A group of 140 overstaying Pakistani Hindus have expressed the desire to remain in India and make Delhi their home. They came to India from Sindh on tourist visa and for fear of being targeted are afraid to go back. With visas expired, they live in utter penury in Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi and have only one appeal for the Government of India that their visas should be extended. They would also like the government to provide them proper accommodation. These people from 27 families waited for years for their visas and were so desperate that once they got them they walked across to India. According to them they always felt unsafe in their own country and were subjected to discrimination. Not only they had no religious freedom, their children were ill-treated in schools, i.e. if they were allowed to join one. Always being told to convert to Islam, they would like to give up their home country and live in India, they said, just as numerous Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Tibetans live here.
They are mistaken if they think they are the only Pakistani Hindus who want to permanently make their home in India. Before them, hundreds and thousands of them came here with or without valid visas and never went back. And, all of them did not come only at the time of partition. Off and on, whenever, there were atrocities against Hindus, India would see an influx of Sindhi Hindus from Pakistan. A large number of them came after the 1971 War that resulted in dismemberment of Pakistan, arousing in it great antipathy for India and, of course, local Hindus. Even in normal times the process of ethnic cleansing has been continuing. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are two states which seem to have been receiving them in large numbers. In fact, the two states have been welcoming them more or less with open arms, presumably, for political gains. They constitute a solid vote bank for the BJP. An August 2011 report said that around 3500 Sindhis who migrated more than a decade ago on long-tem visas and residing in Madhya Pradesh are still awaiting citizenship. If anything, this is a great under-statement. There are far, far more than 3500 Sindhis in the state. Many of them have merged with the local population without observing official niceties and have established themselves in business.
Those now camping in Majnu ka Tila are right when they say numerous Bangladeshi and Nepalese are also living in India. Hindu Bangladeshi refugees always made a beeline for India whenever they were subjected to atrocities. Their numbers were never accurately determined but it is estimated that a million came post partition, another million in 1950s and around 5 million in 1960s, most came after the 1965 war with India. During the struggle for independence in 1970-71 about 10 million East Pakistani Hindus crossed over to India to avoid a veritable genocide. Not all of them went back; around 1.5 million are estimated to have stayed back.
But there has been no respite for India even after Bangladesh came into being. Migration, in fact infiltration, into India has been continuing and, currently, 20 million illegal Bangladeshis, mostly Muslims, are reportedly in residence in India. There is practically no state in Upper India which does not have their colonies. They have swamped several districts of Assam and border districts of West Bengal changing their demographics. In Assam as many as six districts now have Muslims in majority and in two in West Bengal. In Assam a violent socio-political movement was launched for their eviction. While the porous borders have helped easy accessibility, poor enforcement and rampant corruption has ensured the illegal immigrants to avail of the benefits they are not entitled to. Their presence in large numbers, largely by design, especially in the states of West Bengal and Assam (where their number is reported to be 5 million out of 26 million) has given rise to fears of Islamic fundamentalism and consequential security threats to India. There have been frequent reports of these illegal immigrants promoting the idea of a “Greater Bangladesh” inclusive of the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam.
The case of Nepalese in India, however, is entirely different. They are here in pursuance of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950. Each, seemingly, fell into other’s lap out of fear on the emergence of the Red Dragon on their northern borders. The rise of Communist China in 1949 and its subsequent invasion of Tibet heightened their security concerns. Under the Treaty, Nepalese citizens in India have all the rights of an Indian citizen and they do not require visas to enter India, except a valid identification card while entering India by air. Both countries have also agreed to grant, on a reciprocal basis in each other’s territories, the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, etc. Curiously, however, while the citizens of Nepal have been exercising the rights granted under the Treaty Indians have not only have to have visas for entering Nepal but also are prevented under Nepalese laws to own and acquire property in Nepal. An estimated 10 million Nepalese are, as a consequence, residing and working in India, doing all kinds of jobs, including in the public and private sectors and in the Army, strengthening their country’s economy by remittances – largely informal – which amount to approximately 10% of its GDP.
Although the Nepalese find the 1950 Treaty unequal, strategic concerns apart, it appears to be highly unfavourable to India. The open borders between the two countries have allowed Nepalese to flood the country and take away from the locals millions of jobs in formal and informal sectors and share the resources that are increasingly becoming scarce. Besides, the open borders have been freely used by the Pakistani jihadists to spread mayhem and chaos in the country. While Nepal exports its so-called labour as a national policy, illegal Bangladeshis are plain and simple intruders having no right to be in India in such large numbers. Sadly, the Centre has hardly made any effort to prevent their ingress and has made, if at all, very feeble efforts to send them back. Even a rich country like the US adopts a very uncompromising attitude against those who breach its frontiers. Pakistan, on the other hand, is solving its communal problem by easing out its unwanted Hindus in hundreds and thousands. India, however has never taken up with Pakistan the question of crude treatment meted out to its Hindus even though President Musharraf during a press conference in Delhi had the audacity to make a comment about treatment in Indian Muslims. Surely he was aware that India hosted far more Muslims than Pakistan. He was, however, put in his place by one Maulana Madani who happened to be present at the meeting.
This is not all. Apart from millions of Pakistani Hindus, Nepalese and Bangladeshis, there are a few thousand foreigners including Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have overstayed their visas having entered the country with valid documents. Add to that hundreds and thousands of Tibetan, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Burmese refugees to complete the picture. In India’s 1.2 billion people its neighbours have, thus, made the substantial contribution of close to 10%. Had the country – virtually a sub-continental refuge – not been weighed down by these foreigners, its economic profile perhaps would have been far different.