8,000 Pakistani Hindus become Indians
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: A special drive launched in Rajasthan and Gujarat to grant citizenship to Pakistan’s Hindu nationals has ended. The drive resulted in granting citizenship to over 8,000 Pakistani nationals. Rajasthan, however, approached the Union government to extend the time limit further so that more people could avail the opportunity, The Asian Age reported.
Rajasthan Home Secretary Surendar Kumar told The Asian Age that over 7,000 Pakistanis, most of them belonging to the Hindu community, have become Indian citizens over the last two months. “The central government delegated powers to district magistrates for granting citizenship,” he said. “We communicated to the central government to extend the time limit given for the drive, because there are many who could not get citizenship,” he added.
The drive that commenced on January 4, 2005 ended on February 28. During this period, the administration organised special camps in districts with a number of Pakistani citizens. In Gujarat, only 1,500 acquired Indian citizenship. Hindu Sindh Sodha, president of the Pak Visthapit Sangh (PVS), said that though, the BJP government of Gujarat always encouraged the cause of Hindutva, it had attended poorly to the Hindus. Speaking from Ahemdabad, Gujarat Home Secretary KC Kapoor said that those who responded to the call got the citizenship. “Even in Ahemdabad, almost 1,186 people got the Indian citizenship,” he said.
According to the PVS, these Hindus came to India on valid travel papers from Pakistan and refused to back saying they were subjected to ill treatment on religious grounds. “These displaced people have to renew their visa every five years and had been paying a certain fee to Pakistan,” said Mr Sodha. He added that India should raise the issue of these helpless minorities with Pakistan and must have a policy on the refugee problem.
Those who benefited by the move included those who had come to India in 1980. An exodus began in 1990, when hundreds of Pakistani Hindus migrated to Rajasthan on valid passports in view of demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Gujarat government did not show much interest, Mr Sodha charged. Most of them were poor and belonged to the lower strata of Hindu society. “These are the tribals or dalits, that’s why their voice has gone unheard,” he added.
During the two months drive, Pakistani Hindus renounced their Pakistani nationality and acquired Indian citizenship in camps organised by the government. Few Pakistani Muslims also got the citizenship as they were married to Indians. “The central government’s directives speak about Pakistan’s minorities, but also mention cases pending in the Home Ministry, most of them which belonged to the Pakistani Muslims, says a senior official. Most of the Pakistani Hindus came from Sindh.