Following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill by both the Houses of Parliament which grants citizenship to persecuted religious minorities of three neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, there is a sense of jubilation and newfound freedom among minorities especially Pakistani Hindus who are currently residing in the country.
It was evident as the passing of the legislation was welcomed with bursting fireworks, loud cheers in these refugee camps and was celebrated with a festive mood across the country as these persecuted minorities found their new home in India.
On Thursday, speaking to OpIndia team, Pakistani Hindus living in north Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila expressed joy following the passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill in both houses of Parliament.
Speaking to OpIndia team, several families, who had come to India years ago after fleeing Pakistan said that they had left the country on the pretext of visiting India on a religious trip. Sharing their horrific experiences in Pakistan, the persecuted Hindus said they were subjected to forcefully abductions and religious conversions which were overlooked by the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
“Our temples were attacked, we were not allowed to celebrate the Hindu festivals. Our children are forced to study Islamic texts and prayers at schools. The Hindu women were harassed and we were not allowed to come out of our homes,” said a lady.
These families stated that the Pakistan government did not even intervene to stop these human rights violations on Hindus. “The police officials in Pakitan neither take cognizance of our complaints nor act against those perpetrators”, said another refugee.
“Soon after independence, Pakistan chose to become an Islamic country. Only Muslims enjoy all benefits in Pakistan unlike India where Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, Christians all can co-exist together,” he added.
The refugees said that they have come to India nearly a decade back with a valid visa issued by the Indian government. The refugees added that they had to leave their families in Pakistan, who according to them are in lakhs, facing persecution in Pakistan.
“Currently, the Indian government has stopped issuing a visa to Pakistani Hindus, which has led these minorities to stay back in Pakistan. The visa cost is also high. Our families cannot come to India with these rules. More than 400 families are still facing threats in Pakistan,” the family added.
Tarachand, another Pakistani refugee said the Hindus are facing severe atrocities in Pakistan for religious reasons. “We are not allowed to enter hotels. We are treated as untouchables. They do not serve us food or water,” said Tarachand.
“Quran is forced on us. We are here in India for religious reasons. We have received a lot of love in India for the past five years. A lot of our relatives are still staying in Pakistan. The forced abductions of Hindu girls are rampant in Pakistan. Despite all these persecutions in Pakistan, we did not give up practising Hinduism” said another lady who has fled from Sindh province of Pakistan.
Ever since they came to India, a refugee said they have been treated well in the country and has never faced any difficulties here. Expressing happiness over being eligible for citizenship, the lady added that she feels like a bird who has been let out of a cage. It feels like we are independent now, she added.
Baldevi, a mother of two, who had arrived in India with her husband and sister, said that India is a secular country but in Pakistan, Hindus are treated with the utmost contempt. “The hatred for Hindus is extreme in Pakistan and they do not allow us to even drink water from their wells or serve food to us in restaurants. We are subjected to economic boycott,” said Baldevi.
“We are happy that we are citizens of this country. We do not want anything other than Indian citizenship. I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for granting citizenship. Modi has come to help us, Hindus,” added Baldevi.
The refugees also hoped that since the Modi government has given citizenship to them now, they will also be provided with basic amenities in these colonies and infrastructure such as schools, sanitation and basic healthcare.
“The place we are staying is a burial ground. We have converted this place into heaven,” said Baldevi.
Another family residing in the resettlement colony has named their newborn daughter ‘Nagrikta’ (citizenship) in the honour of the bill that will now ensure they are the legal citizens of India.
“I have named my son Bharat and daughter as Bharati. Now, as my granddaughter was born in India, we have decided to call her Nagrikta,” said the grandmother with a big smile on her face.
In addition to these families, the makeshift tents and unplastered walls with metal roofs in north Delhi’s Majnu ka Tila area are home to about over 750 Pakistani Hindus who fled the neighbouring country to seek refuge in India. Apart from these refugees, many others also live in resettlement colonies in Rohini Sector 9 and 11, Adarsh Nagar and near the Signature Bridge.
With both the houses of Parliament passing the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill, people belonging to six minority communities of three Islamic countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will now be granted citizenship in India provided they had arrived here on or before 31 December 2014.