On April 26 the Jodhpur Development Authority (JDA) demolished as many as 70 shanties, all belonging to the Pakistani Hindus, who have moved to the city over the years. The authorities cited illegal encroachment as the reason for demolition.
The JDA officer, Navneet Kumar said, the drive was to free Sector 2 and Sector 3 of JDA’s residential project in Rajiv Gandhi Colony. This was termed an anti-encroachment drive by the officer.
Notably, the immigrants living there including one Bhag Chand Bheel, who is also a social worker said, “This land does not belong to JDA. It falls under panchayats of Gangana and Chokha and is mining land. The families have been living there for the past 4-5years”.
Even after the protests the structures were demolished and the families were left on barren lands in scorching heat. A video from the site after the demolition drive was shared on Twitter, where women were seen fainting due to lack of water. Notably, during the demolition, the authorities also break water tanks, made out of concrete to store water in the area.
Over 100 homes of Sindhi migrants from Pakistan who came to India fleeing religious persecution have been demolished by Jodhpur administration in Rajasthan
These poor people leave everything behind to come to India hoping for safety and freedom – to face… pic.twitter.com/EBYYIox7Nv
— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) April 25, 2023
SwarajyaMag correspondent visited the site this week and shared the status on the ground. This story compiles the accounts from that report.
Ramchand Bheel moved to Jodhpur from his village in the Sanghar district of Sindh province in Pakistan four months ago. Before moving to Jodhpur, Ramchand and his family visited Haridwar and did Ganga Darshan. He said he brought a piece of land for Rs 70,000 from a broker of his own Sindhi community. Then he brought cement bricks and tarpaulin, and within days they built a small shanty out of it. This was their new home.
Notably, on April 26, the JDA authority demolished Ramchand’s house. Not only his but the other 69 as well.
Majna Ram Bhil, 60, arrived from Pakistan’s Mirpur Khas district in Sindh to India in 2013. He and his wife Hoori shifted at the behest of their sons, as part of a ‘mota jatha’ (large group) of 400 Hindus who visited India on a pilgrim visa.
Sat Ram, who is 12 and came to India seven years ago, says his family constantly struggled with poverty and a lack of friends in Pakistan. In Jodhpur, the children go to school.
Notably, the houses belonging to the Hindu community have been demolished whereas the Muslims who migrated from Pakistan are allocated land by the government.
One of the Muslims who migrated from Pakistan, Furqan Khan Silawat said, “We feel for these migrants. Did the Modi government bring the CAA bill only to create animosity between the two communities [Hindus and Muslims]? Why has he not given them a place to stay?”
Silawat is a member of the minority wing of the Congress party in Rajasthan.
Notably, several years ago, the Rajasthan government allotted 1,700 plots for Pakistani Hindus in the Chokha Gangana area whereas the migrated Hindus had to buy plots from brokers and locals spending all of their life saving.
After the demolition was done, one of the Sindhi activists, Bhag Chand Bhil, fighting for the rights of the migrated Pakistani Hindus was arrested by the Rajasthan police. He was arrested for allegedly instigating residents into attacking JCB operators and a journalist covering the drive on 24 April with stones.
Although, Bhag Chand was released in a day after locals said that they will call for a protest march.
After the locals claimed that they had brought lands from the brokers and these do not belong to the government, the police arrested two of the brokers. The arrested ones are also immigrants Heeralal Bhil and Bhairaram Bhil and are living in Local Tavel Visas (LTVs) in India.
No relocation drives or camps have been provided to these families and they are forced to live under the sky only. They do not have shanties, water or food supplies, they have children with them and the government is also ignorant.
An elder, Chautha Ram, says the children would drink 2 litres each if water was available. Asked if they had taken a shower, he says, “There is no water to drink; how can any of us manage to take a bath?”
These immigrants do not have permanent citizenship of India as of now but they keep applying ever since the CAA bill was introduced by the centre in 2019.
Dehraj Bheel, who works as a driver, says he re-applied for citizenship last month. “We keep going to the office and submitting our documents again and again. One day, it will happen and we will have a permanent house,” he says.
All these families who have migrated to India from Pakistan do not wish to return back even after the barbaric administrative action against them. They are determined to rebuild their homes and live in India again.
One of the victims, Ramchand said, “Our grandparents made a mistake by staying in Pakistan. I won’t repeat the same mistake for my children’s sake”.
Another victim, Majna Ram with a folded hand said, “I and my wife have lived our lives, no matter how good or bad it was. But the [Indian] government should let us live here. Where else do we go?”
Children recalling their life in Pakistan told Swarajya journalist, “One cannot roam around there in the streets like you are doing. Your bag and phone will be snatched, even your glasses will be taken”.
Listen why these kids who were born in Pakistan but came to India with family find it better here. Video from a Pakistani Hindu camp in Jodhpur pic.twitter.com/GUbbd8bESI
— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) May 1, 2023
They say, their life is better in India and they wish to live here only.
To date, no statement has been made by the government of Rajasthan on this case. The migrant Hindus are forced live under the sun and unfortunately have no government support for relocation or temporary accommodations. More than 500 people were left homeless after the demolition drive.
Some of these shifted to nearby places to build a temporary shelter for themselves, some were at the police station seeking help from the administration while many were still at the site, waiting. They have no food, no water supply, no shade. Shockingly, those living under the sun include women and children as well.