Refugees require relief (not crocodile tears)

Hindus are out-migrating from (mostly Hyderabad) Pakistan. The real heroes in this story are the activist/journalist Zulfikar Shah who was assisting minorities in Pakistan and had to leave as punishment and police officer Nahar Singh who is helping refugees find a foot-hold in a country which is not their home.

We need many more of such heroes, but we also need the political class (as well as the elites) to give serious attention to the refugee problem. Why are Tibetans welcome but not Hindus (or for that matter muslims) from Pakistan? Refugees do not have any one religion, but they are all mostly poor, honest people who are traumatized. We need to do much more to help them out.

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

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. …….  

Hindus from Pakistan often travel to India on one-month pilgrim
visas, purportedly to visit the innumerable Hindu holy places and
shrines around the country. But since 2011, the number of Pakistani
Hindus refusing to leave at the end of their stay has increased
dramatically in response to the easing of visa regulations by the Indian
government, which has announced that Hindus from Pakistan can get long
term visas if they follow certain rules.

Most hail from Pakistan’s Hyderabad province, home to the majority of
the country’s 2.5 million Hindus. Once in India, they can apply for
refugee or asylum seeker status. But if their applications are denied,
they can simply go on extending their visas.
Those who stay usually end up living in tents on land offered on a
temporary basis by religious groups or temples. But lack of
identification documents means no real jobs, limited income and no means
to benefit from state welfare schemes.

But religious freedom is meaningless unless Pakistani Hindus are
given legal status and allowed to hold legitimate jobs so that they can
provide adequately for their families, said Ram Das, a college graduate
who came to India in 2011. Like most other asylum seekers from Pakistan,
despite his education, Das now makes his living as a lowly street

“Wherever we go to look for better jobs, they ask for identity cards
and when we show them our Pakistan passports, they refuse us straight
away,” he said.

“We are neither Pakistanis nor Indians,” Das said, adding that the
Indian government is not responding to their repeated applications for
asylum or refugee status. “We get our visas extended, but how long can
we go on like that? At least give us refugee status.”

Overall, Pakistani Hindus have not benefited as much as other
migrants from Tibet, Myanmar and Afghanistan, who have been assisted by
the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

 India shelters
some 100,000 Tibetans, more than 110,000 Chin refugees, and some 250 who
have fled Afghanistan.

Mal says that he has filed several requests for financial help at the UNHCR office, but all of these have been rejected.

A spokesperson for UNHCR said it’s up to the Indian government to
decide whether or not to assist refugees and asylum seekers from

“In the absence of a national legal framework for refugees in India,
the UNHCR has an understanding with the government of India whereby the
government assists refugees and asylum seekers from close neighboring
countries” and UNHCR assists those from Myanmar and Afghanistan, Suchita
Mehta, UNHCR public information officer said in an e-mail to

So for now, Pakistani Hindus can only wait patiently and continue extending their visas.

“When God has saved us from the atrocities in Pakistan, he will
surely show us the way in India,” said 25-year-old asylum seeker
Bindiya. “Good days will come. It is just a matter of time.”



Brown Pundits