Last year, while Hindus all over the world celebrated the ongoing festival of “Holi,” rubbing and throwing colored powder on each other, Pakistani Hindus instead spent the holiday cleaning and wiping black soot off the walls of a temple.
On March 18, 2014, in the province of Sindh, hundreds of vandals attacked a Hindu place of worship and set it on fire, following a rumor that a Hindu had desecrated the Quran – the central religious text of Islam.
This time around, however, the festival was not only celebrated with spiritual fervor but also with religious solidarity as a group of Muslim students formed a human shield around members of the Hindu minority celebrating Holi.
The National Students Federation organized the event at Swami Narayan Temple in the metropolitan city of Karachi on March 5 as an attempt to promote interfaith harmony in a country ravaged by ethnic and religious conflict.
“If the state cannot provide protection to minority communities, the public has to take a stand,” NSF representative Khurram Ali told The Express Tribune, adding members of minority groups used to protest alone in the past.
“But with so much intolerance in society, the general public needs to join minority communities,” he said. “This way, all religious groups will stand united and show their dissent against the state.”
In the past three years, hundreds of members of the Hindu community – which roughly makes up less than 2 percent of the total population of Pakistan – left for India, amid fears of persecution.
"Our situation in Pakistan is difficult. We have decided that we will not return at all. We will request asylum here. We have been forced to give up our established business there," Deutsche Welle quoted a man named Pradeep Kumar in an article published in 2012.
Unfortunately, the Hindu community is not the only minority under attack in the South Asian country. Christians (1.6 percent), Shia Muslims (15-20 percent) and the Ahmadiyya (less than 3 percent) have also been among the prime targets for terrorist and/or mob attacks in recent years.
However, individual efforts are being made by various sections of the society to improve the situation.
In what was called an unprecedented display of unity, around 800 members of the Christian minority took to the streets on Christmas Day to protest Taliban in Pakistan – the organization responsible for the massacre 132 schoolchildren and nine staff members of an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.