NEW DELHI — About 800 Pakistani Hindus living in Rajasthan left India in the year 2021 after they could not get citizenship, the Seemant Lok Sangathan (SLS), an organisation that advocates for the rights of Pakistani minority migrants in India, has claimed.
The Hindu which first reported this story has said that after not seeing any progress in their citizenship applications, many of these migrant Hindus returned to Pakistan. These figures are for the year 2021.
There are apprehensions that the plight of these people would be exploited to put India in poor light as SLS president Hindu Singh Sodha was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “Once they return, they are used by Pakistani agencies to defame India. They are paraded before the media and made to say that they were ill-treated here.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs started the online process of citizenship application in the year 2018 and entrusted 16 district collectors in seven states to accept online applications for granting citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In May 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs empowered 13 other district authorities in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to issue citizenship certificates to migrants from six communities under sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Although the entire process has been made online, the portal does not accept Pakistani passports that have expired. Because of this, refugees are forced to go to Pakistan’s High Commission in Delhi to get their passport renewed and pay a huge amount there.
Sodha, who lives in Jodhpur, said, “If a family has ten members, then they have to spend one lakh rupees to get the passport renewed in the Pakistani High Commission. These people come to India only after facing a financial crisis and in such a situation it is not possible for them to raise such a huge amount.”
Singh says that despite applying online, applicants have to go to the collector and submit documents, which is an additional burden. A Home Ministry official told the Hindu that they are reviewing the online system.
The Ministry of Home Affairs told the Rajya Sabha on December 22, 2021 that as per the online module, 10,365 applications were pending with the ministry. These figures were till December 14, 2021. Of these, 7,306 applicants were from Pakistan.
Singh says that there are 25,000 Pakistani Hindus in Rajasthan alone who are waiting to get citizenship. Some of these are waiting for the last two decades. Many people have applied offline.
In 2015, the Home Ministry made changes to the citizenship laws and legalised the immigration of foreign migrants who came to India because of religious persecution in or before December 2014. These people were exempted from the provisions of the Passport Act and the Foreigners Act as their passports had expired. People seeking asylum in India come on either a Long Term Visa (LTV) or a Traveller Visa. LTVs are given for five years and it plays a big role in getting citizenship.
In 2011, the Congress-led UPA government had decided to give LTV to hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs who came to India due to religious persecution in Pakistan. Many people who came on pilgrim visas continued to live in India even after the expiry of their passports.
According to home ministry data, 14,726 Pakistani Hindus were given LTV between 2011 and 2014 and from November 2021 to February this year, 600 LTVs have been given to Pakistani Hindus.
The government received 8,244 applications for citizenship from 6 communities in neighbouring countries in the years 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. — IANS