Hindu refugees from Pakistan are India’s moral responsibility

By Mahesh Kaul for (Niti Central)

Hindu refugees from Pakistan are India’s moral responsibilityPersecution, conversion, rape and ethnic cleansing have been the fate of the Hindus who were left behind in the Islamic theocratic state Pakistan in 1947 due to the partition of India. India adopted a secular and democratic setup in spite of being the Hindu majority nation and made its ‘tryst with destiny’ accommodating people of all religious denominations giving equal opportunity for development and progress to them.

The state of Hindus in Pakistan is best defined by the fact that their population percentage has shown an exponential decline. At the time of partition it was nearly 20 per cent. Now it has been reduced to almost below 2 per cent. It not only explains the composition of the society but also the priority of the Pakistani state.

The inhuman condition of the Hindus in Pakistan attracted public attention last year when a Hindu girl Rinkle Kumari was forcibly converted to Islam and subjected to unfair treatment not only at the hands of the Islamic zealots but the Pakistani judiciary as well, leaving no scope for the justice to the grossly persecuted Hindus.

Last year, India witnessed an influx of Hindus from Pakistan who entered India in groups legally to escape the continuous atrocities inflicted on them by the Pakistani state and society. The Indian political establishment played it down due to the obvious reason of the vote-bank politics keeping in view the 2014 Parliamentary election and declared policy of the minority appeasement.

But things seem to have crossed limits and that is why the recent influx of the group of 480 Hindus from Pakistan arriving in India on pilgrim visa to participate in the Maha Kumbh has grabbed eyeballs. They have refused to go back to their native place after revealing incidents of gross human rights violations being perpetrated on them by the state and society of Pakistan.

India is the last hope for these persecuted people not only because it is a Hindu majority society but also because it is the upholder of the human rights as a functioning democracy. A Hindu refugee, while talking to media and explaining the rationale of not going back to Pakistan said, “Hindus are not safe there (in Pakistan). Daughters are abducted and forced to convert. We can’t cremate our dead as Pakistanis ask us to bury the corpses. We want Indian citizenship so that we can at least die peacefully.”

The fact of the matter is that the influx of Hindu refugees from Pakistan is not new and the Indian state is well aware of the condition of these unfortunate people. But the Government has played these developments down. Within a few decades of the formation of the artificial entity known as Pakistan — termed as the homeland for Indian Muslims (even though larger numbers of Muslims form parts of the Indian society and enjoy equal rights in India) — Hindu oppression began. Even in the present scenario, minorities hold high Constitutional and political positions in India like Hamid Ansari (Vice President), Altamas Kabir (Chief justice of India), Salman Khurshid (External Affairs Minister) and the list goes on. But the story is different for the Hindus of Pakistan. Forget holding public positions, they have been denied basic education, freedom of religion and right to life and property. They take their children out of schools in Pakistan when they enter class one or two. The refugees say children are forced to acquire the Islamic education once they reach upper primary classes. Every strategy, from intimidation to persecution, is employed to browbeat them. It affects their cultural and religious freedom. This strategy works well for the Pakistani establishment to keep Hindus away from the employment and trade. Girls are married in their teens to escape assault, abduction, rape, molestation and conversion.

Their lands are subjected to encroachment and labourers are not paid on one pretext or another.

Rajasthan has nearly 2 lakh Pakistani Hindu refugees that have taken shelter there due to myriad atrocities that have been inflicted on them from 1965 till now. The million dollar question is this: Why have successive Indian Governments remained silent on this issue of gross human rights violations having international ramifications?

The only ray of hope has been the shelter given to them by Nahar Singh in Briswajan area in South Delhi. The group of 480 Hindus who migrated during the Kumbh Mela are residing in a 28-room building owned by this philanthropist.

The Government of India needs to take up this issue with urgency with Pakistan and other international bodies and make Pakistan accountable to international laws governing refugees persecuted by a theocratic state.

One thing is clear — the partition of India has not only worsened the state of Hindu minorities in Pakistan but subjected India to new threats in terms of demographic change in West Bengal where lakhs of Bangladeshi Muslims illegally infiltrate into West Bengal and alter political calculations. These illegal immigrants have even been granted citizenship rights and voter cards to subvert Indian sovereignty from within.

But in the case of Hindu refugees from Pakistan, Central Government is adopting the policy of denial and procrastination in terms of granting these legally migrated refugees’ asylum in India.

Thanks to the ever-active social media and the communication revolution, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was forced to balance matters as he remarked, “Why Hindus or Muslims, for anyone who wishes to be in India there is a procedure available for them under the passport law and citizenship law which they can utilise. India has been host to a lot of people who have come and become a part of our country. They have to go through the legal procedure laid down for everyone.”

One thing is clear: Pakistan has declared its policy in no uncertain terms — it has no place for Hindu minorities. As such, India needs to patronise these people, not because they are Hindus but because India, being the secular polity and the cultural fountainhead of Hinduism, has a moral and human responsibility to act as the saviour of these landless people.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had once remarked on the fate of minorities — that “the treatment of minorities in India (read Muslims) will act as safeguard towards the minorities in Pakistan (read Hindus).” By that logic, it seems that Pakistan has failed to protect its minorities and India has every reason to question the policy of persecution adopted by Pakistan towards the Hindus.

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