Friday, an auspicious for Hindus, became even more intensely so for 90 Hindu refugees from Pakistan who fled the Islamist atrocities and had sought refuge in India for several years now. Despite coming to India after fleeing religious persecution and atrocities, they were not given Indian citizenship even as they waited, some of them now for thirty five years.
After independence, the Government of India had centralised the authority to give citizenship to such refugees with the central Home Ministry. This made the lives of refugees particularly Hindus and Sikhs, fleeing Pakistan, miserable. They became virtually the orphans of Mahatma – persecuted in Pakistan and ignored in India.
Ignored inhumanly for 69 years by the Government of India, the Narendra Modi government decentralised the process through a notification dated 23 December 2016. It recognised the special nature of religious minorities particularly Hindus and Sikhs fleeing from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and authorised district collectors to issue citizenship certificates to such refugees fleeing religious persecution.
So it is no wonder that when district collector Vikrant Pandey of Ahemadabad, Gujarat – the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, handed over the citizenship certificates to the 90 migrants, they became emotional and tears filled their eyes.
The district collector revealed that with this district alone there are still more applications, about 120-150 are pending from Hindu refugees from Pakistan. Since the decentralisation, the Ahmedabad district has granted citizenship certificates to 320 minority refugees in one-and-a-half years, the District Collector revealed.
For seventy-year-old Mira Maheshwari it was joy filled with agony. She remembered her exodus to India after the abduction of her daughter and forced conversion to Islam. After failing to retrieve her daughter from her abductors even her shop and house were occupied. It was with agony and despair she fled to India. And then she had no legal existence in India as well. Now as she becomes an Indian citizen, her tears seem to be from the mixed feelings for her lost daughter and at last a citizenship for her own.
The Indian media has however failed to recognise these refugees as such, instead referring to them as migrants.