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CAA, For Persecuted Minorities Can’t Be Twice Abandoned

There are Hindus whose stories could not be narrated in the context of CAA as it would put their families still living in Pakistan in jeopardy

I live and work in Australia. Last year, on my visit to India, I made a trip to Jaipur with the purpose of meeting refugees from Pakistan. There was a reason for my visit. I have never read any article in mainstream media publications that outline detailed stories about their persecution. Like most, I knew little about why these people escape from Pakistan, except that I assumed it might be because they didn’t follow Pakistan’s state religion. This article, necessitated by the India-wide debate on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), is about the unfortunate souls from Pakistan I met and heard about, who at least had the fortune to come (back to) India, where their hearts belong. Names have been changed to protect anonymity as they are yet to get Indian citizenship under CAA.

My visit was facilitated by Dr Omendra Ratnu (also a Sirf News columnist) and Jai Ahuja from NGO Nimittekam. They, through this NGO, have helped Hindus, Sikhs and other persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan already in India, to start their lives again from zero.

Some identifying details, marked with an asterisk in the section below, have been changed to protect the identity of people mentioned, as they have not yet obtained citizenship of India.

CAA for this labourer’s son

Shyam* is 19 and came to India when he was 9. He is the oldest among his siblings: two brothers and a sister. His father was a daily-wage labourer in Pakistan. Shyam comes from a caste that is included among the Scheduled Castes in India.

Shyam’s father decided to leave Pakistan as soon as his little sister was born. Life is hell for girls in Pakistan, his father told him later when asked.

Shyam’s life has not been very easy in India. Shyam was able to do a course in arts and drama in India, as that has been his passion all the time. However, holding a Pakistani passport has made it extremely difficult for him to find a job even in the field he has qualified in.

Pakistani passport is a huge burden for refugees that come to India. Businesses do not like to employ holders of Pakistani passport, because of lack of trust with the nation of Pakistan. Sikhs and Hindus holding Pakistani passport must put up with mistrust and lack of dignity because of fear of association with the Pakistani state.

Shyam compares himself to other people of his age who are doing much better because of their Indian nationality, and he feels upset that he cannot be like them unless he gets Indian citizenship. He is forced to do odd jobs until then, and that upsets him.

But against all odds, Shyam is thankful for his father’s decision to have come to India, because in Pakistan he would at best have got the job of a sweeper, and his sister would have been at the risk of kidnap right from the time of her birth.

CAA for this engineer

Rameshwar* is an engineer who lives in Rajasthan. I did not meet Rameshwar in person but heard about him from Nimittekam. Rameshwar was born and educated in Pakistan and stayed back in India when he came for a pilgrimage. His family escaped for the same reason as most Hindus — to save the dignity of their daughters.

Rameshwar along with his family has applied for asylum.

Rameshwar’s engineering degree is not recognised in India. That means he cannot get a job even though he is qualified. He did, however, get a job offer as an assistant to an engineer on a building project, but that was almost 80kms from the town where he is authorised to live like a refugee.

[Refugees from Pakistan have a restriction of movement. They cannot live or work, or travel to any location outside of limits allocated by the Indian government until the newly legislated CAA applies.]

Rameshwar could not take up the job offer due to this restriction. He now works on daily wages. He is eagerly waiting for Indian citizenship.

Modus operandi

Muslims in Pakistan target young girls from non-Muslim background for conversion. There are several approaches they take, from brainwashing using friends and teachers to outright kidnap of young girls.

Media has highlighted issues of kidnapping lately. What’s not known that well is how Islamists use consistent humiliation and brainwashing to destroy families.

Humiliation and brainwashing

Children are told from the time they enter schools that they are impure for not being Muslim. They must eat and drink from separate utensils. During school functions, vegetarian food is strictly not ordered, so Hindu children as young as 5-year-olds have a choice to eat meat or remain hungry. Many Hindu children choose to stay hungry, while they are subject to taunts from their classmates.

After being subject to the humiliation that begins in childhood, some Hindu children break and defy their parents.

Weaponising forced prostitution

Girl children who are brainwashed through consistent humiliation are told that they would be purified after marriage with a Muslim man. A mob descends on the home of the girl child and give an open offer to the entire family to convert. They are told that the girl will be taken anyway. But if the whole family converts, they are told that the girl will be married off to a younger Muslim man as his first wife.

If they refuse, however, the offer doesn’t stand, and the girl is married off as the fourth wife of a Muslim man in 80s or 90s. Once the old Muslim husband is dead, the converted Hindu, Sikh or Christian girl is then forced into prostitution. She is placed in a brothel that is in the same area where her parents live.

Since no parent would like to see her child forced into prostitution, the entire family only has one option – to convert to Islam.

Other untold stories

There are many other stories which families do not want to be published because half their family is still in Pakistan and even a mention of their experience can put the lives of their remaining family members in immediate danger. Those opposing CAA are throwing these vulnerable families to the wolves. We abandoned them in 1947. We must not abandon them twice.

Ganesh Shenoy

By Ganesh Shenoy

Media commentator and political thinker

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