Hopeful, Confused, Misinformed: Hindu Refugees Hail Modi for CAA

“We don’t know much, we are just happy that our country has finally accepted us,”the refugees said.

Updated
India
3 min read

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

The Yamuna riverbed to the south of Gurudwara Majnu ka Tila is home to over 900 Hindu refugees from Pakistan. Living in squalor in semi-permanent sheds with no access to clean drinking water and electricity, they believe the Citizenship Amendment Act will give them a fresh lease to life.

Used to a lot of media attention in wake of the nation-wide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, some of them had rehearsed what they had to say. When asked about how they envision their lives will change, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in unison, one of them replied, “We don’t know much, we are just happy that our country has finally accepted us.”

A narrow lane in a refugee settlement near Gurudwara Majnu Ka Tila. 
A narrow lane in a refugee settlement near Gurudwara Majnu Ka Tila. 
(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

‘Came to India Because This Is My Home’

The Citizenship Amendment Act entitles Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to seek Indian citizenship.

A vendor on the streets of   a refugee camp near Gurudwara Majnu Ka Tila. 
A vendor on the streets of a refugee camp near Gurudwara Majnu Ka Tila. 
(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

When asked about the reasons behind their migration, many refugees recollected horrific tales of persecution involving rape, murder, forced conversion and lack of basic education. However, there were people who said that they came to India because they believe this is their ancestral home.

“I came to India in 2018 because most of my relatives were here already. There was no specific problem which I faced back home. There are good and bad people everywhere,” said Mahesh* (name changed).

It remains unclear how the government will differentiate between immigrants who came and stayed for reasons other than religious persecution.

What About Those Who Came After 2014?

The Act grants citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who had arrived in India on or before 31 December 2014. It also relaxes the 11-year requirement to stay in India before being eligible for Indian citizenship to five years.

Many refugees are unaware of the fact that only people who came on or before 31 December 2014 will be granted citizenship. Maji Thakur* told The Quint that he came to India in 2018. “We don’t know if we are getting the Citizenship or not. Hopefully we will also get it.”

Similarly, Savita*, who came to India in 2017 with her son dedicated a song to the Prime Minister thanking him for granting her Indian citizenship. When told that she does not clear the cut-off for the same because she arrived after 2014, she requested everybody be granted citizenship.

Also unaware that she doesn’t clear the cut-off, Laxmi* said she is happy she will become an Indian citizen and will be able to pursue higher studies.

“With or without citizenship, all Hindus will stay in India only. 5 years, 6 years... it doesn’t matter. They won’t go back,” said Rajesh*, when asked about what will happen to those who came after 2014 and will not be eligible for citizenship.

Without electricity and other facilities, most refugees live in appalling conditions.
Without electricity and other facilities, most refugees live in appalling conditions.
(Photo: Himanshi Dahiya/The Quint)

‘Being a Hindu in Pakistan Was No Less Than a Crime’

Recollecting harrowing memories of persecution in Pakistan, many refugees are striving for a better life in India.

“Most of us are small-scale farmers. We lived in hell-like conditions in Pakistan. Our children were given Islamic education, our women were raped and our people were forcibly converted to Islam,” Rajesh added.

“Some members of our family are still there and they are tortured if we talk about the injustice meted out to us back there,” another said.

Having lived under constant threat of deportation for years, refugees living in the heart of the country’s capital are now hopefully awaiting the government to clear confusion and become citizens of India.

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