By Amar Guriro 

Hindu community in Mithi is distributing niaz among the mourners of the procession. Photo by Nizam Samoon

In Karachi, for the security measures during Muharram processions, authorities suspended the cellular networks, conducted surveillance through closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and more than 6,000 police personnel were deployed for the security of the mourners. Due to the security threats, authorities sealed dozens of streets with shipping containers and aerial surveillance was also conducted through helicopters.

Far from Karachi, in Mithi city, the district headquarters of Tharparkar, a remote district with almost half of its population Hindus, located in eastern side of the Sindh province along the Indian border, the scene is entirely different. Though rangers and police are deployed in the city for the security, mourners do not feel any security threats.

Dressed in funereal black, the mourners gathered at Maqbool Shah Imambargah, they were beating their chests, and wailing nohas and mourning the day of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. Half of the mourners are Hindus.

When the procession proceeded through the Mithi city, at different places, Hindus women brought their newborns to the procession and put the clothes of the Tazia on the forehead of their newborn and worshiped the Tazia and later kept some coin as they do while performing Pooja or worship by Hindu way at their temples.

In southern Sindh, especially in different districts of Mirpurkhas districts including Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar, where a majority of 7 million Pakistani Hindus reside, one can see Hindu Shias or the devotees of Imam Hussain. Just in Tharparkar district there are 72 Imambargahs and many of them are historical and according to the locals, some of the Imambargahs are around 200 years old.

In Mithi city, most of the Sabeels are arranged by the local Hindus and many of the Hindus join the procession. At the end of the procession when mourners reach the Imambargahs, they are offered food and in Mithi at historical Maqbool Shah Imambargah, almost half of the food is provided by the local Hindus, according to the caretaker of the Imambargha.

“In Mithi city for last 200 years, long before the partition of the subcontinent, Hindus are actively taking part in a procession during Muharram,” said Hadil Faqeer, caretakers of the Shoaib Abu Talib, Imambargah, Mithi.

He said that Hindus visit Imambargahs almost entire year, but during Muharram, they take an active part in the procession, Sabeel and Niaz (sacred food distributed during Muharram).

“Many of the local young Hindu couples come to the Imambargahs and they tie knots and walk around the Alam Pak or Tazia, as they walk around a holy fire during their wedding because they consider Alam Pak and Tazia as sacred as the holy fire,” said caretaker of the Maqbool Shah Imambargah.

In Umerkot city, many Imambargahs are managed by Hindus and many caretakers are also Hindus.

In Sindh, Hindus are not just the mourner, but some of them are famous Shia Zakir and they hold Majlis-e-Aza on Karbala incident during Muharram. During these Majalis, not just the Hindus and Shia Muslim, but even Sunni Muslim come and listen to them. Ravi Shankar Khatri, a resident of Umerkot is one of them. He is a Shia Zakir and conducts Majlis-e-Aza in different cities across Sindh.

Another Shia Zakir was Heman Das who called himself Hyderi, a resident of Sanghar city, died last year at the age of 83, was invited to hold Majlis-e-Aza not just in Sindh but many cities of Punjab and even in abroad.

In most of these districts, Nohas (Shia laments) that mourner wailing during a procession, are written by the Hindus.

“If Imam Hussain (AS) was born in this part of the world, we, the Hindus of Sindh could be worshiping him as an avatar (a concept in Hinduism refers to the incarnation of a deity on earth),” said Kirshan Khatri of Umerkot. He said that Imam Hussain (AS) was like a devta (a divine being) who came to the world against the injustice and brutality and sacrificed his life for humanity.

The article first appeared on Daily Times and is republished on PakVoices with permission.