A new study has found that the Hindus belonging to lower castes are unofficially declared as "untouchables" and are given a second-grade-citizen treatment. Their kids are made to clean the school premises and are forced to sit on back benches.
The study also found that Hindu women belonging to scheduled castes were the most vulnerable and considered "sexually available by men" of Muslim-dominated communities. Since the SC Hindus are economically weaker with no social support or political leverage in the community, their young women/ girls were lured into matrimony or abducted and wed through forced conversions.
"The abduction of young scheduled caste women is frequent and often reported in regional newspapers. And they are kidnapped or lured and then used sexually and sometimes abandoned after being kept in custody," found the study.
According to the study findings, the "untouchable" Hindus were denied barber services and offered food and drink in separate crockery.
The report of the research carried out by the 'Long Behind Schedule' on caste-based discrimination in Pakistan, was released at the Karachi Press Club last evening.
"In schools, scheduled caste students are obliged to sit on back seats, leaving the front seats for students from non-scheduled castes. Though they are not asked to do it on a regular basis, the practice has been in place for so long that it has become a custom. Scheduled caste students are also made to clean the schools," the Daily Times quoted the study findings as saying.
The study was conducted in two districts of Sindh - Tharparkar and Umerkot - and two district of the Punjab - Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalpur - for one year. Besides, a survey was also conducted on 750 households.
The study was conducted on behalf of the International Solidarity Network (ISDN) and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP).
An overwhelming majority (79 percent) of the scheduled caste population said in reply to the survey's questionnaire that they faced discriminatory treatment of one kind or another and the situation is the worst in southern Punjab. And, 69 percent of those surveyed said that their upper caste Hindu and Muslim neighbours either did not invite them to their social gatherings such as weddings, or if invited, they were served food separately.
This attitude was relatively more prevalent in Rahimyar Khan (87 percent) than in Tharparkar (60 percent), found the survey.