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The Human Side of Citizenship Amendment Bill

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB) is being widely discussed as it has been passed in the Parliament. It decides the fate of refugees from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Here we bring to readers the stories of refugees who can be beneficiaries of the CAB and who consider India as their motherland to seek refuge in.

Fear of forced conversion

The two sisters Sahiba and Rabeli from Karachi came to India along with their husbands and children in 2013 to the National Capital Region.

Speaking about the life before coming to India, Sahiba says, “Life was tough for women and girls in Pakistan. Grown-up girls and young women would get picked up, sexually assaulted or be forced to convert to Islam, and we could do nothing about it. We lived in fear and therefore decided to move to India.”

Since coming to India, they live in transit camps Bhatti Mines Sanjay Colony settlement, on the fringes of the Delhi-Haryana border.

Others like Kiran lament that refugees face identity crisis thought they consider India as their homeland – “people here refer to us as Pakistanis.”

Cannot openly utter Jai Shri Ram

Balram from Sindh in Pakistan greets his friends, saying, ‘Jai Shri Ram’.  He tells, “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.”

Fear of abduction of Hindu girls

Forced conversion is nothing new in Paksitan. “The fear of Hindu girls being abducted in Pakistan is so much that we never stepped out alone in that country,” says Geeta Devi.

Islamic teaching in schools

Jamna said, ‘How could we send our kids to school knowing that Islamic teaching is being given to them? There were no jobs for our kids — the first thing that anyone asked us was, what’s your religion? The moment they came to know we are Hindus, they would turn their backs on us. So, we survived on farm produce. We led lives worse than a dog in Pakistan.”

Kept captive while escaping East Pakistan

Supporting the bill Ranojay tweeted, “People opposing CAB are in favour of forced conversions and islamo-fascism. While trying to escape East-Pakistan three of my mother’s cousin sisters were intercepted and kept captives and their father was hacked to death. Thank you @narendramodi ji for initiating Justice.”

Opposing CAB is anti-dalit

Another twitter user Divya Kumar Soti twitted that Pakistan did not allow the Dalits. Quoting Dhulipal, Creating a new Medina he tweeted “During partition, Pakistan did not allow Dalits to leave for India. Pak PM Liaqat Ali told Indian High Commissioner “who would clean streets and latrines of Karachi if they are allowed to leave?”  Most Hindu refugees coming from Pak are Dalits. Those opposing CAB are anti-Dalit.”

Admission denied in government schools

“We have to get water from the nearby Madrasa, our children do not get admission in government schools and we cannot afford private schools,” says a fresh migrant who came to Rajasthan with his family. He did not wish to be identified for fear of persecution of his family back in Karachi.

Why discriminate against Bengali Hindu refugees

Subhas Chakroborty is leader of Nikhil Banga Nagarik Sangha, an organisation working for Bangladeshi Hindu refugees. He says, “Hindus of Bangladesh have lost everything and are being victimized by both the BNP and Awami League in their respective ruling. Hindus are still leaving their motherland in Bangladesh every day and coming to India in a very hapless and helpless condition. This is a big problem in India. This should not be overlooked or discriminated. While Sindhi or Tibetans are getting easy help from GOI, then why so hardship for the Bengali speaking Hindu migrants from Bangladesh?”

Hardships due to absence of refugee specific citizenship law in India

Absence of law to govern citizenship for immigrants seeking refuge due to religious persecution caused hardships to the refugees.

Khem Singh, a Hindu refugee from Pakistan living in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan says “Our children don’t have any options after Class V. We can’t get our caste certificates and aren’t eligible for financial assistance for construction of toilets.”

Hindu Singh Sodha is a Human Rights Activist who works to establish the rights of Pakistani Hindus to live in India. Once a migrant from Pakistan, he is now Indian citizen. He says, “Many people also return because the living conditions are so bad here, but the inflow of people still continues. Government agencies often cite security reasons for grant of citizenship, though most of us were citizens of undivided India; they can at least give us refugee status.”

Jaswant Kaur fled from Afghanistan after losing two of her sons in insurgency-related violence. She is one of the Hindus and Sikhs who escaped persecution in Afghanistan to find safety in India, but are without citizenship. Rife with complicated procedures, red-tapism she has to run office to office to complete requirements. It is a big challenge for the woman in her early sixties with all-women household.

The CAB will speed up the process to converting the refugees to Indian citizens. The persecuted minorities facing injustice in own country can come to the motherland India, which has embraced such people over unknown number of generations.