There were a number of tense, nervous faces in the crowd coming out of the customs and immigration hall, and some of them kept glancing over their shoulders towards the other side of the gates on the Radcliffe Line at the joint Indo-Pak border check post here on Friday.
As they emerged from the gates of the Integrated Check Post (ICP) after immigration and customs clearance, some of them, including women and children, got panicky on seeing the media. "We have already had enough problems. We do not want to speak to the media," said a middle-aged man, refusing to reveal his identity and objecting to being photographed.
As per immigration records, 119 persons, all of them Hindus belonging to the Sindh province of Pakistan, crossed the border on Friday on a one-month visa, but only after being detained for hours by Pakistani officials over media reports of an exodus of the minority community from Sindh.
During their India visit, they will be paying obeisance at the Golden Temple and going to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Delhi and Indore before returning to Pakistan. The leader of the jatha, Anup Kumar of Sakhar town of Sindh, was however more forthcoming in his response to mediapersons' queries. As others looked on, Anup said that in all 250 Hindus from Sindh had been granted one-month visas by the Indian government, out of which 119 had crossed over while the remaining would do so on Saturday.
Asked about their reluctance to talk to the media, Anup said the problem was caused by the 30 Pakistani Hindus who had come to India on the Samjhauta Express on Thursday. "They had claimed before certain Indian TV channels that minorities were being harassed in Pakistan. They had also said that they would not be going back to Pakistan and would approach the Indian government for citizenship. Their misguiding statements have caused problems for us. We had arrived at the check post in the morning and were interrogated by Pakistani officials throughout the day before some of us were allowed to cross over," he said.
Anup gave a rather guarded response when asked whether the minorities in Pakistan were being persecuted. "Some people say it. Those staying in rural areas or in other provinces of Pakistan may be facing problems, but we have encountered none. We live in harmony."
He made it clear, and so did many others in the group, that they would return home after the expiry of their visas. "Our families, our homes and businesses are all in Pakistan. We will surely return," he said.
The Hindu families which had crossed over on Thursday had claimed before the media that forced conversions were taking place in Pakistan. They had also alleged that young girls from minority communities were often abducted. "Such allegations have caused problems for us in the past. We can only appeal to our brethren not to make such statements in public," said Anup as he boarded a taxi to Amritsar.