Pakistani Hindus in the Quagmire of Identity

  • Published in Editorial

On one hand “Tryst with Destiny” was being delivered by Jawahar Lal Nehru, on the other hand malignant “imminent will” (a blind and indifferent force that determines the fate) was waiting to be bestowed to one of the most persecuted communities- the Hindus in Pakistan.

The hope of the relative safety of religious majority as well as the fear of maiming and mutilation followed by the partition of dominion of Pakistan and union of India forced mass scale exodus from either sides of the new born boarder.

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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 immediately after the Partition. Even though there had been a considerable number of Hindu population who staked to live in Pakistan chiefly because they were reluctant to leave what they had earned by dint of pluck and perseverance of generations. Even after decades of partition, the perpetual display of truculence by the Muslim majority made the Hindu citizens of Pakistan think whether it would be their biggest faux pus by being Hindu as well as Pakistani. There are umpteen examples when the cultural freedom of the Hindu has been curtailed in Pakistan since the inception of Pakistan as a nation. Government interventions to provide the Hindu minority a dignified life have always been felt as an obvious eye wash. As a result of which continuous efforts has been made by a large Pakistani Hindu populace to earn Indian citizenship.

The attitude of Indian government towards this persecuted community has been sympathetic yet enigmatic as the governments have failed so far to devise any concrete solution pick them out of the doldrums of citizenship. Stringent VISA rules for all Pakistanis alike make them difficult to inter into India. Needless to say the community has been watching with wistful eyes towards Modi government anticipating the incumbent government will put his best foot forward in this regard. Their appetite was to some extent sufficed 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/Shiks) 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 government is not expected to compromise even a bit but if clearance are being made in a time bound manner it would certainly assuage the panic ridden applicant to a great extent. 

For Pakistani Hindus even gaining refugee status in India is a herculean task to perform. It is worth mentioning here that in the absence of a national legal framework for refugees, UNHCR conducts refugee status determination under its mandate for asylum seekers who approach the Office. The two largest groups of refugees recognized 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 an essential role in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers. The focus of the UNHCR is mainly on Afghani and Rohingia 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 to this persecuted community as they would have not face any such problem had they or their ancestor born on the other side of the redcliff line. Their ancestors fought or scarified their life for the independence of India without any thought that their family would have to fight another battle of gaining citizenship of India. Pakistani origin singer Adnan Sami gleefully twitted with an India Tricolor in the background after getting Indian citizenship. Bangladesh author Tashlima Nasrin was granted Visa to stay in India in a periodic basis despite several odds. Likewise Dali Lama was allowed to refuse in Dharmashala undermining Chinese repercussions. Are Pakistani Hindus in less need of Indian support as compared to these potential and imminent personalities? Are they being less plighted? If not, the Parliament should laid down a concrete framework so that they could lead a dignified life in India which is usually described in words of Tagore as a place “ where mind is without fear and head is held high”.

Mukesh Shukla