Pakistani Hindus migrating to India for new life often return home disappointed

Pakistani Hindus board a bus for Jodhpur after arriving at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post, about 35 km from Amritsar, on Feb. 14, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 02 October 2020

Pakistani Hindus migrating to India for new life often return home disappointed

  • India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, but centuries-old biases against lower-caste groups, including Dalits, persist
  • The mysterious deaths in Jodhpur of 11 members of a Hindu migrant family has also put the spotlight on the plight of migrants from Pakistan

KARACHI: Last year, Nanak Ram, a Hindu, left his home in Mirpur Mathelo in southern Pakistan with the intention never to return.

Ram is one of what officials have estimated are hundreds of Pakistani Hindus who have recently migrated to India to be benefit from a citizenship law that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government introduced in 2019.

The new legislation laid out a path to legal immigration for Hindu migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

But just weeks into living in a village in the state of Rajasthan, Ram realized that India was not the Hindu paradise he and his 13 family members had crossed the border to join. And so last month, he finally returned home to the Pakistani province of Sindh, where a majority of the country’s Hindus live.

“We were hated for being Pakistanis,” Ram said. What made matters worse, he added, was that he came from a family of Dalits who rank at the lowest end of India’s ancient caste hierarchy.

India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, but centuries-old biases against lower-caste groups, including Dalits, persist, making it harder for them to access education, jobs, and homes.

Ram Devi, Ram’s wife, said the family had remained locked in a house for almost a year, with little access to food or water.

“It was like a life in jail,” she said. “It felt like being freed from prison, when we landed in Pakistan.”

Millions of Hindus stayed back in Pakistan when Britain carved out the state from united India to create a Muslim homeland in 1947. Comprising more than 20 percent of the population at independence, Hindus now make up just over 1 percent of Pakistan’s 220 million people. Rights groups say the community has little access to housing, jobs, and government welfare and has routinely faced violence.

Modi’s long-held commitment to providing refuge has thus drawn more Hindus across the border in recent years. While the Pakistani ministries of interior and foreign affairs and the Indian high commission in Islamabad declined to share figures, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has estimated that around 8,000 people have migrated to India in the past five years.

Many have returned disappointed.

Prem Singh, a poor farmer from Ghotki in Sindh province, said he had moved to India last year only to return after eight months.

“When people would come to know that we were Pakistani, their attitude would immediately change,” he added.

Ram Singh, a farmer from Diplo in Pakistan’s Tharparkar desert, who sold his land and moved to Morbi city in Indian Gujarat, had a similar tale. 

“When I went (to India), we were locked in our homes, and couldn’t move to even see relatives in other parts of the state,” he said. Singh too has since returned.

Asad Iqbal Butt, the Sindh chief of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said local police took away migrants’ passports and other travel documents upon their arrival in India.

“When they think to return, they don’t have documents to travel back. When they apply for asylum, they fail and their savings are minted by lawyers,” he added.

The mysterious deaths in India of 11 members of a Hindu migrant family, whose bodies were found at a farmhouse in India’s Jodhpur district in Rajasthan state in August, has also put the spotlight on the plight of migrants from Pakistan.

The dead migrants’ family has accused India’s secret service of poisoning them, which Indian authorities deny. Relatives have since held small rallies in Sindh but last week, for the first time, they took their demonstration to the country’s capital, vowing to stage a sit-in near the Indian Embassy.

“Look at the Jodhpur incident where 11 members of a Dalit family who immigrated from Pakistan were poisoned to death,” said Surender Valasai, a Hindu lawmaker from the Pakistan People’s Party, repeating allegations by the migrants’ families. “This indicates that India discourages Dalits from Pakistan from seeking asylum.”

The Indian high commission in Islamabad did not respond to requests for a comment.


UK Labour suspends ex-leader Corbyn after anti-Semitism failings exposed

Updated 29 October 2020

UK Labour suspends ex-leader Corbyn after anti-Semitism failings exposed

  • Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure was marred by persistent complaints of anti-Semitism in the party and criticism of the leader’s response
  • Labour whip removed from Corbyn, meaning that the former leader will no longer be able to take part in House of Commons votes as a Labour lawmaker

LONDON: Britain’s opposition Labour party suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday for seeking to deflect blame away from himself after a report found that under his leadership the party was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination.
Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, apologized and said Labour was facing a “day of shame” after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found serious failings in how the party had dealt with allegations of anti-Semitism within its ranks.
Corbyn’s tenure was marred by persistent complaints of anti-Semitism in the party and criticism of the leader’s response.
He was suspended after saying he did not accept all the report’s findings, that his attempts at reforming complaints processes had been stalled by “obstructive party bureaucracy” and that the scale of the problem had been overstated for political reasons.
“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” Labour said in a statement.
The party added it had removed the Labour whip from Corbyn, meaning that the former leader will no longer be able to take part in House of Commons votes as a Labour lawmaker.
Starmer said he accepted the EHRC’s report “in full” and would implement all its recommendations.
“It is a day of shame for the Labour Party. We have failed Jewish people... I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused,” said Starmer, who held a senior role under Corbyn’s leadership but has tried to stamp out the problem since taking over.
“Never again will we fail to tackle anti-Semitism and never again will we lose your trust.”