The Tricolour flutters atop a settlement of 20-odd jhuggis on the Delhi Jal Board ground off Outer Ring Road near Burari by-pass. What is unique about the settlement is that it mushroomed last year and the residents are Hindus from Pakistan, who are seeking asylum in India.
“We have left our home in Pakistan. Ab to Bharat Mata ka jhanda hi humara aasra hai (Now, the Indian flag is our only saviour),” said Sona Das, one of the elders in the group of around 200 residents who stay back through the day to safeguard the settlement.
The residents were part of a group of around 500 Hindus who had visited India during the Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad last year. While 92 of them went back to Pakistan in batches, others stayed put. With the help of local politicians they settled in Bijwasan, Azadpur, Rohini Sector-11 and Majnu-ka-Tilla. A small group also found shelter in Faridabad.
Having left all their belongings back home in Hyderabad (Sindh), the migrants are still trying to piece their life together. They have managed to erect bamboo huts across the drain flowing parallel to the new road that will connect Azadpur to Outer Ring Road.
However, none of the hutments have a door as the bamboo structure cannot withstand the weight of an iron or a wooden door. Three to four makeshift toilets screened by saris have been erected and the waste flows into a drain. A solitary borewell is the only source of water. Residents say with no power supply to the camp, security is a major issue.
“We are hard working people and we earn our bread somehow. But we need to have basic amenities like water and power. It becomes really bad at night as the entire area remains pitch dark. With so many teenaged girls and kids around, security is a major concern,” said Sona Das.
“Water is another problem. The residents are forced to depend on a borewell which is only 25-30 metres deep. The water is contaminated, but we have to live with it,” he added.
“None of the men are educated, so the only option is to do menial jobs or small time business. Most of them sell fruits, vegetables and mobile accessories. But we don’t have enough money to purchase the produce from the mandis for sale,” said Nehru Lal. He said his father Sona Das named him after former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. With help from the locals, the children have been admitted to a government-run primary school in the neighbourhood. While the migrants largely speak Sindhi and Gujarati, several of them are able to speak Hindi as well. A group of teenaged girls, who are well versed in Hindi lead the migrants during joint prayers held at a makeshift temple in one of the jhuggis.
These migrants had also held a demonstration outside the United Nation’s office last year pressing for grant of asylum and protection of their rights.