Wo Chahte Hain Jaage Na Koiiiii, Ye Raat Ye Andhakar Chale Har Koi Bhatakta Rahe Yunhi, Aur Desh Yunhi Lachar Chale
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Hindu refugees from Pakistan: Left in the cold
Adnan Bhat | The News Minute | January 5, 2015 | 5.34 pm IST
On 26th April last year, 11-year-old, Sadh Ram left his home in Sind province in Pakistan, accompanying his family across the border to perform the last rites of his decreased grandfather in Haridwar. At the time, Ram was well aware of the fact that he’ll never get to see his home again. But unlike most kids of his age he was not sad about having to leave. He was rather excited. Ram was told by his father that they were moving to India; a country where he can play out in the open with other boys, go to school and didn’t have to hide his Hindu identity.
Now, almost eight months later after having made the journey, things have not turned-out to be exactly what he had in mind. Living in a tent that he shares with his four siblings and parents and another family of five near Majnu Ka Tila at northeast end of New Delhi, he is still hopeful that everything will soon turnout as he had planned.
Like Ram’s, there are 105 Pakistani Hindu families living in tents in grim conditions at this refugee camp. To escape religious persecution, most of them had arrived in India last year from Sind province in Pakistan with visas under the pretext of pilgrimage to Haridwar, but not to return.
They want PM Modi to give them Indian citizenship. “This is our real homeland. We want the government to settle us here, so our children can go to school and have a better future. We have sacrificed everything so that our children don’t have to live in fear. We would rather die than go back to Pakistan,” say Laxam Lal, 43, who has been appointed the pradhan (headman) at the camp.
There is electricity in the tents – most of them shared by two families—and the government has made sure they get timely water supply. However, with almost no source of income, they are basically living-off whatever comes their way. Food is mostly provided by the nearby gurdawara while the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other right wing organizations provide clothes and footwear.
“We are living here like cattle,” say 50-year-old Jamuna, who has been in this camp with her two son’s since arriving from Hyderabad, Sind in early 2013. “Not a day passes by when I don’t miss my home. I have lot of memories attached to that place but going back is not an option. There (Pakistan) we are not safe. Our women are harassed on daily basis and some have even been forced to convert. It’s like living in a jail.”
Her youngest son and his wife are still in Pakistan. They have not been able to come across the border due to pending visa issues. Jamuna alleges that the Pakistani government is deliberately not giving them visas. “When we spoke to him last time on the phone, he told us his visa application is still pending and it can take more than few months.”
Fearful of religious conversion most of the children in this camp have hardly ever been to school. “In school they asked us to become Muslim and read kalima, but we refused. We didn’t even go to play outside because of that,” says a 12-year-old.