Endowment News

Pakistan Floods Lay Bare Plight of Country’s Hindus

May 2011

The Kalash tribe, said to descend from Alexander the Great’s army, is now fighting to preserve its traditions in a Taliban stronghold.

 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 said. “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 came, 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 Pakistani Hindus and other poor, a system tantamount to slavery that is illegal but widely practiced. He added 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 striking and unfortunate.”

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

Not many Pakistani Hindus live in the US, he explains, so he has used the floods to help the American-Hindu community feel more acutely the problems faced by their co-religionists. He cites the prosperity enjoyed by American Hindus and uses karmic reasoning—if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness—to encourage contributions to the Pakistan Fund. “All the advantages we enjoy today exist because someone made a sacrifice for us. Contributing to the fund is a way to make a similar difference for someone whose life can be turned around by attention 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 have receded.

To learn how you can support the Pakistan Hindu Empowerment Fund (fund #81) through a will, life insurance or other planned gifts, contact Shanmuganathaswami at 808-822-3012, ext. 244 or e-mail hhe@hindu.org. Donate to fund #81 at www.hheonline.org

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