund so it can generate significant income. Their long-term goal to create a nonprofit organization dedicated to Pakistani Hindus.

Gurudeva
A bonded Hindu Pakistani laborer shows
the contract that binds him

Not many Pakistani Hindus live in the US, he explains, so he has used the floods to help the American-Hindus become aware of their co-religionists’ difficulties. To encourage contributions to the Fund, he candidly points out to fellow American Hindus how much prosperity they enjoy and reminds them that as they sow, so will they eventually reap. “All the advantages we enjoy today are there because someone, at some time, made a sacrifice for us. Contributing to the fund is a way for us to give back, to make a difference for someone whose life can be turned around by attending to basic needs: literacy, education and freedom from servitude.


“Hindus are not the only group suffering in Pakistan,” he admits, “but we understand their issues better. We are, after all, Hindus.” He prays that this sense of oneness remains well after the flood waters recede.

Those who wish to join Dr. Chandrakantan in contributing to the Pakistan Hindu Empowerment Fund (fund #81) can do so by contacting Shanmuganathaswami at 808-822-3012 extension 244 or hhe@hindu.org, or giving directly at www.hheonline.org/donate.shtml


 
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