Life worse than death for Hindus in Pakistan-III
Life worse than death for Hindus in Pakistan-III
By Pramod Kumar
The Government of India might have shown reluctance to grant asylum to the agonised Pakistani Hindus living in refugee camps at Majnu Ka Tilla and Bijwasan in Delhi for the last three months, the local Hindus wholeheartedly came forward to help them. Soon after the news of their plight spread, a number of voluntary organisations, lawyers and social activists stepped in to arrange for food, sanitation and even education for them. Noted spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Guruji also met them and assured every possible help.
After decades long persecution in Pakistan these traumatised Hindus had entered India in September 2011 with no plans to go back. Though their visa has expired on October 6, 2011, they are adamant not to return. Some human rights activists also have come to their rescue. “We have moved applications for long-term visa and subsequently the Indian citizenship. They need to be granted the status of refugees immediately so that they can earn livelihood, as under visa extension nobody is allowed to work. In such cases for applying Indian citizenship it is mandatory to stay here for at least 7 years,” said senior advocate and general secretary of Human Rights Defense (India) Shri Rajesh Gogna. He pointed out that over 5000 Pakistani Hindus, presently staying in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana and Delhi, are waiting for asylum and Indian citizenship.
“It is purely a matter of human rights and not the religious one. Protecting the Hindus living in any part of the world is the duty of Government of India. Israel had enacted a law during the forties allowing the Jews living in any part of the world to settle in Israel at any stage of life, provided one is not involved in any criminal activity. There should be a similar law for Hindus in India. If we can offer red carpet to Bangladeshi infiltrators why can’t we do it for the Pakistani Hindus who are the sufferers,” asked Shri Gopal Agrawal, vice president of the HRDI.
The refugees are overwhelmed with the support they are receiving in India. “We are surviving only because of the help from generous people here. We have food and shelter and our children too are studying. Now we need help from the Government,” said Rukma Devi (70), one of the refugees. The refugees are keen to educate their children. There are daily classes in the camps. Not only the children, but the elders are also learning Hindi and mathematics.
Many people as well as organisations including the Akshardham Temple Trust, Bharat Swabhiman Trust of Swami Ramdev, Art of Living of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Ghaziabad-based Shiv Shakti Trust of Devi Maa, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Samaj, Sewa Bharati, VHP, etc. have provided generous help. The HRDI had adopted them in the very beginning and is fighting for their cause. Recently, a delegation of the refugees met senior BJP leader Shri LK Advani who assured every possible help. They are also planning to meet the leaders of other political parties. “Our overall objective is to ensure protection and safety of the 30 lakh Hindus presently living in Pakistan. The Government of India must take concrete steps for their safety,” added Shri Gogna.
Delhi High Court stays refugee deportation
The interim relief granted by Delhi High Court on December 21 has generated a hope for the refugees. The Court directed the Centre not to deport them till it decides the matter. Taking note of a PIL seeking grant of asylum or Indian citizenship to these Pakistan nationals, the High Court sought the response from the Centre by February 29. “Let notices be issued to the Union Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs for response by February 29,” said a bench of acting Chief Justice AK Sikri and Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.
The PIL was filed by Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Rakesh Ranjan. “The Constitution of Pakistan is based on religious preferences and the Hindus have remained denied of any civil, political or fundamental rights there. The forcible deportation of these people will not only be against the centuries old cultural heritage of India but also against Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees fundamental right to life and liberty to every person residing within the boundaries of India,” he said in the petition.
Dera Dhuni Baba volunteer Naveen Jain, who has been looking after their needs since the very first day, observes that the women and girls have blossomed in this short stay in India. “When they had arrived two months ago, they used to cover behind black chadors; the volunteers literally tore these ‘masks’ off and told them to live and breathe freely. They have adapted beautifully,” he said adding that those who were habitual of saying Qasam Khuda Ki and some other similar words with every dialogue, now greet everyone with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ or ‘Namaskar’. “Earlier these women were very frightened. But now they freely serve the Ashram and also offer puja daily. Now they also look healthy,” he said.
