More persecuted Pakistani Hindus seek asylum
Horrific tales of genocidal brutalities, endless official discrimination, religious persecution, social and economic deprivation
THIRTY year old Bharati left her three-day infant with her in-laws in Pakistan just to save the lives of her four other children. She is part of the group of Hindus, which entered India on March 10 in the pretext of pilgrims visiting Prayag Kumbha. Since then she is depressed thinking about her infant. “If I waited for the visa and passport of the infant, I would have never come here to save my other children. It was perhaps the last opportunity for me to save my children,” she says seeking help with folded hands.
Three groups of 480 Hindus (one six month child died due to lack of medical care) arrived Delhi in March on pilgrim visa. The first batch of 229 people came on March 10, second of 222 people on March 18 and the third batch of 29 persons arrived on March 27. They all are original inhabitants of Sind province in Pakistan. Immediately after arriving here, they duly informed the Foreign Regional Registration Office and also made it clear to the authorities concerned that they would not return at all.
All of them underwent highly inhuman sufferings in Pakistan at the hands of jehadis. But no human rights organisation or activist thought it fit to even issue a statement condemning their persecution or seeking any relief for them. They don’t forget crying for the human rights of even terror groups and jehadis, but are mysteriously mum on these poor Hindus. Some Indian politicians who cry loudly for the ‘rights’ of minorities, too have no time to visit these people. All this shows that the discussion held in the Parliament on the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan was a futile exercise. Their visa duration started expiring on April 9. But now there are reports that the Ministry of External Affairs extended it for one month on April 10.
Undergoing religious persecution and social as well as economic deprivation in Pakistan these Hindus continue to arrive India for several years. Hundreds of such families already live in different shelter homes in Delhi since November 2011, after their tourist visas expired. Officially, there are more than 450 Pakistani citizens living in various shelter homes across various states in India.
In October 2011 also, about 145 people arrived in Delhi and they too refused to go back. Hearing their petition, Delhi High Court had then directed the Central Government not to deport them. Since then they have been living in different shelter homes of Delhi waiting for permanent relief in the form of refugee status or citizenship. They mostly depend upon the help provided by social or religious organisations.
The Hindus constituted 22 per cent of the total population of Pakistan in 1951. But today there share is down to less than two per cent with a majority of the Hindu families living in Sind province. But if their persecution continues at the same scale and they continued to flee, Pakistan is sure to become a total Hindu less country very shortly. “If somebody feels that after the forced flee of Hindus from Pakistan, the other minorities will be safe there, he lives in a fool’s paradise. The fanatic mentality that dominates in Pakistani basically does not allow non-believers to exit,” says Shri Sudhir Agrawal, national convener of BJP National Human Rights Cell.
The horrific persecution of these Hindus has no end. “We die in Pakistan at every step of life and every day facing terrible persecution on the part of both the government machinery and the fellow citizens. Now we have no more courage to face it further. Therefore, we want our children to at least live with peace. That is why we came here with the firm decision not go back. Even if we are deported forcefully, we would prefer to die than going back,” says Maharaj (70) sitting in a room, which accommodates 16 people in Bijwasan, where they have been granted shelter by a custom officer Nahar Singh.
The kind hearted Nahar Singh had also extended full help to the Hindus who came here in December 2011. He had his two-storey building, then rented out for Rs 70,000 a month, vacated to make rooms for them. Apart from providing shelter he is also helping them to approach the Foreign Regional Registration Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi High Court to get the refugees status or Indian citizenship. He says until these people settle in, he would take care of their meals — and, if need be, expenses. “If need arises I will adopt all these people and not let them go back to face further persecution,” he told Organiser. Shri Nahar Singh also allowed the migrants to use his address for applying the citizenship or extension of visa. This helped these people to apply for citizenship on March 29, 2013 under the provisions of Section 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1965.
Several Hindu organisations, including Indraprastha Vishwa Hindu Parishad have also pitched in. Extending full support to these people, VHP working president Dr Pravin Togadia spent new year with them at Bijwasan on April 11. Earlier, Dr Togadia felicitated some of these people on April 10 for preserving the Hindu way of life even in such terrible circumstances.
Majority of these people belong to Bagdi community of Sind province. They are landless dalit labourers and hard hit by religious persecution as well as social and economic deprivation. They crossed over to India through Jodhpur in Rajasthan by Thar Express. All the three groups basically comprised of 83 women, 86 men and 311 children.
“The life of Hindu women is worse than hell in Pakistan. No Hindu women of any age, whether minor or aged, is safe there. We are treated as public property, …frequently raped even before the family members. It is better to die than living this life,” said Yashoda Baisakhi (45). “Discrimination with us prevails there from birth to death. No right to get education, no right to take up the desired job, no right to follow religious customs and no right to even die as a Hindu. We are not allowed to even cremate the dead body. They force us to bury the body. Girls are abducted and forced to convert even before they turn 10. Everyday comes with new kind of cruel persecution,” said Dharmavir Bagdi, who fled Hyderabad town in Sind with his wife and four children.
Fifteen year old Radha crossed the border hoping for a new life. But since then she lost one of her children.
The persecuted Hindus have been seeking refugees in India not only from Pakistan, but also from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Even though India has often been lauded for its treatment to refugees, it doesn’t have a law or policy that allows them to claim entitlements and documentation. The problem is getting complex day-by-day as the number of Hindu refugees is pouring in and there is every possibility that the remaining Hindus living in Pakistan or Bangladesh will follow. But the question is whether providing refugee status or citizenship is the only solution to the problem? Shouldn’t the fanatics of those countries be reigned in through diplomatic means or international pressure? Instead of waiting for another catastrophe, the Government of India must act decisively.
