15-year-old Chanda Maharaj was abducted in Hyderabad. In this case, it ended well.
by Marco Respinti
Update (October 21, 2022): Unfortunately on October 20 a Pakistani court ruled that the girl should be given back to her abductor.
The beautiful girl depicted in the photograph is Chanda Mahraj, a 15-year-old Hindu from the Fateh Chowk area of Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan. Last week, local media initially reported that she had just been abducted. In fact, relatives clarified on Twitter, by posting documents, that she had been abducted on August 12. What happened last week is that her parents contacted the media, protesting that no action had yet been taken by the police.
Relatives also corrected certain details published in the media. When she was abducted, Chanda was not alone. She was walking home with her elder sister, a witness to the fact that the abductor was Shaman Magsi, a Muslim man who had repeatedly tried to approach her.
While the anguished parents claimed they did not even know whether Chanda was alive or dead, they suspected she had been abducted to be forcibly converted to Islam and married to Shaman. They based their persuasion on the fact that this is what happened to dozens of other young Hindu girls in Sindh.
In these cases, and others where the abducted women are Christians, the Pakistani police normally limits itself to visit the abductor’s home, where the girl is “persuaded” to nod when the “husband” tells the Romeo-and-Juliet story that she willingly converted to Islam and married the man she loved against the parents’ opposition.
It is not impossible that some of these stories are true, but most are not. At any rate, a law passed in Pakistan in 2019 raised the minimum age for marriage to 18, making any “marriage” of Chanda, who is 15, invalid. Police and courts have repeatedly ignored even the 2019 law, often relying on false identity documents presenting the girls as older than 18.
Chanda’s is one of the rare cases that ended well. After the publicity on social media, a local court compelled the police to act. Chanda was rescued and, after a tearful meeting with her parents, sent by the court to a safe house where she will be protected.
The incident demonstrates that it is possible to save kidnapped girls from minority religions, and that publicizing these cases internationally sometimes works.