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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Pak Hindus get Indian citizenship

New Delhi: Rajasthan granted Indian citizenship to 30 Pakistani Hindus on January 5. They had entered India with valid travel documents, but refused to return home citing ill treatment in Pakistan. The Centre has now empowered district magistrates in Rajasthan and Gujarat states to grant Indian citizenship to Pakistani Hindus. 

It is a respite to Pakistani Hindus residing in India, though it is not the same with Pakistani Muslims living in India who returned to their roots or married here. They have been discriminated against by the government, cases of this nature have often been reported in the media. Only last month the authorities unceremoniously deported family members of the erstwhile Nawab of Bhopal. Earlier elderly Kerala “Pakistanis” who spent a few months in Pakistan were hounded and threatened every now and then until the powers that be had mercy on them in their old age.

Rajasthan home secretary Surendar Kumar said that more than 5,500 Pakistani nationals are likely to get Indian citizenship in Rajasthan. 

Pakistan Visthapit Sangh (PVS) which is speardheading the Pakistani Hindus’ campaign for citizenship said that over 10,000 Pakistani Hindus living in Rajasthan don’t have Indian citizenship. PVS president Hindu Singh Sodha said that Pakistani Hindus came to India because they were persecuted on religious grounds and discriminated against in Pakistan.

Most of the Pakistani nationals in Rajasthan came to India after the demolition of Babri Masjid. According to PVS, a few Pakistani Hindus who shifted to Rajasthan during the 1965 and 1971 wars, were yet to get Indian citizenship. Most of the Pakistani nationals migrated from Sindh and Punjab provinces to Rajasthan. There is a village full of Pakistani Hindus on the outskirts of Delhi.

The Central government first increased the application fees for Indian citizenship but after protests from Pakistani Hindus the fees have been lowered and February 2005 has been set the deadline for grating citizenship to them. Tej Dan Detha who hails from Pakistan’s Sindh province claimed that no political party took the cause of Pakistani Hindus because they are lower caste Hindus. Even the BJP government neglected them, and now they were happy that UPA government helped them, said Kishan Solanki, a Pakistani Hindu.

In Gujarat 900 war refugees from Pakistan after three decades of stay in the country will be given citizenship by the same deadline. Most of them are from Koli and Sindhi communities and came to India in the wake of the 1965 and 1971 wars. Giving up Pakistani nationality, they had applied for Indian citizenship. In June last year, the UPA government allowed state governments to process their pending applications and grant them citizenship. 

Their applications had been pending with the Central government for over two decades and the matter was handed out to the state governments in June last year. A home ministry official said that they have been asked to issue certificates and close all pending cases related to the citizenship issue. The district collectors have been asked to deal with the citizenship issues. The district collectors of Ahmedabad, Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch, where most of the refugees live, have asked the police to conduct a background check.

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