Dec 11th, 2017 – Ramesh Jaipal is a very special Hindu youth activist living in Pakistan. Despite dealing with overwhelming discrimination and social pressure, Jaipal runs a Hindu and minority rights organization in Pakistan called the Hare Rama Foundation (HRF). HRF’s mission is to mobilize the Pakistani Hindu and minority community on a common platform and to support them to carry out sustainable development and to work with poor and excluded people to eradicate poverty and injustice. Due to his involvement in many Hindu and minority rights causes in Pakistan, Jaipal was invited to America to take a nationwide tour of the Hindu communities here and to garner support for his cause. During this 2017 tour he has spoken before Hindu groups in New York, Dallas, Chicago, Washington DC and Atlanta. Some of Jaipal’s initiatives in Pakistan have been to advocate for legal recognition of Hindu marriages, the delivery of Hindu land rights, and the abolition of divisive caste laws which unnecessary label certain Hindu communities as “Dalits”, a division which most Hindus do not recognize.
For Hindu families, lack of a legal marriage registration mechanism is a matter of serious concern. Lack of legal recognition of Hindu marriages has resulted in many domestic, social and psychological problems for the Hindu families, especially women and girls. Hindu married couples face numerous problems in travelling and lodging outside of their place of residence. Due to an absence of any marriage registration mechanism, Hindu women do not get any share in their husbands’ property, and their access to health facilities and participation in social, economic and political processes is also minimal. For years Hindu women (already married to Hindu men and having children) have been abducted or forcibly converted to Islam and re-married to Muslim men without their consent. Since there is no documentation to prove the earlier marriage, their husbands or other family members are unable to take up the issue on legal grounds.
Due to the work of the Hare Rama Foundation, In 2016 Provincial Assembly of Sindh passed the Hindu Marriage Bill and Provincial of Punjab and KPK passed the resolution on Hindu Marriage Bill, The National Assembly also passed the Hindu Marriage Bill in September 2016. We hope that soon the Hindu Marriage Bill become a law for Pakistani Hindus.
Since the creation of Pakistan, Hindus have been deprived of the rights to land. The Hindus in southern Punjab are currently living in slum houses which are in the ownership of the government or landlords of that area. Hare Rama Foundation (HRF) started a campaign on the land rights issues in 2008. HRF conducted several survey’s on land ownership and found almost 95% of the Hindu community is living in slum areas with no land rights. HRF started lobbying and advocacy for residential land rights for the underprivileged community of Punjab and has organized several consultations, seminars, press conference and rallies to sensitize the media and civil society on the residential land rights issue.
WE ARE ALL HINDUS
Ramesh Jaipal and his Hare Rama Foundation believe that there is no such thing as a “Dalit” (untouchable). We are all one religion, one people, we are all Hindus. Jaipal and HRF take issue with the fact that the government of Pakistan divides up Hindus along outdated and unrecognized “caste” lines which don’t exist. Jaipal works to unite all Hindus together under one banner and does not allow himself or others to be labeled as “Dalit” by non-Hindus who are seeking to create rifts in Hindu society.