Petition seeking pension for refugees
BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Shri Avinash Rai Khanna, who has been fighting for the cause of Pakistani Hindus for the last a few years, has filed a petition before the Petition Committee of Rajya Sabha requesting to simplify the procedure of seeking Renunciation Certificates from those who have renounced their all belongings in Pakistan and now want to settle in India permanently. He also sought monthly pension for these people.
The Petition, filed on November 30, 2012, also urged the Government of India to publicise the process of seeking Renunciation Certificates as these people are scattered in different parts of the country. The Renunciation Certificate has to be submitted to the local District Magistrate declaring that the applicant left his everything in Pakistan and he/she now wants to settle in India permanently.
It is a process started by the Government to provide permanent relief to the persecuted Pakistanis. “The permanent solution to this problem is granting them citizenship. But before they are granted citizenship or refugee status, they should be granted monthly pension so that they can survive on their own,” says Shri Khanna while talking to Organiser. He said the Government of India has, however, simplified the procedure for renunciation certificates to some extent, it still needs simplification. He, however, pointed out that those who have already submitted such certificates did not get any relief so far.
As of now thousands of Pakistani Hindus are staying in Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi and they are not ready to go back at any cost. Over 1000 such families live in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Khanna and Rajpura of Punjab. They fully bank upon Indian benevolence for guests since more than a decade. Some live there even before 1995. “We know our stay here is illegal, but we don’t want to go back to die in the fire of hell,” says 70-year old Mulakh Raj. He has been living in Jalandhar with his wife and eight children since 1997 after migrating from Sialkot. “There is nothing left for us in Pakistan. We feel safe and have a more dignified life in India,” he added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now taken the cudgels to fight for granting citizenship status to these migrants. The party constituted a three-member committee to take up their plight with the Central Government. The Committee prepared a list of such migrants living in Punjab. Former Minister in Akali-BJP government, Laxmikanta Chawla also wrote to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh urging to provide full protection and citizenship to the migrants.
The Petition by Shri Khanna quoted the report of Pakistan Human Rights Commission, which exposed large scale conversion, forcible abduction and forced marriage of Hindu girls in Pakistan. “The Hindus are living under tremendous terror in Pakistan. Their persons and properties are not safe at all. The only option left with them is either to convert into Islam or leave Pakistan. The ultimate safe destination for them is India. First of all they face difficulty in getting long term visa to visit India and after entering in India they do not have any safe place for residence.
“After the expiry of visa, the local administration start compelling them to leave India or to get their passport renewed and to get fresh visa and further to get a Identity Card from Pakistan, which is not possible for the migrants. If they go back it is not sure they will come back alive. While staying in India their children do not get education or medical treatment. They live under acute fear of deportation. It is need of the hour that these people be given humanitarian treatment. Their problems be raised at international level and Pakistan be told strictly to save the Hindus living in Pakistan,” the Petition said.
—Rajesh Gogna, secretary general, HRDI
India should simplify the rules of granting refugee status or citizenship to the persecuted Hindus coming from any country without delay.
The persecuted Hindus, entering India from Pakistan or Bangladesh, are facing enormous problems due to lack of a clear cut refugee policy. Even the citizenship rules that we follow for these people are very complicated and make almost impossible for such people to get citizenship. Since the Hindus from neighbouring countries are entering India in a large number, there is a need to simplify the procedure and also to devise a clear policy for them.
“The case of Hindus coming to India from Pakistan has to be seen in a sympathetic manner. They are terrorised people who cannot go anywhere other than India. They have to be given asylum. I feel those who have sought visa extension should not be persecuted further by the authorities in India. Rather, they should be given BPL status so that they can at least survive. As of now these refuges are not allowed to open their bank account, obtain driving licence or start any business. Without these basic necessities their survival becomes extremely difficult and they are virtually denied a respectable living by the Government of India.
“Apart from it, they should also be given the right to get education and earn livelihood freely. Such rights have already been given to the Tibetan refugees. The case of Pakistani Hindus is no different from the Tibetans. Therefore, they should be allowed to live with dignity and the question of deporting them should not arise at all,” says secretary general of Human Rights Defence India (HRDI) advocate Rajesh Gogna while talking to Organiser.
Grant international refugee status: VHP
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demanded that all the Hindus coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other nations due to atrocities there must be given international refugee status and then full Indian citizenship with all rights that any citizen of Bharat has. Secondly, the Government of India must force Pakistan and Bangladesh to implement Nehru-Liaquat accord, failing which Bharat should take Pakistan and Bangladesh to task by severing all diplomatic, trade and other ties with them.
Talking to Organiser VHP working president Dr Pravin Togadia said these Hindu families must be rewarded by every Hindu as despite horrible atrocities in Pakistan, they have not given up their Hindu way of life! Dignity of Hindu dharma is highly protected by these families in the most adverse situations. He said the VHP wants that all the Hindus coming from Pakistan and Bangladesh must get the rightful compensation from Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively for the lands, businesses and properties they had to leave behind due to genocidal brutalities there. The valuation should be done by the Hindu Human Rights Commission with representatives from Hindu organisations, revered Shankaracharyas, prominent lawyers and finance experts.
The Government of India should also push the case in UNSC to slap sanctions on Pakistan and Bangladesh for such genocidal brutalities resulting into the mass exodus of the Hindus. The issue is serious and immediate serious measures are needed by the ruling government in this matter. Any delay can deteriorate Hindu situation in Pakistan and Bangladesh resulting into the majority Hindus in Bharat and also the Hindus in other countries getting angry with the Government as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh supporters in Bharat, he added.