A group of 29 Hindus from the Sindh province of Pakistan have been demonstrating at Jantar Mantar here for the past four days to demand that the Indian Government provide them food, shelter and jobs.
On October 5 this year, the group entered India legally, seeking a better future for themselves. However, they were allegedly asked by customs officials at Munabao in Barmer district of Rajasthan to hand over the jewellery they had carried.
According to Panju Mal, who sold off his farm in Hyderabad and bought jewellery with the money, they entered India in the hope that they would be accepted.
“But all our hopes were dashed when the customs officials at Munabao, which borders Pakistan, insisted that the women remove their jewellery items like bangles and earrings. They told us that jewellery was taxable. Since we did not have Rs. 5 lakh to pay, we had to leave them there,” he told The Hindu.
The group went to a local police station and had an FIR filed. “But the FIR was filed on behalf of four women and not all eight whose jewellery is with the officials. The FIR is in Hindi, which we cannot read. We were given phone numbers which nobody picks up,” he said.
He added: “We want the Indian Government to give us jobs so that we can feed our families. Wherever we go people ask to show our identity cards. Our month-long tourist visa has expired and we have no money.”
He is worried about his mother, a senior citizen, whose blood sugar level has increased alarmingly but he cannot buy medicines for her.
At the moment, there are 1,114 Hindus, of which 50 are children and 30 are women, from Sindh at Jantar Mantar who came to India on tourist visas at different days.
Conversant in English, Parthi, who studied Humanities from the Government Girls College in Hyderabad, said the job prospect for Hindus in Pakistan is pretty bleak.
“In Government jobs, 95 per cent are reserved for the majority. And the minorities have only five per cent jobs. We have no future there and this was the reason we have come to India.”
Like others, Narain Das too sold off his shop and used the money earned from it to prepare jewellery.
“Now our deplorable condition has become similar to beggars. We do not have a house to live in and our women and children are braving the inclement cold weather of Delhi. We plead the Indian Government to give us roti, kapra and makan.”
Pointing out that an important reason for abandoning Pakistan was that Islam was taught in schools, Mr. Das said from nursery to Class V it is compulsory for all schools to teach Quran.
“After a three year gap, students are again taught Quran from Class IX to XII. Our children can recite the holy text of Muslims but we do not want our children to convert to another religion.”
He said the Panchayat in Hyderabad had paid Rs.13 lakh to authorities to construct a cremation ground for the Hindus. “But it was not constructed. In 1947,
Hindus in Sindh were living in large numbers but now only 13 lakh are staying. We could not migrate to India because we were working under zamindars.”
He shows a photocopy of his passport to show that he has permission to stay in Delhi, Jodhpur and Mathura.
A burly man, Khemchand was a commission agent at a vegetable market in Karachi but is now living in a hand to mouth condition.
“But we are happy to be in India. The truth is that majority of Hindus in Pakistan want to settle down here. But only a limited number of people get visas.”