Dr. Jürgen Schaflechner has been studying Pakistan’s small Hindu community for over ten years.
His work began on the ritual journeys to the Hinglaj Devi shrine in Balochistan and grew curious about “forced conversions” as he learnt more about Pakistan’s Hindus. He was told that Hindu women were kidnapped and forced to become Muslims. His field work, however, began to shed a different light on the subject.
He published his findings in an article ‘‘Forced conversions’ of Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan: another perspective‘ on September 19 in the Australian edition of ‘The Conversation’ website, an independent source of news sourced from academia.
Dr Schaflechner found that many conversions are “harnessed as a means to an end and not necessarily the initial objective”.
He gives the example of Kasturi from Tharparkar whose ‘conversion’ merely served to conceal sexual assault. In another example Chandavati, a mother of two, was abducted and kept hostage for six months. “To stop an investigation into her disappearance, Chandavati was converted to Islam and married to one of her kidnappers,” Dr Schaflechner found. He interviewed her.
His film ‘Thrust into Heaven‘ (2016) provides a nuanced look at this controversial topic and includes interviews of men such as Pir Mohammed Ayub Jan Sarhandi, the gaddi nashin of the Sarhandi shrine in Samaro tehsil of Umerkot district, who claims to have converted thousands of Hindu girls and young women to Islam.
Dr. Schaflechner works at the Department of Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Heidelberg.