It was more like Diwali celebration in Jodhpur and Jaipur soon after the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2019 was approved by Lok Sabha on December 10 and Rajya Sabha on December 11. Tears of joys were rolling on many innocent faces, while the others had cheerful laugh replacing years of pains on their faces.
Many of them termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘avatar’ for them who brought them out from curse of facing hell while others thanked him for giving a new life and new birth after getting CAB cleared in Parliament.
These Pakistan-based Hindus, for two decades, were struggling to live a life of honour and respect in their own Bharat. On December 11, they were seen exchanging sweets, dancing to the dhol beats as the day had come which they were waiting for since years.
They made a Ghar Wapasi to Bharat after being tormented, tortured, beaten and abused in Pakistan. Despite tolerating religious persecution for years, their return to India, however, did not promise a plush life for them.
They were refused properties on rent despite the fact that they have shunned their Havelis and bungalows way back in Pakistan to unite with their Indian brothers. They were refused jobs despite the fact that they had left their well-settled business and jobs in Pak to be in their own land which is Bharat. Their kids were refused admission in colleges for they were termed as no land’s men in the absence of domicile.
“CAB has given us a new life. It’s more like a rebirth for us—naya jeevan mile hai hamein”, says Premchand, who came to India in 1997 from Sindh.
Pakistani Hindu women offering sweets to each other after the passage of CAB in Rajya Sabha
“I was working as a manager in a Rice mill in Sindh and have rendered my duties there for 28 years. My brothers and I have had our own houses, shops and Havelis, but life was more like a hell. We could not send our daughters out as there were Pakistanis who always wanted to prey on them.”
“Even during day time, we had to lock our homes from inside as any of the Pakistani used to enter inside and abuse our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. In fact, we also did not send our daughters to school fearing torture by their hands. Our temples were demolished not only outside but even inside our houses,” he says.
“My sister staying there also had to come to India six years back when people there wanted to convert her son to Muslim,” he added.
“Fearing for our lives, we applied for passport and visa which took a year’s time. We had to pay Rs 25,000 for each person and throughout this one year period, we have had to hide our son from the prying eyes of Muslims who were trying to find him only to be converted to their religion. For one year, we had to bear a lot of pain, pressure, stress, tension, anxiety and what not, says Pooja, sister of Premchand with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Although we entered India, our challenges multiplied as finding a decent home was a challenge. No one wanted us to stay in their house calling us Pakistani, she says.
Another niece of Premchand, Rekha Chauhan, who came to India in 1997 with him, says they have been staying at the bank of the crematorium for last 10 years as they could not find any home on rent for their stay. “People here refused us accommodation considering us to be Pakistanis. I was illiterate as I came here when 10 and due to financial constraints, I could not go to school. I am separated now and raising two of my kids on my own. I have been a cook and earn Rs 6000 a month. My son is physically challenged and the entire money goes for his treatment. All those who came along with us from Pakistan had a poor financial background and hence there is no help available to us from anywhere.”
“Now, I hope that with this CAB, we shall be able to avail medical services,” she says. Premchand’s wife Maya says that her younger brother is still in Pakistan and his condition is worse than hell here. He doesn’t have money and hence cannot be shifted here but then he and his family also live in locked houses afraid to go outside with family. “My mother recently went to visit him, but she is not getting the permit to come back. The agents there are torturing the family again, she says.
Premchand says that around 12 families came to India in 1997 along with us. However, even after over 20 years, our pains and plights are the same—no money, no house, no jobs, no education for our kids in want of domicile, no medical facilities. We seem to be coming to some distant zone although this is our very land- Hindu land—but for what reason we are being penalised is beyond understanding. We were born in Sindh and during partition, we could not come here due to certain challenges and after residing in hell, we came here thinking about our future and it seems God has answered our prayers after 22 years as this bill is passed. We thank PM Narendra Modi who came as an avatar for us and resolved one of the biggest challenges of our lives. At least now, we shall be living with peace and honour, he says.
The feeling of joy, ecstasy and excitement also surrounded Jodhpur where maximum Pakistani Hindus were sheltering.
“Rajasthan has around 25,000 non-Indian citizens who migrated from Pakistan after facing severe religious persecution”, says Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangthan, an organisation working for citizenship for Hindu migrants from Pakistan.
“Around 18,000 non-citizens are registered with Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) and around 3,000 are unregistered with FRO in Jodhpur itself. At least 95% of these non-migrants are in Jodhpur while the rest are scattered across Rajasthan,” Sodha said.
These non-citizens now say they will start a new chapter of their life after the CAB becomes a law. “We were fed up with religious atrocities in Pakistan. I came to Jodhpur with my family on January 26, 2005 from Sindh (Pakistan). The atrocities had multiplied after the so-called Babri mosque demolition. Hindus were tortured in all ways and means and eventually we had to pack our bags and come to India,” says Prem from Jodhpur.
“I have been driving a scrap cart ever since my arrival to India to raise my four kids aged 16, 14, 12 and 10. The passage of the Bill is like the beginning of a new life for us. We are proud to be associated with Hindustan, now all our dreams will be fulfilled”, she says, adding “it’s been an arduous journey of 12 years for citizenship”.
Sadura Ram also came to Jodhpur from Sindh (Pakistan) on June 11, 2006. He too was trying hard to avail his citizenship and was fed up with filling forms, applying for citizenship and then making rounds to the FRO.
“Sometimes the officials told me that my file was missing. And sometimes they said the details were not complete. Earning my livelihood was important, so I slowed down on my citizenship part, although I was very tense for staying like a migrant in my own country,” he said.
“I started doing a stitching job; we are six in a family including three kids, a brother and wife. The children are in class 8, 9 and 10th. We knew we had no future in Pakistan—the schools were biased. Now, we shall have all rights to think for our future, like any other Indian citizen,” he says smilingly.
The Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came here escaping religious persecution in those countries. It proposes to make Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis people eligible for citizenship who entered India till December 31, 2014.
Meanwhile, Sodha said that they would like to thank the government for accepting their demand. “This (the Bill) permits the third generation minority immigrants from Pakistan to acquire citizenship under Section 6 (naturalisation) after five years of stay in India which was earlier 11 years,” he said.
An immigrant can currently apply for citizenship after staying in India for 11 years. Since the cut-off date for CAB is December 31, 2014, religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh immigrating to India will have to wait for five years for citizenship. Sodha said most of these non-citizens came to India on pilgrim visa or visitor visa. “Now they want to celebrate the moment. Although its implementation may take some time, but for the moment, let’s celebrate,” he said.
Similarly, Jai Ahooja, running Nimitekam for Pak Hindus, says one phone call years back shook me from within. A person Jitesh Sharma called me asking for some decent job he being an engineer. I asked him to come to Jaipur, but he said since he is on visitor visa here, so he can’t come to Jaipur and can’t even earn his income openly. “I can pursue my job where anyone agrees to pay me in cash,” he said to me on phone. I went to meet him in Alwar and was surprised to hear his pains and traumas. Then I decided to become a social activist. Dr Umedra and I brought Nimitekam for helping these Pak-based Hindus. After forming this organisation, we have had to search for its revenue which came from my wife Meenakshi who formed Rays of sun, a craft centre where Pak migrated Hindu artisans started their artistry.
Their hand embroidery is drawing a huge response and now we are planning to take this art to another level, says Meenakshi who has around 60 artisans associated with the centre.
The only thing we aim at is to provide a life of respect to these Pak-based migrants who are suffering for no fault of theirs, says Jai adding that out of 2400 citizenships given to these Pak Hindus in Rajasthan, 1800 have been given via our organisation.