By Ashraf Padanna, Special to Arab News
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2002-01-28 03:00

TRIVANDRUM, 28 January — Minister of State for Home Dr. Vidyasagar Rao has stated that the federal government had asked the states to take steps to trace, apprehend and deport the Pakistani nationals who had gone underground in this country after the expiry of their visas, much to the chagrin of about 400 Pakistani nationals in Kerala who are living as refugees in their own country.

Some 9,035 Pakistani nationals were found to be staying in India even after their visas had expired in July last year and 2,299 of them could not be traced, the federal minister said yesterday.

The federal government, Rao said, has asked the states to trace and deport Pakistani nationals who went underground after expiry of visas.

Talking to reporters in this southern Indian city, Rao said this was a serious matter in the present security situation of increased tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

But with regard to Pakistanis married to Indian women, the government was taking a sympathetic attitude and was considering extending their visas. "We cannot suspect all the people," Rao said.

After the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, the government wanted to be strict toward certain categories of foreign nationals who overstay and disappear.

Rao said regulation of foreign nationals had become all the more necessary as the "proxy war" as India calls the Pakistan-backed insurgency in Kashmir, has claimed more lives than four wars — three with Pakistan and one with China — that India has fought since independence.

Around 400 "Pakistani nationals" residing in the Malabar region of the state, many of them in their seventies and eighties, have been pleading the government to issue permanent residence permits to them for many years now. Neither Indian nor Pakistan consider them as their citizens.

In the pre-partition days, these Keralites migrated to what was to form parts of Pakistan in search of riches. Soon after the partition, in their anxiety to reach home, they approached travel agents who provided them with Pakistani passports to facilitate their journey. Back home, they were living like aliens in their homeland, after the Indian government refused to entertain their applications for citizenship. The government refuses to treat them as Indians and has refused to give them even voting rights and other basic facilities.

They were experiencing all kinds of humiliation at the hands of police and investigating agencies. Focus shifts to them whenever the tension mounts on the border. Human rights activists here take the minister’s statement only as a similar attempt as the tension on the borders rise. These aged, hapless Malayalam-speaking people have been living as refugees in their own land. Some of them, whom Pakistan would consider only as Indian infiltraters, are being labeled agents of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), according to Nandini, Kerala president of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD).

PIPFD had been pleading with the government to regularize their status but to no avail. Surprisingly the local unit of the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads India’s 23-party governing coalition, is a strong advocate of granting them permanent citizenship in India in the twilight of their life.

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