OP Gupta (Retd. IFS)
THE Government of India has not been according proper treatment to Hindu refugees due to them as per international norms; and, fate of Hindu refugees in India gets compounded by lack of awareness of their rights among Hindu social and Human Rights organisations.
Media reported that thousands of Pakistani Hindu refugees living in Rajasthan for the past several years without any valid documents are again hopeful of getting Indian citizenship even as fresh batch of 171 Hindus from Pakistan arrived in Jodhpur on September 9, 2012. Sometimes back there was report of some Hindus from Pakistan staying back in Delhi seeking refuge in India and the Organiser weekly and many pro-Hindu organisations tried to stop the Government of India from surreptitiously deporting Pak Hindus to Pakistan.
When the Odisha unit of the Bharat Raksha Manch asked the Odisha Government to identify Bangladeshi illegals living in Odhisha for deportation, the Odisha Government sheepishly came out with a list containing names of only Bangladeshi Hindus refugees.
The above shows the ‘anti-Hindu’ or ‘neglect Hindus mindset’ of the us Hindu Ministers, and, that, most of us Hindus also appear not to be aware of the two fold Rights of Hindus seeking refuge in India. Firstly, Hindus who are persecuted on religious grounds by Islamic jehadi mullahs in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc. have internationally recognised legal right to seek refuge in India and the Government of India is obliged to accept them under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 read with the 1967 Protocol.
Secondly, India was created as a homeland for all Hindus of undivided India so Hindus from neighbouring countries have moral, social and political claim for right of residence in present day India, and in any case better claim over Bharat than any other refugee.
As per my definition of Hindutva all Hindus living abroad irrespective of languages they speak shall enjoy right of abode in India if persecuted in their home countries on religious grounds. Forefathers of all Hindus living abroad started from India so all Hindus living abroad have claim of residence in India. India recognises such rights of Hindus living abroad in varying degrees in terms of persons of Indian origin, dual nationality with some countries, etc.
Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, read with the 1967 Protocol a refugee is defined (in Article 1.A.2) as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
Para IV.D of the UN Conference record reads: “(International co-operation in the field of asylum and resettlement)  The Conference, considering that many persons still leave their country of origin for reasons of persecution and are entitled to special protection on account of their position, recommends that Governments continue to receive refugees in their territories and that they act in concert in a true spirit of international cooperation in order that these refugees may find asylum and the possibility of resettlement.”
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (established December 14, 1950) protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations and assists in their return or resettlement. UNHCR provides protection and assistance not only to refugees, but also to other categories of displaced or needy people. These include asylum seekers, refugees who have returned home but still need help in rebuilding their lives, local civilian communities directly affected by the movements of refugees, stateless people and so-called Internally Displaced People (IDPs) too. Hindus who got uprooted in Jammu & Kashmir may also invoke these provisions being IDPs.
Since India is a signatory to UN conventions on refugees, Hindus who leave Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. out of religious persecution have internationally recognised legal right to seek asylum in India and the Government of India has international obligation to give them asylum in India. Hindu organisations in India should forward applications of Hindu refugees seeking asylum or refuge in India to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs and till these applications have been decided they cannot be pushed back into Pakistan, etc. by Indian Police. Refusal of applications can always be challenged in Indian courts.
What about properties left behind by Hindu refugees in these countries? I have not yet come across any Hindu leader of India invoking UN Pinheiro principles to demand Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc. to claim properties left behind by Hindu refugees in countries of their home. Hindu samaj must assert and articulate these property rights of Hindu refugees.
United Nations principles on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons are also known as the Pinheiro Principles. The UN Pinheiro Principles are guided by the idea that not only people have the right to return home, but also to the same property. It seeks to return to the pre-conflict status quo and ensure that no one profits from the violence.
Pinheiro Principle 2 “The right to housing and property restitution. [2.1] All refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land and/or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, or to be compensated for any housing, land and/or property that is factually impossible to restore as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal. [2.2] States shall demonstrably prioritize the right to restitution as the preferred remedy for displacement and as a key element of restorative justice. The right to restitution exists as a distinct right, and is prejudiced neither by the actual return nor non-return of refugees and displaced persons entitled to housing, land and property restitution.”
Pinheiro Principle 12 “National procedures, institutions and mechanisms. [12.1] States should establish and support equitable, timely, independent, transparent and non-discriminatory procedures, institutions and mechanisms to assess and enforce housing, land and property restitution claims. In cases where existing procedures, institutions and mechanisms can effectively address these issues, adequate financial, human and other resources should be made available to facilitate restitution in a just and timely manner.”
Hindu organisations in India may have a fresh look at the Pinheiro Principles and take-up the question of recovering properties left behind in Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. by fleeing Hindus. The Bharat Raksha Manch has already invited all Hindu refugees to register details of their properties left behind in their home countries at [email protected] so that this matter may be raised with the UN agencies and with the governments of those countries. Bharat Raksha Manch has suggested to the Government of India that such Hindu applicants be issued gratis long-term visas by Indian diplomatic and Consular Missions who complain of religious discrimination, and, that, the Government of India should give them Indian citizenship quickly, that too, without charging any fees as being refugees they have already been robbed of their properties by Islamic fundamentalists.
In my view Hindus uprooted from J&K may also invoke the Piheiro Principles in Indian courts in claiming back their properties which they were forced to leave behind or sell under distress and duress in J & K.
The Government of India is competent to take-up question of ill treatment of Bangladeshi Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistani Hindus in Pakistan, etc. with their Governments bilaterally under the 1950 Nehru-Liaqat Ali Khan Pact and under international law for violation of the Human Rights of Hindus.
The Government of India can raise religious persecution and violations of Human Rights of the Hindus in the UN, also through the Human Rights Commission, UN High Commissioner For Refugees, UN Committee Against Torture, etc.
According to the Nehru-Liaqat Pact, the Governments of India and Pakistan solemnly agreed that each shall ensure, to the minorities throughout its territories, complete equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion; a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honour. It also guaranteed fundamental human rights of the minorities, such as freedom of movement, speech, occupation and worship. The Pact also provided for the minorities to participate in the public life of their country, to hold political or other offices and to serve in their country’s civil and armed forces.
One may recall that on June 3/4, 1989 the Chinese Army units attacked pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing by Chinese students killing many students. It is known as the “Tiananmen Square Incident”. It was a purely internal affair of China but US, UK and other countries did take-up this matter with the government of China. The European Union and the United States placed an embargo on armament sales to the PRC in protest against the violent suppression of the students in Tiananmen Square.
European countries and Christian organisations forcefully raise matter of discrimination against Pakistani Christians. But Indian Ministers lack political will to take-up the issue of ill treatment of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, etc. with those governments. Let us force Indian Ministers by generating public opinion to be as sympathetic to Hindu refugees as they (Ministers) are to Palestinian refugees.