Sikh, Hindu refugees in Punjab elated as Centre opens doors for citizenship
Sikh and Hindu refugees living in Ludhiana have hailed the Union government’s move to invite applications from immigrants belonging to minority communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh for Indian citizenship.
There are around 40 such families living in Ludhiana and 24 in Khanna. A majority of them sell fruits, vegetables and clothes.
They expressed happiness and thanked the government for enacting a law that makes them eligible to be citizens of the country. Among them are widows of Shanker Singh and Jeevan Singh, who were killed by terrorists in the Kabul gurdwara attack on March 25, 2020. Both Paramjeet Kaur, 45, and Harpreet Kaur, 40, are living life in penury after the death of their husbands.
While Paramjeet, who lives in Chhawani Mohalla, has three daughters; Harpreet, who is staying in a one-room rented house in Kara Bara, is doing odd jobs to feed her two children.
Paramjeet said for the past several years, she was desperately trying for a ration card. “As the government has started formalities to grant citizenship, it will ease the documentation process,” she said.
Similarly, Harpreet Kaur said: “The case pertaining to the compensation in lieu of killing of my husband was hanging fire as he was an Afghan national and his file for citizenship was pending. Now, I will be able to pursue the matter.”
Amreek Singh, a Sikh refugee, who had come from Kabul and has been living in Ludhiana since 2013, also expressed happiness over the move. “As terrorists were flushing out minorities from Afghanistan, I took refuge in India. As we were not citizens of this country, we were not eligible for an Aadhaar card. Nowadays, everything is linked to Aadhaar and one cannot avail any benefits being offered by the government without this document.”
Shammi Singh, who came to India in 2012 from Afghanistan, said: “Once we get Indian citizenship, all our problems will be resolved. We will be able to apply for Aadhaar card, ration card and other documents to live life with dignity.”
Running a vegetable vend in Khanna, Pujari Lal, 41, who till now was living as an illegal immigrant, is heaving a sigh of relief. He was among 25 people from Kohat city in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, who had overstayed in India after being targeted by Islamic fundamentalist.