Saturday, August 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Saga of unending persecution
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Kaalian, August 3
Persecution — whether at the hands of Pakistani mullahs or the Indian bureaucracy — is unending for Pakistani Hindus currently residing in Rajasthan.

Despite well documented facts and repeated pleas to successive governments in power, they have been denied Indian citizenship for the past 25-30 years. They eke out a living as farm hands or by doing petty jobs in the absence of any subsidy or help from the government.

Their misery is compounded by the official directive that they cannot leave the earmarked areas. The intelligence of the state police keeps a tab on their activities resulting in unending harassment.

Talking to this correspondent, a majority of the Hindu families, while pleading anonymity, reiterated that “we do not want to go to Pakistan ever. We have been living here for the past 25-30 years and have practically interwoven with the local populace. Many of our children were born here and now have their families. For them Pakistan is only a neighbouring country to which they have no affiliation,” they pointed out.

“Inspite of this we are forced to have our Pakistani passports validated from time to time. This entails a lot of travel and expenditure which we cannot afford due to our precarious economic condition,” they say.

“We are for all practical purposes treated as second class citizens,” they lamented. Elders of the 500-strong community in Sriganganagar recount the horrifying moments whenever Muslims here were targeted during war or whenever hostilities increased between the countries. “The Hindus were labelled as ‘kafirs’ and persecuted. Our shops were burned, our temples were desecrated or simply pulled down. There was a great pressure on us to embrace Islam”.

They added that since this was becoming a recurring phenomenon many families decided to migrate in the seventies and hence, the first of the Pakistani Hindu families landed here.

“We at that time felt that India was our country. We had great hopes and developed a sense of security. But our hopes were belied. It was as if we had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Upon landing here, we were targeted by the intelligence agencies, especially during the 1971 war. We were subjected to endless questioning. It was very unnerving for us,” an elder recalls with a shudder.

“No matter how much we demonstrate our love for India, we are always eyed with suspicion as if we are working for Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI)”.

Elders recall that life was quite normal after Partition but things changed for the worse after the 1965 and 1971 wars. “We were so brutally repressed that many families migrated. Since the border (Punjab and Rajasthan) was open we did not face any difficulty in crossing over to India. It was easier crossing over through Punjab due to the disturbed conditions. But the border fencing has changed all that and the families now arriving have to come on valid visas.

Mr Ishar Dass Sindhi, a Pakistani Hindu, recalled that he was a junior level employee with Pakistani Railways and was one day summarily removed from service.

His pleas for reinstatement fell on deaf ears. Many of his brethren also had to pay a similar price for being Hindus, he added.

He came to India in 1980 and started working as a deed writer at the district courts. Things went on well for some time but one day in 1987 his licence was cancelled by the District Magistrate for being a Pakistani.

Not the one to take things lying down, he initiated legal proceedings but the case is still pending in the courts. Nowadays, he and his two sons work as typists to earn their livelihood.

Some families of Chak 38 GB said they were living in Chak 13 DNB in Jajmaan tehsil in Rahim Yar Khan district. “Owing to repeated pressure to embrace Islam we migrated to India four years ago. We incurred an expenditure of nearly Rs 15,000, including the visa fee, and Rs 4,000 as bribe to the police at Lahore railway station. Since we were landless labourers, the amount was all that we had”.

“We are back to working as daily wagers on the land of affluent families of the village. We came here since some of our relatives had migrated here 13 years ago”, they revealed.

To be concluded

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |