There are around 200,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan currently living in India.
Today 114 Pakistan citizens received Indian citizenship. Nandlal Meghani’s, Dr Vishandas Mankani’s and Kishanlal Andani’s joy knows no bounds as they too are recipients who will receive their citizenship certificates today.
Ahmedabad District collector Ms Avantika Singh, said that the Government of India took a policy decision that for Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, their application for Indian citizenship would be processed at the district collectorate of the place of their residence.
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, district magistrates (district collector) are empowered to examine applications seeking Indian citizenship and take the final decision. The Ahmedabad collector’s office is examining another batch of 216 applications, the decision on which will be taken soon.
As per the law, the powers to decide on the citizenship are vested with the District Collectors only, but the previous Union governments had made it a precedent that all applications for citizenships were to be made before the Union Home ministry only.
It was only recently when a new government under Narendra Modi came to power in the country that the decision was revised.
The government also decided that for Hindus from Pakistan as well as other neighbouring countries, no rules like seeking asylum etc. will be applicable. Being a Hindu from these countries, whether they have already come to India and settled somewhere or they intend to do so would be enough.
They have to apply for Indian citizenship and in most of the cases, they will be given the same.
Ahmedabad Collector Ms Avantika Singh further said that the feeling largely among those who got citizenship last week was, as per their chat with local media, that these Hindus have found India to be a definitely better-developed country as compared to Pakistan. Many of they say that there is very little or no development in Pakistan. Further, a situation of lawlessness was a reason for worry.
Sharing the daily attacks on Hindu minorities and increasing terrorism in Pakistan, Nandlal Meghani, 50, a resident of Ghatlodia, told our sources, “I along with my wife and daughter came to India 16 years ago from Sindh in Pakistan. We compelled to sell our home and business at much less price to make a new start here in India. The main reason to opt for Indian citizenship was the high crime rate in Pakistan and that also targeted to the Hindu minorities there”.
“Even our Muslim neighbours back in Pakistan encouraged us to shift to India, looking at widespread terrorism and attacks on minorities there.” We were impressed with the common man’s life here as soon as we arrived and applied for the Indian citizenship”, Meghani said.
Meghani was engaged in auto parts business in Pakistan. In India, he started afresh by starting a home renovation firm. His sons are engaged in medical stores.
Kishanlal Andani, 59,sharing his experience and joy ,tears welling up in his eyes, said, “I often think about the place I left behind and my friends there. However, the menace of terrorism had made it difficult for us to survive. When we ventured out every day, we remained unsure whether we would return home in the evening. My Muslim friends there stood by me when riots broke out over the issue of a local temple and mosque. They offered me protection during the most critical time of our lives.”
“The temple was vandalized by Muslim fundamentals and that was finally occupied by the Mosque committee. Though they offered us protection during the most critical time of our lives, but they finally advised us to leave Pakistan as soon as possible.”
“I had migrated to India in 2005 with my wife and four sons. My sons will arrive tomorrow and we plan to apply for Indian citizenship for our daughter-in-laws as well.” Andani owned a general store in Tharpakar town of Sindh province in Pakistan. In India he has started a utensils shop along with his children.
Dr Vishandas Mankani, 50, a resident of Sola Road who came to India in 2001 on visitor visa with four children, said, “I and my wife got citizenship in 2016. Now my children have also got it. We are impressed with development in India, which is absent in Pakistan. Safety is also something one can vouch for in India.” Dr Mankani recently retired from medical practice while his sons run a mobile shop to earn livelihood.
Mankani appreciated the central government’s move to grant collectorates power to decide upon applications.
Many of them say that there is very little or no development in Pakistan. Further, a situation of lawlessness was a reason for worry. They being minority and particularly Hindus made life worse. Terrorism enjoying a free reign was the last straw for them.
Comparatively, life is far more safe and enjoyable here in India. The joy of having granted Indian citizenship was evident on their radiant faces, elated voices. They also expressed gratitude to the Union government for having made the process for citizenship simple and speedy.
Though these ‘New Indians’ are feeling lucky, but they express their anxieties for the minorities in Pakistan who are still living in the crime and terror hub in Pakistan and not getting any scope to leave that land of perils.
Attacks on religious places, encroachment on landed properties, ransom on business, abduction, forced conversion and marriage, murder by terrorism, tangle in blasphemy are the main causes for which the minorities in Pakistan are leaving their motherland.
Government of India’s approach to grant Indian citizenship for the uprooted and migrated Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh (all are Islamic countries) is good. However Government of India must raise the issue in appropriate forum and tell the respective Government to stop attack on Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian minorities in the neighbor countries.
Otherwise, the existing minorities in Pakistan (2.5%), Afghanistan (2.0%) and Bangladesh (9.5%) will be completely vanished within next 10-15 years under unbearable Islamic threats and attacks.