Pak Hindus seek refuge in Delhi

NEW DELHI: Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Bharti Rai from Hyderabad in Sindh, Pakistan, came to India on a one-way train ticket. She doesn’t want to go back ever alleging oppression, sexual harassment and persecution as a religious minority across the border. Coming through Rajasthan, she is currently in Bijwasan village in outer Delhi. She is among 37 other Pakistani Hindu refugees who arrived in the village this month on a tourist visa, hoping to get asylum in India.

While Bharti arrived in the capital just two weeks ago, her brother, Gomadh Ram, a former farm worker from New Hala town in Sindh, was one of the first few who came to the capital back in 2011. The 34-year-old crossed the border on foot through Amritsar, and reached a settlement in the capital’s Majnu ka Tila. He now sells fruits in Basai village for a living. He recently got an extension of two years on his tourist visa.

Nahar Singh, a politically-connected local police officer, has been helping such refugees for about three years now. Singh says he has taken 811 refugees under his wing since 2011. More than half of them made their way to India in 2012 when the Kumbh Mela was held in Allahabad, says Singh. He claims enjoying the support of right-wing organizations such as VHP, RSS and the Shiv Sena. Hindus form about 2% of the Pakistani population. The 2014 BJP manifesto has declared India ‘a natural home for persecuted Hindus’, while the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has reiterated support for Hindu refugees in his speeches.

“Young women cannot step out of their homes in the evening in Sindh for fear of sexual harassment. Hindu men can’t get their hair cut from a Muslim barber’s shop. The two communities do not even share water,” says Jamna, 40. Like many other women who have accompanied her, Jamna goes only by her first name.

On Monday afternoon, the shelter, located in a non-functioning school in Bijwasan, is buzzing with noise from excited children running in the corridors. The men are away searching for work. The asylum seekers realize that moving to India is not a panacea to their problems. “If we were discriminated against for religion in Pakistan, here we are discriminated against for being Pakistani. It is difficult to get respectable work in private companies or factories,” says Gomadh Ram.

However, Chandrama, a middle-aged woman who arrived here with her three sons, said, “At least one has access to justice here. That doesn’t happen in Pakistan.”

Activist and former journalist Zulfiqar Shah is also a Pakistani refugee in the capital, currently living on the street near Jantar Mantar with his wife. Shah had worked on the denial of human rights to the Hindu minority in Pakistan, and he alleges it was one of the reasons why he was hounded out. “Roughly 500 Hindus leave Pakistan every year. The elite go to Dubai, US or the UK. The poor gravitate towards India,” says Shah.

The group that arrived in Delhi comprises mostly of poor farm workers or well-off small business owners. At least two of them, who have been here over a longer period, have acquired Aadhaar cards, the details of which they are unable to divulge.

Last month, a temple in Larkana, Sindh, was set on fire after rumours of a Hindu desecrating the Quran fanned communal tension in the area. In March 2012, the case of Rinkle Kumari from Sindh made international headlines after it was alleged that she was abducted and forced to convert to Islam.

Source: Times of India