THERE is no end to the injustices suffered by Pakistan`s minority communities because of the regressive thinking of many among the dominant religious group. As the case of Summan Prem demonstrates, even death does not bring freedom — the inequities continue well beyond the grave. The child hailed from a family of Balmeki Hindus, some of whom prefer to bury rather than cremate their dead. Upon her death at the age of nine, she was buried in Rawalpindi`s Ratta Amral graveyard on Oct 1 last year, which her family thought was a Christian graveyard. There Summan lay for over a year, until recently her family put up a tombstone bearing her name and Hindu prayers. News of her ancestry spread and tongues started wagging, with some Muslim clerics and others claiming that the burial of a non-Muslim in the graveyard amounted to sacrilege. Given the ease with which Muslim sentiments here are aroused, it is not surprising that after being asked to do so by the graveyard management, Summan`s family exhumed her remains at the dead of night and reburied them in the nearby Christian graveyard. Thus was the `sanctity` of the graveyard restored.
A more shameful example of religious and caste-based prejudice is difficult to imagine. True, it is unusual for members of various communities and religions to be buried within the confines of the same graveyard. Yet this was, in the days before we embarked upon the retrogressive path, not unheard of in more cosmopolitan areas. Certainly there was little of the sort of false morality that leads otherwise educated and self-avowedly decent people to believe that the presence of a non-Muslim would somehow render `their` graveyard `impure`. Such mediaeval notions of purity and sanctity demonstrate how far we have sunk. Respect for the dead, it seems, is reserved only for some favoured ones.