Krishna Kumari has come a long way. Born in 1979 in Sindh’s Thar district, she was once held in bonded labour along with her family in a private prison allegedly owned by an influential landlord of the Umerkot district. Luckily they were eventually freed in a police raid. Later this month, Kumari will take the oath of office in the Senate, along with some of the most influential landlords in the country.She will be the first ever Hindu Dalit woman to become a senator in Pakistan’s history.
Kumari comes to the Upper House with a perspective distinct from most of her powerful counterparts. She began her primary education at a school in the Talhi village in the Umerkot district-where she most likely experienced the poor conditions of public schooling in interior Sindh. She was also married off at the age of 16, while she was still a Grade 9 student. Not willing to let her marriage deter her from chasing her ambitions, she continued her education. This is in addition to the challenges she has most likely faced as a Hindu and a woman in Pakistan.It is no wonder that she has declared “I will continue to work for the rights of oppressed people, especially for the empowerment of women, their health and education”.
We congratulate Kumari on this victory, and wish her all the best in overcoming the obstacles she will face from here on.She belongs to the highly marginalized Sindhi Hindu community, most of which is “employed” as agro-based bonded labour – much like Kumari and her family once were. The community has also been brutalized by the abductions and forced conversions of its women.Once again, it is powerful Muslim landowners who are often behind such crimes.We hope that Kumari’s election to the Senate heralds the beginning of a legislative and institutional reform process to improve the lives of Sindh’s long suffering Hindus.
Finally, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) needs to be lauded for awarding ticket to Kumari. Despite its flaws, the PPP continues to be a pro-minorities and progressive political force. We also hope that other parties will follow this trend. *
Published in Daily Times, March 5th 2018.