Citizens Without State: No Nation For Pakistani Hindu Refugees

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The Indian Union Government on 17th April, 2016, said it proposes simplifying procedures to grant Indian citizenship to a minority Hindu community, who came from the then West Pakistan, presently Pakistan. The proposal also foresees permitting ‘minority communities of Pakistan, who have been staying in India on a ‘Long Term Visa’ to buy property, open bank accounts, obtain a Permanent Account Number (PAN) and an Aadhaar Number, according to officials of the Indian Union Home Ministry.

The authorities will also issue driving licenses, and arrange permission to take up self-employment or for doing business. This is considered safe from a security point of view. These are some of the things being planned, the sources added.

“There are reports that a huge number of Pakistani Hindu minority community citizens have been compelled to seek shelter in India due to the ever-increasing trends of religious persecution or fear of religious persecution or forcible conversion, fanatic religious fundamentalism, terrorism and especially, kidnapping for forced marriage of young Hindu girls, rapes of Hindu women, for ransom, violence, including harassment by law enforcement agencies, murders and various other criminalized tactics in Pakistan.” This isaccording to various international human rights organisations.

Pakistani Hindu Refugee Woman and Eight Children
Pakistani Hindu Refugee Woman and Eight Children. Photo: (c) 2016 Shib Shankar Chatterjee/NewsBlaze

“These kinds of acts have also made other minority communities (such as – Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, Ahmedi and Christian) more vulnerable to be easily victimized by those atrocities, thus are frightened and continue fleeing outside to save their lives,” an Indian Home Ministry official said.

Many of these people enter into India either without valid travel documents or with one whose validity has expired. The Government of India decided in September, 2015, ‘on humanitarian considerations’ to exempt Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals belonging to minority communities, who entered India on or before December 31st, 2014, to stay in the country even after expiry of their ‘travel documents.’

Pakistani Hindu Refugee Man Shows His Pakistani Passport
Pakistani Hindu Refugee Man Shows His Pakistani Passport. Photo: (c) 2016 Shib Shankar Chatterjee/NewsBlaze

The precise number of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan living in India is not known, but rough official estimates hinted, there could be about 2-lakh such nationals, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, who are residing in the Indian districts – Raipur (of Chhattisgarh State), Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Kutch and Patan (of Gujarat State), Bhopal and Indore (of Madhya Pradesh State), Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane (of Maharashtra State), West Delhi and South Delhi (of Delhi State), Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Barmer (of Rajasthan State) and Lucknow (of Uttar Pradesh State).

In Delhi State, around January, 2016, a group of 40 to 50 Pakistani Hindu Refugees took shelter near the forest area of Bhati Mines that is situated just back side of Sanjay Gandhi Colony and Sanjay Gandhi Colony police chowki (that is, Police Post). Local people called it a Pakistani Mohalla (that is, Pakistani Locality). These Hindu Refugees, who have been living in about 10 to 15 tents (locally called – Jughhis) are passing their lives in pathetic conditions. However, most of them work in various adjacent areas either as daily wage labourers or as construction workers to pass their lives.

According to Seemant Lok Sangathan, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), based in Indian Rajasthan State, which is fighting for the rights of Pakistani Hindus, “These Pakistani Hindus are belonging to various castes like – the Meghwal, Bhil, Sansi, Jogi, Odh, Rajput, Brahmin, Mali, Rabari, Sonar, Jat, Nai, Darzi, etcetera. However, a major chunk of them resided in the district of Tharparkar, while the others are in the districts of Umerkot, Mirpur Khas, Hyderabad in Sindh Province, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalpur in Punjab Province of Pakistan. Most of them were in fact not only landless Dalit or Tribal but also very poor and illiterate.”

According to Hindu Singh Sodha, the president of Universal Just Action Society or Seemant Lok Sangathan, “Pakistani Hindus are the single largest minority in Pakistan and form about 1.60% to 2.00% of the total population as per Census Report, 1998. Almost 1,20,000 Pakistani Hindus are now living in India and approximately 1,000 are migrating to India annually in the hope of Indian citizenship. However, as per the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), India hosts a total of 1,85,118 refugees and 3,518 asylum seekers as of January, 2012. Though, Pakistani Hindus account for nearly 1,10,000. A majority is known to live in various parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat States and while some have been given citizenship, many others are forced to continuously renew their visas.”

A Pakistani Hindu Refugee Woman Praying Outside Her Tent
A Pakistani Hindu Refugee Woman Praying Outside Her Tent. Photo: (c) 2016 Shib Shankar Chatterjee/NewsBlaze

All photos (c) 2016 Shib Shankar Chatterjee/NewsBlaze. Contact us for permission to use.

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Shib Shankar Chatterjee is a former BBC, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Statesman & The Telegraph Contributor-cum-Correspondent from Northeast India, who specializes in investigations of important issues affecting the people of South Asia, specially, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan & Myanmar.