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"We would rather die than go back" : Pakistani Hindus in India

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    "We would rather die than go back" : Pakistani Hindus in India

    Every day seems like a year. Almost.

    As Time painfully drags on for the 42 Pakistani Hindus living by the minute in a small, dusty village called Kahnaur in Rohtak, Haryana, India.

    It has been quite a while since their visas expired. But none of them are packing their bags to go home. They do not want to return to the hell they have escaped from.

    India has been like a breath of fresh air. There is something here that makes them comfortable. Something called Freedom. Respect. Safety.

    For almost all of them have the same horror stories. They recount how numerous Pakistani Hindus have converted to Islam; they say it is the only way they could survive. It is the only way they could get Respect. Acceptance. The only way to enter the mainstream in an Islamic nation.

    The oldest among the refugees is Sidhu Ram. Over 70 years old, he crouches on a coir charpoy outside his makeshift dwelling in Kahnaur. "We do not want to go back," he says simply. "Do whatever you can to help us. Our daughters are growing up. We came here to protect their dignity. We cannot go there now. We would rather die than go back."

    The conversation is weighed down with long pauses of silence. As Sidhu Ram quietly looks into the distance. The morning breeze gently plays with the ring in his left ear lobe.

    It has taken a lot of persuasion to make him talk. But the fear does not leave his eyes, not even for a second. His family members stand around him, unnerved by my presence and my questions.

    Whenever a stranger approaches their makeshift mud and red brick hut -- constructed for them by the sympathetic villagers -- these illegal residents find their hearts racing. They wonder if the strangers are plainclothes policemen or officials from the district administration. They dread the moment when they will be asked to pack up and leave.

    It feels terrible living on borrowed time.

    To reflect on how times change.

    When India was partitioned 53 years ago, communal riots rocked both the countries. Thousands of Muslims fled India, even as thousands of Hindus wrapped up their lives in Pakistan. There was blood on the streets. There were dead bodies everywhere.

    Sidhu Ram and his family were told by kind Muslim neighbours that they would always be protected, always be cared for. Stay, they had said.

    His mind drifts back to the time when all his neighbours and friends had assured him safety. Caring. Love. He re-enacts how his Muslim neighbours had affectionately put their arms around his children. How they said, "They are like our children. No harm will ever come to you."

    They were true to their word. Until the Babri Masjid fell in India.

    Everything changed after. The Hindus no longer felt comfortable in Pakistan.

    Now, even the dead are denied a cremation. "We have to bury our dead like the Muslims do," says Sidhu Ram. "There is discrimination at every step. That is why we are here."

    Many of them have Muslim names. "It makes us feel safe," says another Pakistani Hindu. Many have have attached suffixes like Mohammed or Allah to their original names.

    Like Ranguram, 18, a labourer in Layya district of Pakistani Punjab. Now, he spells out his name for me with pride. In Pakistan, he had called himself Rang Ali. Not anymore, though. Now that he is in India, he has reverted back to his original name. As have the others.

    But it may not be forever. "They will have to go back their Muslim names if they are deported," laughs a Kahnaur villager.

    None of the Pakistani Hindus smile. The tragedy, for them, is real.

    Almost four months ago, Sidhu Ram asked his extended family of 35 members -- all Pakistani Hindus -- to apply for tourist visas to visit their relatives in India. All of them belonged to Layya and were either agricultural or semi-skilled workers.

    They had lived in Pakistan all their lives; but when they were granted the visa to visit India, their hearts fluttered with joy.

    They packed their meagre belongings and boarded the Samjhauta Express. Among the luggage was a clandestine article -- the idol of a Hindu deity called Pabu. They feared they would be caught, but the idol was easily smuggled across.

    Once they were with their relatives in the safety of Kahnaur village, they decided never to go back. Soon after, seven more Pakistani Hindus arrived. They too pleaded with the locals and the district administration to allow them to stay.

    It had not hurt to leave Pakistan. None of them had any property. Or any form of wealth. Or memories they wanted to cling to.

