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Are They Not One of Us? Citizenship Act Hears Their Voices

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A report from The Economic Times explains the pain of Sikh migrants waiting for the citizenship of India and how the amendment bill by the Modi government has rekindled their hope.

In 1992, when the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan, Mujahideens occupied the place, targeting minorities. A large number of Hindus and Sikhs had to flee and they all arrived in India. Surveer Singh and his family are among the victims who have been living in India on an extended Visa. ET quotes Surveer Singh explaining his ordeal of visiting the government office every now and then for the paperwork and inability to find a proper job since he and his family members are not Citizens of India.

One can understand from the words of Saran Singh, a 50-year-old about how it is to be persecuted on religious lines. Before coming to Punjab in 1999, he was living in Khyber Agency area of Pakistan. The militants who were regularly visiting his family asked him to convert. By each passing day, he witnessed women from minority communities being abducted. Saran Singh left with no choice but to leave his crores of rupees worth property and find a way to India.

DailyO brought the harrowing stories of the Hindu refugees who are living in Delhi who were forced to flee from Pakistan’s Sindh.

It quoted the refugees as saying “we led a life worse than a dog in Pakistan”. The ground report depicts a 22-year-old Balram who greets his friends with the phrase Jai Shree Ram. He recollects, “In Sindh, we couldn’t openly say these three words. All festivals, from Diwali to Holi, were celebrated indoors. Every second day, police would pick us up, lock us up and start beating us up without any reason.”

The words of Geeta Devi quoted in this article further backs the idea of India coming to the rescue of such people persecuted for their religious identity. She said, “What has come out in the news now is that two minor girls were abducted and forced to convert — the reality is that around 25 girls were abducted and no one talks about it. If it comes out in the open, Pakistan will not leave that reporter alive”

A recent report in Business Line may help you to understand the agony and expectations of such migrants living in the national capital. It quotes a refugee who started a garment shop saying, “As Hindus, we feel India our homeland. But people here refer to us as Pakistanis. It makes me uncomfortable and even insecure.”

An excerpt from a PTI report published in Live Mint may appropriately convey why the amendment act of the government is so crucial and meaningful for the lives of many thousands. This is the story of Jaswant Kaur, who had to flee with her family from Afghanistan ten years ago. Here is an excerpt from the report that explains why people like Kaur have pinned their hope on Citizenship Amendment Bill.

“Kaur lives in India on a visa which is to be renewed after a couple of years. Recently, the government introduced a long-term visa but made the procedure even more complicated. The procedure now requires refugees to get guarantee of two Indian citizens who will be responsible if an applicant is caught in a crime or violation of regulations, Singh said.

However, for Kaur all may not be lost. She may have a glimmer of hope with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to ease the citizenship process for people from minority communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who are coming to India in the wake of discrimination faced by them.”

Conclusion

The problem of migrants is a question that governments world-over are grappling with. But religious minorities who were forced to migrate from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are in a peculiar situation and seeking citizenship of India. They were persecuted on the ground of their religious identities which forced them to be migrants.

Except for India, it is hard for them to seek citizenship in any other country.

Perhaps, this is the broader understanding one needs to have before discussing the technicalities Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019. We have explained in length about the bill, which was passed in Lok Sabha and is expected to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the ongoing winter season, in our article Citizenship Amendment Bill: All You Need to Know.

While the government is committed to embracing all such battered souls as Indian citizens and giving dignity of life, it is time for those opposing voices in the political spectrum to ponder over this issue instead of derailing this effort with historically illiterate arguments.

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