Satya Arora was 10 years old and studying in Class 8 when she came to India from Pakistan with her family, hoping to lead a more dignified life here. But eight years down the line, she and many other Hindu and Sikh migrants from Pakistan staying in Amritsar are still awaiting Indian citizenship.
Deprived of Indian nationality, Satya had to repeat three classes as no school was ready to accept her certificates. Her brother Shiv Kumar, who was in Class 10 when he had come here, also had to discontinue his studies for the very same reason. He is now working.
The list of such migrants from Pakistan runs long. They all have their own troubles, but the underlying problem is denial of Indian citizenship.
To press for their long-pending demand, various Hindu and Sikh families who had migrated from Pakistan to escape persecution appeared before Amritsar deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal on Wednesday and asked him to push their case for Indian nationality.
There are about 125 Pak migrants currently living in Amritsar. Some of them had migrated here 17 years ago, but Indian citizenship still eludes them.
However, there is now a glimmer of hope for them with the state government asking the district administration to verify the antecedents of migrants who had come here before December 31, 2004 so that their cases for citizenship could be forwarded to the Central government.
"I was studying in Class 8 when I came to India in 2004 along with my family. It was tough to get admission in school here as my certificates were from Pakistan and I had no residence proof. But some people gave our guarantee and I got admission in Class 5 in a government school," said Satya, who has now appeared for her class 12 exams.
"We always lived in fear in Pakistan, where the persecution of people from the minority communities is common. We have nowhere to go and cannot do without Indian citizenship," she said.
Another migrant, Saran Singh, said, "Many Hindu and Sikh families came to India for a better life. Although we all are safe here, life is not easy. At times we are told to go back to Pakistan to get new passports. We have to run from pillar to post to meet even small requirements. We had a small business back home in Pakistan, but we were constantly living in fear. Atrocities were committed against us. Our kids were not treated well in schools. We had no choice but to leave our property there and come to India. India must accept us and grant us citizenship."
Satya's brother Shiv Kumar, who also had to leave his studies, feels they have lost out on a lot in life. "We still feel uprooted. The Indian government must think about us and grant us citizenship. There are many girls from our families who are married here, but they still don't have Indian citizenship," he said.
All-India Hindu Shiv Sena chief Surinder Kumar Billa has also asked the deputy commissioner to push the cases of Pak migrants after conducting their verification.
DC assures action
Assuring all help to Hindu and Sikh migrants from Pakistan, Amritsar deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said, "Certainly, this is an important issue.
The problems of migrants are genuine. I will examine all the facts and send a report to the Punjab government so that their demand can be met." Aggarwal said the administration would also help in rehabilitating the migrants and addressing the other problems faced by them.