Pakistani Hindus in India
NEW DELHI: Editor’s Note: According to recent media reports, the government of India is considering making the citizenship process for Pakistani Hindu migrants to the country easier. The government on Sunday announced that it proposes to simplify procedures for grant of Indian citizenship to minority Hindus from Pakistan, with measures that include allowing "minority communities of Pakistan staying in India on a Long Term Visa" to buy property, open bank accounts and obtain permanent account number (PAN) and Aadhaar number.
Clarifying that the measures are at a proposal stage, an official told IANS that if implements, collectors or district magistrates of 18 districts will be empowered for two years' period to grant citizenship to Pakistani Hindus at heavily reduced fees.
The proposals come after the government of India decided in September 2015 to exempt allow -- based on “humanitarian considerations” -- Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, to stay in the country even after expiry of their travel documents.
The article below is reproduced from our archives, as ASAD ASHRAF travels to localities housing Pakistani Hindus in India.
In the heart of India’s National Capital Region, are two colonies, the Frontier colony and Pakistani Mohalla -- home to people who immigrated from Pakistan long after partition of the subcontinent, and the influx continues till date.
Located a few kilometres away from the bustling Neelam Chowk in the city of Faridabad, the houses in this locality stand in silence amidst the busy life of the metro city. The housing area is surrounded by shops of automobile spare parts and scrap dealers, owned by migrants from Pakistan.
Ram Sarup, a resident of Pakistani Mohalla, who crossed the border in the late 1960s, was originally a resident of Mirancha village in Lahore district. He holds an Indian citizenship now. While talking to The Citizen, he tears up with nostalgia. As he narrates tales of his childhood from the neighbouring country, the expression on his face reflects longing for the past.
In response to the question of why he came to India, Sarup says, “Let me make it clear that I had never faced any discrimination owing to my religion in Pakistan, but the 1965 Indo-Pak war installed a sense of scepticism among us and a perceived threat of rise in anti- Hindu feeling forced us to migrate to India”.
Since then Ram Sarup has been working here in factories and farmlands as a labourer before he finally got a job as a caretaker in a Gurudwara built by the immigrants.
The area is inhibited by many other Ram Sarups, who share similar stories about their decision of migrating to India.
Sham Lal Pawa, who originally hails from the Dera Ismail Khan region of Pakistan, came to India on a pilgrimage in 1969 and decided not to go back. With him there were 39 other families who assessed a better future in India on account of cultural and religious similarities.
“Most of the migration that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s were mainly because of the difficulty faced by us in getting married in our native land accounting to the dipping population of the Hindu community there,” Pawa notes.
“There was no ill feeling against us in the mind-set of the majority community there or the government either, but moving to India was a well thought decision made by us, which we don’t regret. We are happy that we have received cultural consolations in India,” he further added.
Pawa also expresses his gratitude on behalf of the migrated Pakistani community and calls himself indebted to the then Indira Gandhi-led Congress Government.
“It (the government) did everything it could to settle us here by granting a huge chunk of land to us in Himachal Pradesh to help us build a settlement but due to our unwillingness to go to Himachal, we were a given land here in Faridabad where you and I stand right now and what is called the Pakistani Mohalla and the Frontier colony.” he told The Citizen.
While walking past roads of the locality, we came across a man in his early sixties pulling a rickshaw and sporting a shiny white Pathan suit.
A conversation with him during a ride on his rickshaw revealed that he too is a migrant like the others here, but unlike others in the locality, he still regrets migrating to India or rather leaving Pakistan.
Hukum Chand , who now pulls a rickshaw to earn a meagre daily income was a motor mechanic in Pakistan. He too, like others, came here on a pilgrimage and never went back. His story from Pakistan was full of memoirs of his childhood and early childhood.
He narrated the tales of Pakistan in the hilly area of Dera Ismail khan district of his birthplace where he grew up playing with his friends.
Like others, Chand maintains, “there was no discrimination against the minority community in Pakistan back then and my decision to migrate was on my own will and not due to any compulsions of any kind.”
“The only problem on religious lines was the compulsion of studying Islamiat in schools as a part of the syllabus, which was objectionable to us,” he adds.
However, contrary to the exodus of people like Ram Sarup and Hukum Chand, the migrants who came to India in the last decade of the twentieth century bears a starkly different tale.
People who have come to India during this time talk about structural discrimination against the minority community in Pakistan. They attribute this to many geo-political changes in the region, the strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Babri incident in India.
Adding to their miseries are the conditions in which these new migrants live. Within the Pakistani mohalla, there is a chunk of land on which they have built makeshift tents and are living in exposed and extremely deplorable conditions like severe water stagnation making the people here prone to diseases and infections. There is much anger and resentment directed at the governments of both countries.
Two brothers’ Charan Singh and Dharam Singh, belonging to the minority Sikh community of Pakistan, lamented over their vulnerable conditions there, saying that they left in the hope of a better life. They came to India in 2003. Contrary to their expectations the Indian government did not do much for them and they are still approaching the Ministries for help.
“In Pakistan, the situation has become extremely terrible for the minorities, as Taliban is propagating hatred against us in the minds of common people” Charan Singh notes.
Dharam Singh vividly explains how the situation has changed there. “With the demolition of Babri Masjid in India and a simultaneous growing influence of Talibani extremism, there developed strong anti-minority feelings among the common Pakistanis, which we had to face in our day to day life, it had almost become impossible for us to live there.”
Ganga Kaur, a widow who came to India twenty years ago, is uncertain about her future. She still does not possess Indian citizenship and is not willing to go back to Pakistan. “My own country is not ready to accept us and the country which we thought will give us shelter does not bother to look up on to us,” she says in a distressed tone.
Amidst all this fiasco, children who left their studies to come to India remain uncertain about their future here. Lakshmi Singh, who is a student of VIth grade in a private school, aims to become a doctor but his dream dangles from the lofty uncertainties powered by frequent diplomatic logjams between the two nations separated at birth.