“My name is Jamila, and together with my children, I am the last Hindu survivor of my ancestors, who have lived in Waziristan for far longer than a hundred years. I was married into a family here in around 1947, to my husband, whose family has lived here for as long as they can remember.
We were evacuated from our village in Mir Ali (along with other Muslims and Christians in the town) last summer, when the Pakistani military started the operation against the Taliban (TTP) in North Waziristan, and are now living in this small shelter in a missionary school in Bannu. A Christian boy, who recently visited Mir Ali, came and told me that my home was destroyed. I want to go back and build it again with my son.
Military offensive against the TTP
When the Pakistani military started the operation (Zarb-e-Azb) against the Taliban in North Waziristan, it was all very sudden. We had no time to pack or prepare before we made the long 80-km journey far away from our home. We did not properly say good-bye to our homes. For me, that’s very important, as I am the last Hindu mother left of my generation and I have survived turbulent and unassuming times only to ensure that the Hindus of Waziristan do not fizzle out.
When every other Hindu wanted to leave, our family decided to stay. My husband, who died of old age, made me promise that I will never leave Waziristan and preserve our family line. In the 40s, 60s and since the 80s, most of our Hindu families left Waziristan to find safer places to live. Most of them went to Afghanistan and India. My family stuck it out through. We were definitely the last Hindu family in Waziristan, but we were never lonely – always accompanied by the spirits and prayers of our ancestors.
When I was still a young girl, the elders in our family had a feverish conversion and started a small temple in our veranda. After all, Mir Ali, had always been our real sanctuary, our family’s real home.
I am more than 80 years old now and I remember my grandfather telling stories about his grandfather and their ancestors. We never knew how long we lived in Waziristan, but it was long enough to say we were natives, along with our Muslim brothers. I miss the smell of fresh chilghozas. I remember, when my husband used to catch chilghozas as they fell from the trees, I used to crush them with my fingers. It stained my skin a little brown. I remember the smell of my walls in the home where I grew old with my husband.
Back to Hindu roots in North Waziristan
When all my family elders passed away in our large family home, I was the only one left with my children. I married my son to a beautiful girl, and we now have a small family with my children and grandchildren. We miss our small Mandir (Temple) back home, where we worshiped peacefully, celebrated our Divalis and did our chores. It’s the place where I want my children to continue their lives as long as they can.
In recent times, we lived alongside the Taliban and had no conflict with them. They knew about us and actually helped us if we were in trouble, if we were harassed. We know there have been attacks on other Hindus in other parts of Pakistan and that makes me very sad and very fearful. I also feel insecure for myself and my children here in Bannu – or anywhere in Pakistan. We were much more protected in the tribal village where we lived, but we don’t feel safe outside of our hometown.
If I am not able to go back and preserve our family, I will have failed my ancestors. I want to call out for help to the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and all the leaders in the world who are committed to helping minorities in my country, to help us go back. I want to go back home, to my village, where I grew up, got married, raised my children and buried my husband. I want to be buried next to him in my village.
I am sick and old and will wither away soon. My spirit is still back home, my memories are there, and being far from home is making me more ill. Going back is my only medication. I wince at the thought of deserting the only home left of all the Hindus who ever stayed and survived the trials and tribulations in Waziristan. Please send me back home.”
Told to Kiran Nazish