Date: 05/04/2013

Pak Hindus on Kumbh pilgrimage reluctant to return
3 April 2013

chanchal singh

NEW DELHI, 3 APRIL: Eighteen-year-old Ganga hailing from Thalia district in Pakistan's Sindh province has been roughing it out in a makeshift shelter off Delhi for the last 22 days with no money and little chance of livelihood. However, she prefers this life of penury to returning to her homeland where, she alleged, her Hindu religion is a handicap.

"Poor Hindus in Pakistan are tyrannised, forced to convert and pressured into getting their daughters married to Muslims," she said.

Ganga is one of the 408 Pakistan-origin Hindus, who have been staying at the outskirts of Delhi in a refugee camp at Brijvasan village for over two weeks. Their tourist visas are due to expire and they are apprehensive about returning to Pakistan where they say they are victims of religious persecution.

Most of them hail from Sindh province's Thalia, Matiyari, Hyderabad, Monabio and Khokhrapaad areas. They had received tourist visas to visit India during the Kumbh Mela. Their visas are expiring on 8 April but they are hoping the Indian government will allow them to stay on.

Sukhnand Singh, one of the inmates of the refugee camp, said, "Muslims in Pakistan do not let our children pursue their studies, saying if you people get educated, then who will serve us."

Bhavani, a mother of four, said "Our children are compelled to get Islamic education, while we want to teach them Hindu Sanskaras."

Though conditions in the refugee camp at Bijwasan ~ a run-down school consisting of 20 rooms ~ are pathetic, they prefer to stay here. Many of them said they celebrated Holi this year for the first time in their lives.

The oldest of the refugees, Nehroo Laal (80) said, "I fled from Pakistan on the pretext of pilgrimage and if I am forced to go back I will commit suicide."

Dr Pravin Togadia, International Working President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has written to the National Human Right Commission and several government institutions highlighting the Hindus' "pathetic condition" in Pakistan.