Ray of hope for Pakistani Hindu refugees

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) There was a ray of hope for 479 Pakistani Hindu refugees facing deportation from India as their visas expired Monday after the government said “there was a legal procedure available to them”.

“Why Hindus or Muslims, anyone who wishes to be in India, there is a procedure available for them under the passport law and citizenship law, which they can utilise. India has been a host to a lot of people who have come and become a part of our country. They have to go through the legal procedure laid down for everyone,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on the sidelines of a function here.

The refugees are opposed to returning to Pakistan, saying they would prefer to die than go back.

“We don’t know what will happen to us. But we know that if we are deported, it will be our bodies, not us. We will die but not return to Pakistan,” Dharamveer, a farmer from Pakistan, told IANS.

He is one among the asylum-seekers who crossed over to India through Jodhpur in Rajasthan March 9 on the pretext of visiting the Maha Kumbh in Allahabad.

The group reached Delhi March 10 and took refuge in a 28-room building owned by Nahar Singh in Brijwasan area in south Delhi.

“Hindus are not safe there (in Pakistan). Daughters are abducted and forced to convert. We can’t cremate our dead as Pakistanis ask us to bury the corpses,” said Dharmveer, who fled Hyderabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province with his wife and four children.

“We want Indian citizenship so that at least we can die here peacefully,” he said.

The group comprises 83 women, 86 men and 311 children, of whom one died a few days ago.

Nahar Singh, an ex-soldier, is looking after the refugees. He had also sheltered 146 Pakistani Hindu refugees in 2011.

“They knew that I had arranged the stay of 146 Pakistani Hindu refugees in 2011 and came to my house. I am sympathetic towards them,” Nahar Singh told IANS.

Asked how he was managing funds, he said that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and NGOs were helping.

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