Hindu families have demanded that the provincial education ministry include the study of their religion in the curriculum for Hindu students in place of Islamiat or ethics.
Ethics is a substitute subject for Islamiat that non-Muslim students are allowed to take.
They complained that the problem persists from primary level, even at private schools, where Hindu children are mostly taught Islamiat as a compulsory subject.
“I often cannot answer my children when they ask me who they are, Muslim or Hindus. Unfortunately we are treated as third-grade citizens of this country with no rights,” said Omparkash Bhatia, a member of the community, while talking to The Express Tribune.
He said once he heard his daughter revising a lesson at home.
The lesson was “Hum sub kaun hain? Hum sub Musalman hain’ (Who are we? We are all Muslim). We are left speechless when our children ask us to explain our religious identity,” he said.
Varsha, an MPhil student at Fatima Jinnah University in Rawalpindi, had gotten 69 marks out of 75 in her Intermediate level Islamiat exam. She said most of the country seems unwilling to accept religious diversity.
“I got a first division grade in Islamiat and have a lot of knowledge about the religion. I am not against teaching it, but [as Hindus] we also have a right to learn about Hinduism in school,” she said.
Jag Mohan Arora, a parent, said the denial of the right to learn about their own faiths amounts to the denial of religious diversity.
“It must be included as compulsory subject in the curriculum for Hindu students.”
He added that the repetition of religious topics and the history of Islamic scholars and heroes is also widespread in the curricula for Urdu, Pakistan Studies, English and even science subjects.
“They should teach it, but to Muslim students. As non-Muslim Pakistanis, we must have lessons about our own heroes and scholars,” he demanded.
Megha Arora, an FSc student at Government Girls College Jhanda Chichi said that without a separate subject available, there is no option but to study Islamiat. “The subject is compulsory on intermediate level, which makes it compulsory for us to learn,” she said. She said she had gotten 70 out of 75 in her Islamiat exam.
Hindu students and their parents also complained that the issue was brought to the notice of the authorities, but no one really cared to address it.
They said Christian families can send their children to missionary schools to learn about the bible, Muslim can send their children to mosques and seminaries to study their religion, but other minorities lack such facilities.
Colleges Director Humayun Iqbal and Education Executive District Officer Qazi Zahoorul Haq said ethics is available as a subject for minorities.
“They can opt for ethics instead of Islamiat. They are not forced to opt for Islamiat,” said Iqbal. Zahoorul Haq also given the same reply, saying ethics is taught as separate subject. Both officers rejected the legitimacy of the complaints of Hindu families.