Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
As eighteen-year-old Mona Kumari and her younger sister, Sanjana, who is sixteen years old flipped, through the pages of a book on short stories, their father, Gulsher glanced through the documents in a folder for the umpteenth time.
Those papers were related to the Residency Permit Order of Gulsher, his wife Ameeran Mai and their children. Gulsher, a resident of Sukkur district in Sindh province of Pakistan, had come to India in May 2019.
After working as a bus driver for almost 22 years, Gulsher decided to shift base to India following incidents of violence against the Hindus in Sindh. He had tried to immigrate earlier in 2016 but had to go back soon after his mother fell seriously ill.
Refugee Siblings Ousted from School For Being Overage
After finalising a two-room accomodation in Chattarpur locality on rent, Gulsher soon began hunting for a school in the neighbourhood.
He was relieved when a school being run by the Delhi government agreed to take in Gulsher’s three children – Sanjana, Mona and Ravi.
But the school had made it clear to them that it was only ‘provisional admission’ and their names would be added to the school register after a cluster-level committee clears the documents submitted by Gulsher.
Assured that he had submitted all valid documents including a copy of visa which is valid till May 2020, Gulsher went ahead and bought books and uniforms for his three kids in July.
Two months later, Ravi, Mona and Sanjana were informed by the school authorities that they are overage and hence, cannot attend the school anymore.
“The school authorities had gone through all the documents and certificates. They didn’t say anything about age then. Now they are saying that the deadline is over and we’ll have to give Rs 2500-Rs 3000 per kid and only then will they somehow manage the admission.”Gulsher, Refugee from Sindh (Pakistan)
Seventeen-year-old Ravi feels bored these days as he sits at home doing nothing. He is still shaken by the school’s stern response.
“They (school authorities) didn’t say anything about age at the time of admission. Age is not an issue in Pakistan. I had friends who were aged 18 years and 19 years, they used to study with me. So, we never faced an issue regarding age there.”Ravi Kumar, Gulsher’s son
Ravi and his two sisters were finding it difficult to get a grasp over the subjects with the medium of instruction being Hindi at the govt school in Delhi.
At their school in Pakistan, Sindhi and Urdu were the preferred languages.
“I can read and understand Hindi. I find it difficult to write in Hindi. So that’s a problem. Rest of the subjects are the same as they were in Pakistan.”Sanjana Bai, Gulsher’s daughter
Refugee Family Seeks Legal Help
After putting in sincere efforts for almost two months, the three siblings feel dejected, their parents already disillusioned with India, a country they had hoped would help them in starting life on a new note.
On 11 October 2019, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Delhi government after Gulsher approached the court seeking legal intervention. Gulsher’s lawyer, Ashok Agarwal, has been emphasizing on relief for these Pakistani refugee siblings citing Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which states:
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
In a 1996 case, NHRC vs State of Arunachal, that dwelt at length on the issues regarding citizenship of Chakmas in India, the Supreme Court had said:
“the State of Arunachal Pradesh shall ensure that the life and personal liberty of each and every Chakma residing within the State shall be protected...”
Will the high court follow the precedence set by the Supreme Court and uphold Gulsher and his children’s right to life and liberty? The only difference, however, is that while the Chakmas had already been living in Arunachal Pradesh for more then three decades, this Pakistani refugee family has moved to Delhi a few months ago.
The Quint has sent a questionnaire to the office of Delhi’s Education Minister, Manish Sisodia. We will update the story as and when we receive a response.