The women also feel a change. “Now we can freely wear mangalsutra and use bindi, which was a distant dream in Pakistan. The greatest thing which makes us secure is that everybody around us seems our own, therefore no question of fear,” said Geeta (23). These refugees do not want to become a burden on the local people. They want the government to allow them to work, as majority of them are skilled labourers and are able to earn their livelihood. “Dozens of us are trained drivers, electricians, motor mechanics, etc. and the rest can work as agricultural labourers,” said Sagar Rai.
Give political asylum and voting right to all Hindu refugees from Pakistan—Dr Pravin Togadia
Talking to Organiser VHP working president Dr Pravin Togadia said thousands of Hindus have been herded out of Pakistan the same way it was done during the Partition. “Hand in hand with Pakistan Government, Talibans looted them first, abducted their kids, destroyed their livelihoods and then forced to run for their lives. They lost everything but with great difficulty they protected their Hindu dharma. Had they agreed to be converted there, they could have lived happily there; but they did not! So vehemently they protected our age old religion and now they are here in Bharat staying in temples and tents. In freezing cold of Delhi, they are looking up to the Government to protect their human rights, fight for them globally for persecution and give them respect as Hindus,” he said.
“The Government of India has such apathy towards these dejected Hindus that while they are languishing here, it shamelessly announced Muslim quota from Hindus in Bharat! The Government that does not care for the majority here can never care for the minority Hindus in Pakistan! the Government must break all economic and diplomatic ties with Pakistan if Hindus there are not protected. We all treat them as our closest relatives. What is needed at this stage is that government has to strongly take up this issue immediately with Pakistan. There was a treaty signed in 1947 that Pakistan will protect Hindus who stayed back there. Pakistan is globally answerable for violating it. Pakistan can do it due to Government of India’s lack of support to Hindus and diplomatic failure to protect Hindus globally. Government must protect their rights here, give them citizenship and get compensation from Pakistan Government for them,” he said.
The refugees have also moved petitions to President of India, Prime Minister and also the National Human Rights Commission seeking asylum/citizenship for the reasons that their lives would be in grave threat if they return to Pakistan. “India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the present situation demands urgent attention of the Government of India to provide due protection to the persons of minority community from Pakistan,” added Shri Gopal Agrawal.
Before the interim relief granted by Delhi High Court, the stand of the Government of India was negative. The Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran told Lok Sabha on November 28 that all the Pakistani nationals who have come to India on group pilgrimage visa wiould have to return within the visa validity period or the short extended period allowed in specific cases.
Some Members of Rajya Sabha on December 12 expressed grave concern over the fear and insecurity under which the minorities, particularly the Hindus, live in Pakistan and asked the Government to take up this issue with Islamabad. The matter was raised during Zero Hour by Avinash Rai Khanna of BJP. He was supported by many members from various political parties. Quoting Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission report Shri Khanna said the property and life of the Hindus in Pakistan were insecure. He said many Hindus from Pakistan have been camping in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Rajpura and Khanna for quite some time, refusing to return home despite expiry of their visas. They want Indian citizenship but the government has not spoken even a word in their support.
Shri SS Ahluwalia of BJP also joined Shri Khanna and asked the government to take up the matter with United Nations. Shri MS Gill of Congress urged the Government to take up the issue seriously. BJP MP Shri Tarun Vijay also raised the matter in Rajya Sabha on December 14. “The BJP is of the firm opinion that the Hindus persecuted in any part of the world should get asylum in India. After all, where else can they go? The Government should make arrangement for their permanent rehabilitation,” said BJP spokesperson Shri Prakash Jawadekar while talking to Organiser.
A delegation of Vishwa Hindu Parishad also met the refugees on December 3 and assured every possible help. The VHP and Hindu Mahasabha activists performed havan at the refugee camp in Bijwasan on December 25. VHP central secretary Dr Surendra Chauhan attended the event. Earlier, the activists of Youth for Nation (YFN) distributed rations and woolen clothes to the refugees at Majnu Ka Tilla on December 10.
Providing temporary relief to these refugees is not the permanent solution to the problem. What is needed the concrete steps so that no Hindu need to leave Pakistan in future and they enjoy as much freedom there as the Muslims and other minorities enjoy in India.