Thursday, February 24, 2011
Many Pakistan's Hindus who've fled to India for fear of losing their religion find themselves in another set of predicaments here. They're not granted refugee status. They come on tourist visa but extensions, like in the case of Puri, are difficult to secure. Those who have been here a long time and have been granted long term visas would apply for citizenship except the fees are too high for families of daily wage workers.
Jodhpur-based HS Sodha, who heads the Seemant Lok Sangathan, which helps these refugees, says citizenship was easier for the first batch of about 10,000 who arrived after the 1965 war. After 1971, one lakh Hindus fled Pakistan but things wouldn't be easy for them. India government agreed to send them back, Pakistan accepted. It was all peachy except they forgot to ask the refugees themselves; they refused to go back. They spent six years in camps and were then granted citizenship. However, there were about 17,000 who weren't in the camps; their visas expired and subsequently, their Pakistani passports. This group is, in effect, stateless.
A similar group of about 125 families now resides in Haryana, a sizeable section in Sirsa. According to Rajendra Prasad Gupta who is fighting for their case, they came between 1992 and 1999 started right after BJP's Ram Janambhoomi movement heated things up for them in Pakistan. As things stand now, they don't officially belong to either country; many have married here and had kids who're Indians.