The Citizenship Amendment Bill is being fiercely opposed in many parts of the country, but the atmosphere in the ‘Majnu Ke Tila’ area of Delhi is completely different from this.
On Wednesday, when the discussion on the Citizenship Amendment Bill was going on in the Rajya Sabha, Pakistani Hindu refugees in Delhi were clinging to the TV and radio. Some were also watching the news on the phone. The Citizenship Amendment Bill was supposed to seal their desire to make India a home. As soon as this bill was passed in Rajya Sabha, Diwali started being celebrated in the settlement of Pakistani Hindus living in the ‘Majnu ka Tila’ area of Delhi for years. Throughout the night, slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Hind’ were raised in ‘Majnu Ke Tila’ area of Delhi. Elder elders greeted each other and distributed sweets. The Citizenship Amendment Bill has already been passed in the Lok Sabha.
A family living here has named their daughter as ‘citizenship’ after the passage of the bill from Parliament. The daughter’s grandmother Meera Das told PTI that her granddaughter was born on Monday and given the importance of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the family, she named the girl child “Citizenship”.
According to Meera, she had also asked for a vow for this bill to be passed by Parliament and had also kept a fast. Talking about coming to India from Pakistan, she says, “We came to India eight years ago in search of a safe haven. This is our only home, but we were sad because of not getting citizenship. Now we too can proudly say that we are Indians and can fly freely like birds.”
The Citizenship Amendment Bill provides for easy citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till 31 December 2014. That is, thousands of people like Meera Das will no longer be considered illegal refugees in India. Of these, about 750 Pakistani Hindus are living under a roof made of tents and tin sheets in Majnu Ka Tila area of Delhi. Due to various problems in Pakistan, these people came to India from there in the hope of asylum. In Delhi, many Pakistani Hindus also live near Sector 9 and 11, Adarsh Nagar and Signature Bridge in Rohini area.
Sona Das, 42, came to India with his wife and nine children for 15 days in the name of the religious visit on a cold night of 2011. He did not know then what would be the future for him and his family. “We cook food on the stove and light the house with the help of a battery charged with solar energy. Only two or three homes have television. The municipal corporation has provided water, but there is no sewer facility. The government does not listen to us because we do not have the right to vote.”
Now after the Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed, he hopes that there will be some stability in his life.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill is facing a lot of opposition in many parts of India, but at this time the environment of ‘Majnu Ke Tila’, which gives shelter to Pakistani Hindus, is different. Women peeping through the windows and children running on winding roads and many elders who have spent their entire lives in the hope of citizenship are seen in excitement today despite all the troubles. Many of these are going to the temples and praying, many people are shouting slogans of ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as they see the media. Most of these people are also discussing what will change in their lives after the Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed and they become citizens of India.
“The NGOs here are very kind. They provide us with basic health services. There are some people who also raise our issue” says Dharmveer Bagdi, who came to India with 484 Pakistani Hindus in 2013, “Now if we have got citizenship, our hardship days will be over”.
Bhupinder Sareen (45) and Reema Sarin (43), a couple who came to Majnu Ka Tila with warm clothes and sweets for Pakistani Hindus, remember the days when Sona Das’s family and other Pakistanis arrived eight years ago in the bitter winter of December.
Bhupinder Sareen says, “It was December night, it was raining and these people had no whereabouts. These people were shivering under the tree. Then, while passing there, I got my eye on him. I called my friends and made arrangements for bonfire and food for them. The love relationship that started that night, got stronger by the day”.
In the past years, Bhupinder has also written letters to various ministries, politicians, social workers and NGOs about the needs of Hindus living on the banks of the Yamuna.
Reema Sarin says that “many times some NGOs, students of universities, retired teachers and hospital workers came forward and helped us to make the lives of these people a little better”.
Sanjay Gupta, associated with an NGO called “Naya Path” based in Delhi, says in a conversation with PTI, “My organization has applied for the Aadhaar card of Hindus coming from Pakistan, getting them visas, and opening their bank account as well also helped in many legal matters”.
Rajni Bagdi, a 26-year-old Pakistani refugee living in the ‘Majnu Ke Tila’ area, is very happy with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill like everyone else. She says, “Now we will get the Indian voter ID card, which will be the proof of our being an Indian citizen … Now we will be the same as other Indians are. Now we will also get the benefit of government schemes. If we get citizenship, political parties and the government will also pay attention to us”.