New Delhi/Karachi, July 2: A Dalit Hindu reporter working with Pakistan's state-run news agency says he has slipped into depression after facing discrimination from his Muslim boss.
Sharing his ordeal with IANS over telephone from Karachi, Sahib Khan Oad, who works with the Associate Press of Pakistan (APP), said his agony began when his Bureau Chief -- and colleagues -- realised in May that he was not a Muslim but a Hindu, that too a Dalit.
He said the situation in his office "drastically changed" after his religious identity became known. He alleged that Bureau Chief Parvez Aslam told him to use separate utensils for eating at his work place.
Oad has now gone on indefinite leave on the advice of a doctor after suffering from depression. "I am a Khan but I am not a Muslim," Oad told IANS, speaking in Urdu.
Oad said he was now being pressured by his boss to retract his statement.
"He wants me to say that all such reports circulating in the media are lies," he said, adding that Aslam had even threatened him, saying: "If you can take extreme measures, so can we."
APP Karachi Bureau Chief Aslam has termed the allegations against him as "misleading" and "baseless". He said there was "no discrimination against any minority member working at the APP on any basis, let alone religion".
He denied Oad was mistaken for a Muslim earlier due to his surname "Khan".
"As a matter of fact, all his (Oad's) colleagues were well aware that he was a Hindu by religion but there was no discrimination against him at any stage."
He said his colleagues were under the impression that he was a Muslim since "my first and middle names sounded Islamic".
It all unravelled, according to Oad, on May 29 when he introduced one of his sons, Raj Kumar, to his colleagues who were amazed and asked him if he was a Hindu.
But Oad makes it clear that his other Muslim colleagues in the APP office in Karachi have nothing against him.
Indeed, the larger journalistic fraternity in Karachi -- Pakistan's port city -- has offered him moral support but he alleged that his boss was reluctant to accommodate him.
Asked why he uses "Khan" in his name, Oad said he and many Dalit Hindus in Dadu district of Sindh province did so to avoid being routinely discriminated against in day to day life.
Sindh province is home to a majority of Pakistan's three million Hindus. In Pakistan, minorities often face threats from Muslim extremists, who are also known to abduct Hindu women.
Oad was transferred to the Karachi bureau from Islamabad on April 11 this year. He said this was the first time he had faced discrimination in his five years as a journalist.
Pakistan's national media has come out in support of the father of three. Sindh Minister of Culture Sharmila Farooqui assured him "every possible help and a probe into the incident".