For Pakistani migrants in Pune, citizenship act is end of long battle for existence, employmentUpdated: Dec 17, 2019 14:32 IST
Jagdish Parwani was 35 years old when he and his family fled the Sangad district in Sindh province of Pakistan, to Pune, in the year 2000, with a hope to find a way out of the country to a safe life among their “own people”.
In 1947, Parwani’s forefathers could not migrate to India amid the religious violence that broke out after the Partition.
Parwani was born and raised in Pakistan but faced religious discrimination for around three decades.
His daughters lived amid fears of abductions and forced religious conversions, said Parwani. The family then decided to migrate to India.
“When I brought my family to India in 2000,we had applied for Indian visas, but were denied the same by the authorities,” said Parwani,who is now 52 and running his own business.
The family then relied on sponsorship certificates from their relatives and got visas to stay. But they had to apply for a visa extension every year, for which the family of four had to spend ₹50,000 per head.
The Parwanis had to wait 12 years before they could apply for Indian citizenship and submit their documents with the Pune district collectorate.
This was after the Modi government made amendments allowing migrant minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to stay in India on long-term visas. In 2016, the Centre permitted collectors in 16 districts across seven states, including Pune in Maharashtra, to grant citizenship to Pakistani migrants.
From 2017, Parwani has been visiting the district collector’s office, but was told that his papers were stuck. Frequent visits to the collector’s office had added to the family’s financial woes, he added.
Two decades on, his wife and one of his daughters have been granted Indian citizenship, but Parwani and his other daughter are yet to become Indian citizens.
Many other families who had fled from Pakistan, share a similar story. But even after migrating to India, their struggles did not end and they continued to faced severe hardships.
Now with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, Parwani and other migrants like him are hopeful about becoming an Indian citizen. “Our struggle is over. The amended Act is freedom for us from the lengthy documentation procedure,” said Parwani.
The Act will help Pakistani refugees like Parwani now become Indian citizens without much struggle.
The Act provides for citizenship to undocumented migrants belonging to six religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who migrated to India before December 31, 2014.
It also accelerated the process for citizenship, allowing six years of residence in India to apply for citizenship.
Of around 500 other Sindhi Hindu families who migrated to Pune in the past three decades, at least 300 are awaiting anxiously for their citizenship.
Locals hesitated giving the family a home on rent as they were from Pakistan.
Despite having relevant certificates, they were frequently inquired by the police. Migrants have to spend hours at the police station for examination.
Mahendra Rajaha, a Pakistani migrant to Pimpri, had been facing similar difficulties while seeking employment.
As Rajaha does not have valid documents, he was unable to get a job based on his visa alone.
It was equally difficult for him to get his children admitted to schools. Despite the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) certificates, most of the schools were reluctant to admit children of Pakistani migrants.
“That was a very bad patch of our lives. In Pakistan, we were tagged as Indians, while in India, people didn’t accept us because of suspicions over our Pakistani connection,” Rajaha said.
These migrants are strong supporters of the amended Act, and hope that it will finally fulfill their dream to become Indian citizens.
However, there are fears of red-tapism, corruption, complicated procedures and with multiple verifications process, despite most migrants welcoming the decision made by the Modi government.