Pakistani Hindus who have migrated to India to escape increasing extremist violence in Pakistan, are finding that they have merely exchanged one frying pan for another. If they have run away from violence, they now face disease, bad sanitation, lack of water and poverty in the places they have been forced to live in. Despite grand promises by no less than BJP before elections, the migrants are struggling with basic necessities.
The rise of extremist forces in Pakistan had forced many Hindus residing in the country to take refuge in India. In the last decade, it is estimated that around 20,000 Hindu migrants have come to India from Pakistan. The refugees remind us the pain of partition our part of the world has been cursed with. Partition of India and Pakistan based on religion was without doubt one of the most horrific historical incidents that ever took place. Millions of people were rendered homeless, many dead. The condition of Hindus in Pakistan makes shows that there has not been much progress in the years that have gone by.
BJP’s support to the migrant Hindus
Before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Bhartiya Janta Party ran a full fledged campaign for rights of the Hindu migrants from Pakistan. Prime ministerial candidate of BJP, the present PM Narendra Modi, had sent a strong message in support of the migrants saying, ”We have a responsibility toward Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries …India is the only place for them.”
As per the new updates BJP is working to ensure that the migrants get property rights and are provided banking services based on their long term visas. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had earlier allowed to extend banking and property purchase facilities to Hindus from Pakistan.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that he and his ministry is working on a plan for better rehabilitation of Hindu migrants from Pakistan. He also said that he is aware of the persecution of minority Hindu population in Pakistan, and the hurdles Hindu migrants find in obtaining citizenship in India. It is worth noting that the present BJP government has given permanent citizenship to almost 4,000 Hindu migrants from Pakistan since coming to power, which is much higher than what the erstwhile UPA government had allotted. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan also said earlier that until he is at the helm of affairs in the state, no Pakistani Hindu will be asked to leave the state.
Migrants from Pakistan are spread all over the country- in Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, et cetera. But just allowing people to stay in the country, and extending the visa for next 5 years is not enough. They didn’t leave Pakistan just to become citizens of India, but for a more secure and better life. That setill seems to eb a dream.
A Hindu in Pakistan, and Pakistani in India
According to various media reports from across the nation, the Hindu migrants from Pakistan are, sadly, leading an extremely inhuman life in India. The plight of the people is so bad that many have chosen to return back to Pakistan!
Most of the people coming from Pakistan are Hindus belonging to Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. This may have become a larger problem for their acceptability in India. Also, most of the camps for them are on the outskirts of the cities- depriving them of water supply, better health services, education and shelter.
In one of the interviews given to Al Jazeera, a Pakistani migrant said that in Pakistan they were not accepted and had to hide their identity of being a Hindu. In India, they had to hide their identity of being born in Pakistan.
In a PIL filed by Ajay Gautam in Delhi High Court, it is claimed that the Hindu migrants are living in unhygienic conditions in various parts of Delhi. According to the PIL, around 1,000 Hindu migrant families from Pakistan are living in various clusters in the National Capital, mainly in the area of Rohini, Majnu Ka Tila and Bijwasan. Even though the authorities have full knowledge of the conditions of the people, nothing concrete has been done to provide better living standards to the Pakistani Hindu migrants..
The ongoing monsoon has made the lives of the people in such makeshift slums even worse. The families have been living for two to five years in these slums. They are still waiting for the ‘better’ life they had been hoping for in ‘Matar bhumi’.
Extending Visa, and not proving for better living?
The Indian government has extended the visa of the people migrating from Pakistan, but is also working to give them permanent citizenship as well. However the larger issue of better livelihood, sanitation, education and health remains unaddressed. In Delhi, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) does not provide any facilities such as cleaning and spraying fumes in the camps to tackle the attack of mosquitoes in the monsoon.
These people must be helped on humanitarian grounds alone even without considering that they are Hindu migrants from Pakistan. As the Government of India has made many promises to Hindus wishing to migrate from Pakistan and who have migrated from Pakistan it becomes important that it also delivers on what it promises in rhetoric and electioneering!
We will be following up the issue more closely in the present series titled “Homeland, across the border”. In our series we will be travelling to various camps of the migrant Hindus from Pakistan in Delhi and elsewhere.
This article was first published on LokMarg on August 10, 2015