Chandigarh : Amidst the ongoing war of words between India and Pakistan over the alleged forced conversion and underage marriage of two Hindu girls in the neighbouring country, the focus has again shifted to the over 1,200 Hindu families from Pakistan living in Haryana for decades who claim having fled under similar circumstances.
“Such abductions have been rampant in Pakistan. In a majority of cases, the parents would have no option but to give their consent for marriage. Only a few cases, like the present one, get noticed,” said Ram Chander, who shifted to Ellenabad town of Sirsa from Rahim Yaar Khan in Pakistan Punjab in 1998 “in the wake of attacks post demolition of Babri Masjid”.
He said the last time a similar case grabbed such attention was of Rinkle Kumari, “kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim backed by a powerful politician”.
“We felt like second rate citizens, and there were cases of girls of poor Hindu families being abducted,” he alleged.
As many as 66 Hindu families from Pakistan comprising nearly 400 people live in Ellenabad today. Many others are settled in Panipat, Faridabad and Fatehabad.
The Pakistani Hindu families living in Haryana are sore that while those who settled in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, managed to get citizenship, they did not.
Surta Ram, who does embroidery work in Ellenabad, said till the Modi government announced facilities of Aadhaar card, PAN card, driving licence and bank accounts for all Pakistani Hindus as a first step towards citizenship in 2016, they could not even buy a SIM card.
“We could not even afford to fall sick, because prior permission was needed to go to Delhi or neighbouring Ganganagar. Even if granted, it could be too late to serve any purpose,” added Ram Chander, who ekes a living by making juttis.
“My younger brother Gopal was selected for admission to the Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya, Odhan (Sirsa), on the basis of a test in 20013. However, he was refused admission as we did not have any identity proof,” he said.
“Initially, those in authority, particularly the local cops, used to harass us, but things have improved now with the advent of social media and better transparency in functioning of departments,” Ram Chander added.
Bhayya Ram, another resident, said even now, their children do not get any scholarship or other grants.
The families were hopeful that the Citizen (Amendment), Bill 2019 passed by the Lok Sabha in January would end their despair, but with general elections round the corner, the Bill is set to lapse on June 3 in the absence of Rajya Sabha’s nod.
CG Rajinikanthan, a Haryana-cadre IAS officer presently on deputation as Director, Census Operations and Citizen Registration, for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, was Deputy Commissioner at Sirsa from June 2010 to February 2011 when some serious efforts were made to provide citizenship to Pakistani Hindus living in Haryana. “I had submitted a report to the state Home Secretary before relinquishing charge. Some years back I got to know that the proposal to grant citizenship was under consideration. I cannot say where and why the matter is stuck now,” he said.
Source : Tribune India