May 27, 2024

Citizenship for 50 Pakistani Hindu Families

Citizenship for 50 Pakistani Hindu FamiliesIn a major relief to 50-odd Pakistani Hindu families who have been living “illegally” in Ellenabad, a non-descriptive town of Sirsa district in Haryana for around 21 years, the district administration has accepted their applications for citizenship on behalf of the ministry of home affairs (MHA) by waiving the requirement of valid visa and passport.

Sixty-four families were forced to migrate from Pakistan in 1992 following the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and had set up base in Ellenabad. As their passports and visas expired during their stay here for more than two decades, these migrants from Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province of Pakistan were not unable to apply for Indian citizenship due to strict norms. Applications for citizenship were accepted online last week by sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) once their police verification and residence proof requirements were found okay.

The case of migrants was taken up by Bikaner MP Arjun Meghwal and Sirsa MP Ashok Tanwar. On April 25, 2013, the MHA undersecretary S N Garg had sent a communication to Haryana home department asking it to accept the applications of such migrants even if their passports and visas had expired. On September 4, 2013, the state home department sent a communication to Sirsa district magistrate to initiate the process of accepting the citizenship applications of these migrants. Their papers were accepted following a detailed police inquiry in November and December 2013.

One of the migrants, Jai Ram, told TOI on Thursday that they could hope for a normal life now after putting up with 20 years of investigations on any pretext. Apart from this, they could not purchase properties, open bank accounts, were not entitled for benefits under government schemes meant for weaker sections and could get no employment.Jai Ram added that only 51 out of 64 migrant families would be entitled to Indian citizenship as only applicants whose mother or father were born prior to Partition and had had traveled to India prior to December 31, 2004, and refused return to Pakistan could apply. “Parents of 13 of us were born after 1947, but we are still hopeful that some solution would be found one day,” he said.

Bhaiya Ram, who belongs to Meghwal caste, said they were earning a livelihood by making leather shoes, and hoped that a change in their citizenship would also improve their financial condition. Their no-citizenship status had proved to be major hindrance in their business all these years as they could not get good value for their products due to curbs on their movements, and were forced to sell the footwear at lower rates.

Denisha Sahadevan


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