Hindu Refugees Fleeing Pakistan Are Yearning to Be Indian Citizens
Twelve-year-old Akash wants to become a doctor. He lives in the Pakistani Hindu refugee resettlement colony, near the Majnu Ka Tilla gurdwara. The area is famous as it is now home to 200 Hindu families from Pakistan. Electricity and water connections are there but people have no accommodation. They live in refugee camps and temporary shelters.
A Life Changing Opportunity
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs alert, the Centre is considering simplifying the procedures of granting citizenship to minorities from Pakistan living on ‘Long Term Visa’ in India. This would mean providing them with basic rights of citizenship by issuing Aadhar cards, PAN cards, and allowing them to buy property, but nothing has happened so far.
Poor Living Conditions
People live here in reed and bamboo huts. They are delicate dwellings, pieced together with bamboo, twigs and branches. Other Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements are dispersed across Delhi NCR, in Rohini Sector 11 and Faridabad. The one in Majnu ka Tilla settlement was set up in 2011, when the first group of families from Pakistan crossed the border. Since then, they have been coming to India in waves till date.
Ambika, a final year student of Delhi University gives her time to impart knowledge to the teenagers without expecting anything in return. For Bhagi Devi, Majnu ka Tilla offers a safer home. She feels that there is a greater respect for minorities in India.
Hardships Faced by Refugees
Few months back, dozens of these refugees were rendered homeless as 30 shanties were gutted in fire. Nine fire tenders were rushed to the spot and the situation was brought under control. A cheque of Rs 25,000 was given to all the affected families. Since, they did not have a bank account, the cheque was of no use to them.
The refugees who left their possessions, houses and some of them even their families in search for better living in India, have faced discrimination here as well. On repeated occasions, the police have assaulted them and at times even seized their carriage.
These asylum-seekers say that they want Indian citizenship and identity cards, which will remove all hurdles they face in the country. Balram and Saida had recently shifted to this place. They said that they have high expectations from the Modi-led government at the Centre. “The moment we left Pakistan, we had already accepted India as our homeland,” says Saida.
The stay of Pakistani Hindu Refugees may have been full of hardships, but the Narendra Modi government is all set to roll out a number of privileges for them. The government seems determined to allow the minorities from Pakistan to purchase property in India and to open bank accounts.
The Hindus faced the highest religious persecution in Pakistan. Most of the them have left out of fear and reached India. Barsha Devi, 60, crossed the border with great expectations. She had spent almost her entire life in Pakistan.
India’s attitude to refugees in general should be changed. India has, over the years, offered asylum to the refugees but needs a comprehensive refugee policy. Here, the refugees have to undergo constant suspicion.
The government wants to curb their rights and place restrictions on their freedom of movement and any attempt at asserting their rights is viewed with doubts. In India, refugee camps run on low rations and lack basic health care facilities. The Indian government has to assure that it would cater to all the needs of them and give them the legal status to remain in India.
(The writer is a student at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. )
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