Twelve-year-old Akash wants to become a doctor. He lives in the Pakistani Hindu refugee resettlement colony, near the Majnu Ka Tilla Gurudwara. The area is famous as it is now home to 200 Hindu families from Pakistan. Electricity and water connections are there, but people have no accommodation. They are living in refugee camps and temporary shelters.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs alert, the Centre is considering simplifying the procedures of granting citizenship to minorities from Pakistan living on Long Term Visa (LTV) in India. This would mean providing them basic rights of citizenship by issuing Aadhar cards, PAN cards, and allowing them to buy property but nothing has happened so far.
People live here, in reed and bamboo huts. They are delicate dwellings, pieced together with bamboo, twigs and branches. Other Pakistani Hindu Refugee settlements are dispersed across Delhi NCR, in mainly Rohini Sector 11 and Faridabad. The one in the Majnu ka Tilla settlement was set up in 2011 when the first group of families from Pakistan crossed the border. Since then, they have been coming to India in waves till date.
Ambika, a final year student of Delhi University, teaches the teenagers in the camp. For Bhagi Devi, Majnu ka Tilla offers a safer home. She feels that there is a greater respect for minorities in India. “In India, Muslims are treated with much respect, they are given fair opportunity and have representation in government jobs but in Pakistan, Hindus are treated as untouchables,” said Bhagi Devi.
A few months back, dozens of these refugees were rendered homeless as 30 shanties were gutted in a fire. Nine fire engines had rushed to the spot and situation was brought under control. A cheque of ₹25,000 was given to all the affected families. Since they did not have a bank account; the cheque was of no use to them.
These asylum-seekers say that they want Indian citizenship and identity cards, which will remove all hurdles they face in the country. Balram and Saida had recently shifted to this place. They said that they have high expectations from the Modi-led government at the Centre. “The moment we left Pakistan, we had already accepted India as our homeland,” says Saida.
Image courtesy: Meghna Sen