Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
On 11 December 2019, when the Parliament of India passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), a sea of reporters gathered at the Majnu ka Tilla refugee camp in North Delhi to speak to about 200 Pakistani Hindu families living there, who were touted as the main beneficiaries of the Act. While the Act became the focal point of outrage and protests across the country, residents at this refugee camp saw in it their only hope to become Indian citizens.
One year on, The Quint visited these families and found that with the government of India yet to notify the Act, residents staying in this resettlement colony are slowly abandoning hope as they continue to live in squalor.
‘Haven’t Received a Single Piece of Paper Till Now’
Manohar Lal with his family of six, came to India in 2014 with the hope to secure a bright and safe future for his four children. But things only went downhill from there. The passage of the CAA, he says, was like a “glimmer of hope” but they haven’t heard from the government ever since.
“Last year, when the Bill was passed, the media came and spoke to us at length about it and made a lot of noise. Some other people also came here. But after that, nothing happened. We haven’t received a single piece of paper till now.”Manohar Lal, Sindh (Pakistan)
Another resident at the resettlement colony, Dharamveer Solanki, is comparatively optimistic. He says that the issue of citizenship was like a noose around their neck but the CAA has helped loosen it. However, even he is uncertain about the current status of the Act.
“When the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was passed we were very happy. The issue of citizenship was like a noose around our neck. We were very happy when the Act was passed but haven’t heard from the government ever since.”Dharamveer Solanki, Sindh (Pakistan)
‘Free To Pray, But How Do We Feed Ourselves?’
Manohar Lal’s wife Rani is upset about not having a source of income. Having sold all valuables, they managed to bring with them as they fled Pakistan, Rani says, “The family has now learnt to live a life of poverty and hunger.”
“We have young daughters and sons, with no source of income. Yes, we are free to practise our faith. But, how are we supposed to feed our stomachs? The biggest difficulty here is that we are unemployed. Sometimes we manage to cook food and at others, we are forced to sleep on an empty stomach.”Rani, Sindh (Pakistan)
Adding to what Rani said, Manohar Lal says that they no more trust in this government. He feels that it is in the blood of the politicians to make false claims before elections and then do nothing about them after their victory.
“The government makes a lot of promises but eventually does nothing. There are so many people who are natives of this country. Politicians seek votes by making tall claims but then nothing happens. When they couldn’t help the natives here, what will they do for us?”Manohar Lal, Sindh (Pakistan)
‘Had It Not Been for COVID, Every Hindu Would’ve Left Pakistan by Now’
The passage of the CAA has drawn a record number of people from across the border. Dharamveer told us that the coronavirus pandemic has ruined the plans of many to come to India to seek refuge.
“To save our faith, we packed everything and came to India. Nobody felt safe there. Many people were killed. Had it not been for COVID, every Hindu would’ve left Pakistan by now. Hindus cannot survive in that country. If they don’t manage to escape, they will be killed.”Dharamveer Solanki, Sindh (Pakistan)
Ram Chandra runs a tea shop by the roadside near the Gurudwara. Adding to what Dharamveer told us, he says that among people who are waiting to come to India are also his parents.
“My parents were all set to come to India in March. But their visa was suspended as they reached Lahore because of COVID-19. They will apply again, soon because survival of Hindus in Pakistan is very difficult.”Ram Chandra, Sindh (Pakistan)
Poverty Is Forcing People To Go Back To Pakistan
When asked if people are going back to Pakistan due to poverty and unemployment, Ram Chandra told The Quint that survival in a foreign land is tough and many return home to face persecution, as they are unable to make two square meals a day.
“A lot of people have gone back. So many people apply for visa to India every year. Visa to India costs Rs 10,000 in Pakistan. They reach after making huge efforts and spending a lot of money but then when they arrive here, there are no facilities. This has forced many people to go back.”Ram Chandra, Sindh (Pakistan)