    A few days on Indian soil and their mind was made up. They valued the religious freedom they received in India. The idol was installed in a makeshift temple. Built with mud and brick and a temporary hay roof, the temple could easily blow away in a storm. Yet, it makes them feel good.

    Back in Pakistan, some temples were destroyed in retaliation for the Babri Masjid demolition. Those that survived retribution are neither being repaired or renovated. As a result, most temples across the border are in a dilapidated state.

    Sidhu Ram and his family have numerous relatives in Kahnaur village. Distant ones. But it does not matter. At last, they feel wanted.

    Life, though, is far from comfortable.

    Home is two tiny rooms made of mud plaster and red brick. The matted hay roof just about keeps the sun out. If it rains outside, it will rain inside too.

    But that is the least of their concerns. Instead, they worry about whether they will still be here when the rains come.

    Now you know how MUSLIMS in India feel, Just reverse the situation.



      All i gotta say is Danish Kaneria.



        Inetresting point.......
        I personally feel that the Indian Govt. should sponsor an all-expenses paid vacation for INDIAN MUSLIMS to Pakistan.
        Once they see for themselves how Pakistan is from the inside, they would say " WE WOULD RATHER DIE THAN STAY HERE".
        In this context, I remember Farukh Abdullah's (Chief Minister of J&K) statement on TV. He was saying that if only Kashmiris on the Indian side got to visit Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, they would never ask for secession again........!! And I think he was damn RIGHT !!


          After reading your orignal post, all I wanna say is,
          Bravo, you couldn't find a more bigoted point of view.
          And by the way, you are welcome to keep those hindus, consider it a neighbourly gesture.

          [This message has been edited by purana_zamana (edited December 08, 2000).]


            PJ, R U sure...that this guy "Danish Kaneria" did not distort his name to prevent himself from being easily identified as a Hindu in Pakistan.
            Atleast I have not come across any Hindu with the name "Danish"....."Dinesh" yes..but not "Danish".


              Usual Chilli/Mohabbat garbage from the Indian Garbage dumpster!


                Ofcourse, anything that does NOT say that Pakistan is HEAVEN and Musharaff is GOD is rubbish for this Malik73 dude !!


                  There are millions of hindus living in Pakistan. Most of them are proud Pakistanis.

                  [This message has been edited by PJ (edited December 08, 2000).]


                    And how many of these hindos are HINDUS ??

                    [This message has been edited by chilli (edited December 08, 2000).]


                      Chilli - 2.5 million Hindu's in Pakistan to be exact.

                      And no Pakistani leader has EVER justified any religious violence against Hindu's like your unrepentent PM Vajpayee did the other day in regard to Muslims.

                      Musharraf's cabinet does not have 3 cabinet ministers involved in the killings of Pakistani Hindu's. Vajpayee's cabinet has 3 ministers involved in the killings of Muslims!

                      [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited December 08, 2000).]



                        Listen all Pakistanis are my brothers, no matter what nation or ethnic background they come from.


                          Hmm..ok just for my General Knowledge..Mr Sher-e-Pakistan, please tell me:
                          Of the miscreants who destroyed Hindu Temples in Pakistan in the wake of Babri Masjid Demolition, how many were caught by the Pakistan police and had cases registered against them.Also enlighten us whether this issue of temple demolitions was ever raised in the Pakistani Parliament.How many of your politicians took up the cause for the sentiments of millions of Hindus(that u talk of) in Pakistan.
                          On the Indian side, a state Govt. fell on this issue...there was President's rule in the state, people were arrested and jailed, and the cabinet ministers that you talk of have judicial proceedings going against them.

                          Your turn....


                            mr vajpayee is saying now that a temple will be built on the Babri land, what does that say about your so-called secularism.

                            [This message has been edited by PJ (edited December 08, 2000).]


                              If u follow Indian wouldn't be surprised by Vajpayee's "alleged" statements. He is surviving on a thin edge with crucial support from a handful of hardliners in Shiv Sena/BJP.
                              His comments are politically motivated and do not in any way reflect the sentiments of majority of Indian (or even Hindu) masses.