New Delhi should take up the issue of Pakistani Hindus who want to resettle in India
The hope of relative safety of a religious majority as well as the fear of maiming and mutilation following partition forced mass exodus from either sides of the new border. The 1951 census of Pakistan identified the number of displaced persons in Pakistan at 7,226,600, presumably all Muslims who had entered Pakistan from India. Similarly, the 1951 census of India enumerated 7,295,870 displaced persons, apparently all Hindus and Sikhs who had moved to India from Pakistan.
There were a considerable number of Hindus who continued to live in Pakistan, chiefly because they were reluctant to leave what they had earned by perseverance through generations. Even after decades of partition, the perpetual display of truculence by the Muslim majority made the Hindu citizens of Pakistan think whether it was a mistake to be a Hindu as well as Pakistani. There are umpteen examples when the cultural freedom of Hindus has been curtailed in Pakistan. The government interventions to provide the Hindu minority a dignified life have always been felt as an obvious eye-wash. Continuous efforts have been made by a large Pakistani Hindu populace to earn Indian citizenship.
The attitude of the Indian government towards this persecuted community has been sympathetic but the government has failed to resolve their citizenship issue. Stringent visa rules for all Pakistanis make it difficult for them to enter India.
Needless to say the community has been watching with wistful eyes towards the Narendra Modi government, hoping the incumbent government will put its best foot forward in this regard. Their hopes were somewhat met when the foreign division of the home ministry issued a memo citing permission/exemption for manual acceptance of application for grant of Indian citizenship to minority (Hindus/Sikhs) community migrated from Pakistan/Afghanistan, who are living on long-term visa. This is a solution to one of the many problems being faced by such applicants. As far as security is concerned, the government is not expected to compromise even a bit. However, if clearances are being made in a time bound manner, it would certainly assuage the feelings of the panic-ridden applicant to a great extent.
For Pakistani Hindus, even gaining refugee status in India is a herculean task. It is worth mentioning here that in the absence of a national legal framework for refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducts refugee status determination under its mandate for asylum seekers who approach them. The two largest groups of refugees recognised by UNHCR are Afghans and Myanmar nationals, but people from countries as diverse as Somalia and Iraq have also sought help from the office. In India, UNHCR also works with several NGOs: Bosco, the Socio Legal Information Centre, the Gandhi National Memorial Society, the Confederation of Voluntary Agencies, and Development and Justice Initiative (DAJI). They play a key role in protection of refugees and asylum seekers. The focus of the UNHCR is mainly on Afghan and Rohingyas of Myanmar along with Tibetans. On ground, their support for Pakistani Hindus appeared to be minimal. It is therefore urged that UNHCR should take up their grievances in line with other refugees.
An empathetic approach and altruistic support should be for this persecuted community as they would have not faced any such problem, had they or their ancestors were born on the other side of the Radcliffe Line. Their ancestors fought or sacrificed their life for the independence of India, little realising that their family would have to fight another battle to gain citizenship of India. Pakistani origin singer Adnan Sami gleefully tweeted with an Indian tricolour in the background after getting Indian citizenship. Bangladesh author Taslima Nasrin was granted visa to stay in India in a periodic basis despite several odds. Likewise the Dalai Lama was allowed to stay in Dharamsala despite Chinese objections. Are Pakistani Hindus in less need of Indian support as compared to these personalities? If not, then the parliament should lay down a concrete framework so that they could lead a dignified life in India which is described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as a place “where mind is without fear and head is held high”.