Dozens of Pakistani Hindu pilgrims seeking political asylum in India staged a protest outside Rajasthan’s state legislature on Friday, according to the BBC Urdu Service.
Addressing the gathering, Hindu Singh Sodha, the president of Seemant Lok Sangthan (SLS), an organisation that works for the welfare of Hindus, said that they had come from far-flung areas to seek Indian citizenship.
Protesters marched on the streets and thoroughfares of Jaipur city and shouted, “We’ve been persecuted and look towards India for help”. Later, the protesters carrying placards and banners staged a sit-in outside the state assembly.
“These Hindus are the most persecuted people of the Indian subcontinent – but regrettably the Indian government is not doing anything for them,” Sodha said in his speech.
The SLS demands Indian citizenship for Pakistani Hindus who, according to them, have fled persecution and discrimination. The organisation also calls for a cut in new visa fee as most Pakistani Hindus are too poor to pay the fee.
The protesters included both men and women.
“Sindh is like a nightmare for Hindu women who are kidnapped and sexually abused [by majority Muslim population]. Hindu women working on farmlands are not paid adequately for their labour,” said Khema Bai, a Hindu woman from Sindh.
Chaitan, another Hindu woman from Hyderabad city, concurred. “We’d rather die here than go back to Pakistan. Our daughters are not safe there. They are kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam,” she alleged.
According to the SLS, most of the Pakistani Hindus seeking asylum in India are low-caste Dalits, or from Bheel clan.
Social activist Kveeta says the Indian government should provide food and shelter to these hapless Hindus. “It’s a matter of international human rights – but regrettably, the Indian government has left them in the lurch,” she said.
According to SLS statistics, a camp in Jodhpur houses 355 refugees – while in all 7,000 Hindu refugees in Rajasthan seek Indian citizenship.
The BBC report claims that every week the “Thar Express” train brings 10-20 Hindus to India who don’t want to return to Pakistan. In 2005, India granted citizenship to 13,000 Pakistani Hindus and also relaxed rules for Hindus seeking asylum.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2012.