Home Ministry’s Stay On Rajasthan’s Order Deporting Hindu Refugees From Pakistan Is A Clear Message Of Its Intentions

by Sumati Mehrishi - Nov 23, 2019 06:46 PM +05:30 IST
Home Ministry’s Stay On Rajasthan’s Order Deporting Hindu Refugees From Pakistan Is A Clear Message Of Its IntentionsPakistani refugee in Jammu
  • The MHA’s intervention is a relief to all those refugee families who have been living in fear of being turned away from India and being forced to go back to face religious persecution in Pakistan.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday put a stay on an order passed by the Rajasthan government to deport some Pakistani Hindu refugees.

The Rajasthan Crime Investigation Department (CID) had cited security reasons for ordering the deportation of six Hindus from a family that had arrived in Rajasthan seeking asylum six years ago, according to reports. The family had escaped from Pakistan to avoid religious persecution.

Times Now reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has put a stay on the Rajasthan government's order to deport these Hindu refugees.

The six members of the family were tagged as a “security threat” for moving from Jodhpur, which is known for having Hindu refugee camps, to Jaisalmer, which is a border district.

That the MHA has intervened on the issue is being seen as a big step towards ensuring that Hindu refugees from Pakistan are not deported back.

Dr Omendra Ratnu, an activist working for the well being of these Hindu refugees, says, “This is a statement of intent by Home Minister. A very clear one. That we are with Paksitani Hindu refugees.

“And it sends a clear message to seven million Hindus of Pakistan who are trapped there, that Bharat is your home. If not today then tomorrow or 10 years down the line we will accept you as the citizens of our country.

“Every Hindu has a birthright to be in Bharat. That's a clear message from this order.”

The intervention from the MHA came as a surprise to many. The local media is busy chasing the state government to know whether they will initiate any counter action.

The perception of Hindu refugees towards the central government, on their issues and their lives in India, has been positive. Swarajya had reported in June how Hindu women from Pakistan, who became citizens of India recently, gave Narendra Modi the credit for their safety and security.

Hindu organisations and dedicated activists working on the ground cooperate with state authorities to address issues related to these Hindu refugees and their stay in India irrespective of the government in power.

To them, the MHA’s intervention has calmed their fears regarding the deportation of refugees back to Pakistan. From time to time, these activists educate the refugees on the law and order norms they have to follow as asylum seekers.

Moving from the city they have been given accommodation to any other city is not allowed. It is one of the reasons that gets them into trouble in their long wait for LTVs (long term visas) that eventually leads to getting them their Indian citizenship.

At times, the reason for such movement can be due to something as harmless as a baaraat or a wedding procession but it can get them on the wrong side of the law if it involves crossing state boundaries.

Such careless steps make them prone to be classified as a “security threat”. Swarajya has written on the challenges faced by Hindu refugees and the various interventions from authorities and courts.

In this particular instance, the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) along with the state CID discovered the transgression and the six refugees involved were handed the notice to leave India.

The timing of the MHA’s intervention is also significant. Discussions on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) are expected to see heated reactions from the opposition. The bill is likely to be reintroduced in Parliament during the current winter session.

Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, has been quoted by ANI as saying:

Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Parsi refugees should get citizenship, that is why Citizenship Amendment Bill is needed so that these refugees who are being discriminated on basis of religion in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, get Indian citizenship (sic).

CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to make illegal immigrants -- who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan -- eligible for Indian citizenship. Among the primary requirements of the Citizenship Act of 1955 is this one: The applicant or the immigrant should have entered legally, and lived in India in the past 12 months as well as for the past 11 of the 14 years from the date of his/her application.

The Amendment bill proposes to ease these conditions by reducing the time period from 11 years to six years for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, for claiming citizenship -- even if they have entered India illegally.

Hindu refugees living in India, who have known the grating contours of paperwork related to LTVs and eventually citizenship, would value every positive step taken not only by the centre, but also the state government and authorities.

With the Congress ruling Rajasthan and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in power at the centre, the matter was given a political tone by sections of the media. This should not have happened.

The issue involves the vital aspect of internal security and the well being of persecuted Hindus fleeing from Pakistan.

The state and central governments must note and know that the ordeals of Hindu refugees from Pakistan, even when they are staying in transit camps, are and will be fundamentally different from other probable asylum seekers.

The persecuted Hindu refugees from Pakistan seeking asylum here do not deserve to be served a Bharat Chhodo notice.

The MHA’s intervention is a relief to all those refugee families who have been living in fear of being turned away from India and being forced to go back to face religious persecution in Pakistan.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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