The Kerala Cabinet decided to recommend the Centre extension of visa period for overstaying "Pak citizens" in the State, who are aged 60 years and above, for another ten years. The Centre would also be asked to give three more months' time to those below 60 years of age to complete formalities for getting Indian citizenship.
"By birth, all of them are Keralites. As such, their citizenship should not be an issue of dispute. The State Government is committed to render all support to them to secure citizenship within this period", Chief Minister A. K. Antony said after taking this important, but belated, decision at a Cabinet meeting held on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day of December 10, 2003. There are about 255 Kerala-born "Pak citizens" in the State, of whom only a dozen are below 60 years of age, he added.
The children are foreign citizens because they were born to foreigners and inherited their fathers' nationality. And, the predicament of the two women reflects some characteristics of social life that are typical of North Kerala.
Antony also said that the Centre would be urged to hold special sittings in Kochi or Kozhikode to complete official formalities for getting their citizenship. This is to help these hapless persons to avoid the hazard of going to New Delhi to complete these formalities.
In post-partition period, these so-called "Pak citizens" were forced to take Pakistan passport for the sake of visiting their relatives in their native State Kerala from where they went to Pakistan in search of job before Independence. However, as sheer quirk of fate, and due to the intricate politics of nationality between India and Pakistan, all of them became aliens in their own birth place for the simple reason that they were holders of Pakistan passport. In their old age now, they live under the mercy of temporary visa extensions and by regularly visiting local police stations or courts to avoid the perpetual threat of deportation to Pakistan, which is the real alien land for them now. They have only one merciful appeal to the Indian authorities : Permission to remain with their dear and near ones during this fag end of their lives! None of them had any past crime record. Yet, the authorities viewed these "Pak citizens" with the tinge of suspicious "Pak agents" to deny them Indian citizenship all through these years.
Notably, Kerala Cabinet decision came within three weeks after Mohammed Ibrahim (74), a heart-patient under treatment for the past two years, was forcibly deported to Pakistan through the Wagah border in Punjab upon the Union Home Ministry orders. The police took Ibrahim into custody from his home in November third week before escorting and pushed him into the alien land across Wagah borders. Invoked under clause 3(2)-C of the 1946 Foreigners' Act, this expulsion or "Quit India" order of Union Home Ministry deprived Ibrahim to celebrate Ramzan festival along with his family members, comprising wife and five children.
Belonging to Nedumbram in Chalakkara of Mahe, Ibrahim's deportation raised numerous questions, especially the divergent attitude being adopted by both the Government and the larger society towards the so-called foreign citizens.
Mahe is a tiny territory of hardly six kilometers tucked between Kozhikode and Kannur districts in Malabar. Being a former French territory, Mahe is part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. As in rest of Kerala, Mahe's local language is Malayalam. Executing the Union Home Ministry's orders of deportation, the Pondi policemen took away the "Pak citizen" Ibrahim from the same Mahe where, ironically, a large number of Malayalees continue to lead merry luxurious lives by virtue of their French citizenship and huge amounts sent by French Government as monthly pensions. As the virtual beneficiaries of the old colonial legacy, Mahe's French Citizens are regarded as VIPs. For them, foreign (French) citizenship is a boon, while foreign (Pak) citizenship haunted Ibrahim all these years to eventually award him the perilous punishment of forcible separation from his family and deportation at this old age. And, as the Kerala Chief Minister said, all these "French and Pak citizens" are by birth status Malayalees alike!
Unlike Ibrahim's sordid past and present, the history of Mahe's celebrated French citizens presents an interesting and colorful reading. The French rule over Mahe officially came to an end on July 16, 1954. The territory was unified into Indian Union as per the August 16, 1954, "De jour transfer" agreement by India-French governments. It left a question mark on the status of those local Mahe people holding French citizenship. However, a single line was added to the agreement to allow all those who want to retain their French citizenship and also to stay in Mahe. Besides, the French government gave opportunity to all those who want to take French citizenship before midnight of February 06, 1956. Thus a large number of foreign French nationals officially continued to stay put in Mahe. All of them were entitled for monthly French pension because of which they enjoy a high standard of living. Notably, none of these French citizens get less than Rs. 10,000 as monthly pension from the French government. Their children go to France for higher studies or for lucrative jobs. Marrying the offspring of French citizens is a status symbol for an average Keralite in and around Mahe because it opens the Golden chance for them to go to France and later to become French citizens. The foreign nationals of Mahe enjoy special status, including right to vote in French Presidential polls, and to record their opinion in referendums of governance in France -- both of which are exercised through the French Consulate at Pondicherry, near Chennai, about 600 kms. away from
It is from amidst these VVIP French citizens of Mahe, for whom French foreign citizenship is a status symbol, that Mohammed Ibrahim was forcibly taken away and deported to Pakistan merely because of his cursed Pak foreign citizenship!
"Indian mothers of foreign children"!
A week after Antony's declaration on Kerala's "Pak citizens", the agony of two Muslim women came into the open since their children are facing the threat of deportation since they were born to foreign nationals.
Although the middle-aged Zubaida and Kunhamina in Kozhicode district are Indian citizens, their children are on the verge of deportation since they are not Indian citizens.
Zubaida, a resident of Pallikandi, has two daughters, while Kunhamina, who lives in Kuttikkattor, has two sons. All of them would have to get Indian citizenship to avoid separation from their mothers. Both the mothers say that there is no point in living after their children were separated from them due to the foreign national tag.
The children are foreign citizens because they were born to foreigners and inherited their fathers' nationality. And, the predicament of the two women reflects some characteristics of social life that are typical of North Kerala. Zubaida had been to Dubai in search of job and got married to an Iranian when she was only 19 years old. She was carrying their third child in 1996 when she had to return to her hometown in Kerala. Her first two children, both daughters, were marked as Iranian nationals in their passport. However, the third child, being born in India, is an Indian citizen like her. The two girls, now aged 15 and 13, face deportation, since they are Iranian nationals, though their mother is an Indian. Zubaida's Iranian husband had left Dubai and she has not heard from him for nearly two years. "I am deeply worried that the police will come any day and forcibly take away my daughters for deportation", she said.
Similarly, Kunhamina has two sons by her marriage to a Yemeni national who came to Kozhikode in 1984 and is in Sharjah now. Their sons, Faiza Abdulla and Ahmed Abdulla, are Yemenese nationals. Police make regular visits to examine whether their visa has been renewed since, in the city police records, they figure as foreign nationals.
According to the worried Kunhamina, she had official information that the police would come to take her sons away from her for deportation once they turn 16 years of age.
Zubaida's daughters and Kunhamina's sons are eagerly waiting for the official response on their applications for Indian citizenship. According to one version, they are eligible for Indian citizenship since they have been residing in India for five years. But some of them have not been able to meet other conditions for gaining the status, like the pre-condition to surrender their foreign citizenship to the embassy of the country concerned. Ironically, they could not do it for the simple reason that they do not have foreign passport from that very country to prove their nationality!
There are numerous other Zubaidas and Kunhaminas, "the Indian mothers with foreign children", living under the constant fear of separation from their dear children. Although they are mothers of foreigners, they are poor and semi-literate - which makes them more vulnerable for exploitation.
And, they remain as tragic heroines in this whole sordid drama of Kerala's foreign nationals!.