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Another election gone by, Pak Hindus in Delhi still long for citizenship rights

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Voters queued up outside a polling booth in an MCD school across the street, but for the around 750 Hindu families from Pakistan taking refuge in north Delhi's Majnu ka Tila, this Saturday was just another day of hardship and a longing for voting and other citizenship rights.

Children ran through the winding, uneven dusty lanes with worn out tyres and women engaged in the routine household chores. The majority of the men were out doing odd jobs.

The amended Citizenship Act has raised their hopes of getting voting rights soon, and subsequently a pucca house and a permanent address in India.

"It is the same as yesterday. Elections come and go, without making any difference to our lives," said 43-year-old Dharamveer Bagri who led a group of 484 Pakistani Hindus from Sindh to Delhi in 2013.

As he tended to his cows, Bagri hoped that he and more than 10 other eligible members in his family would be able to vote in the next elections.

"I have never seen a politician or party worker in this area. Why would they come here? We do not have voter ID cards, we cannot vote and we do not matter," he said.

Premji (46) said all that the refugees ask is a home and piece of land to build their lives around it.

"Justice has been done to people living in unauthorised colonies... A day will come and we will have a pucca house and a permanent address... that's why voting rights are important," he said.

Sona Das, 42, who left his home in Pakistan's Hyderabad and came to Delhi on a cold winter night in 2011, recalled that he voted twice in Pakistan but is yet to get a chance to exercise his franchise in "my motherland".

"I am hopeful we will be able to vote soon. A voter ID card and citizenship will give us an identity. Political leaders would listen to us, attend to out issues," he said as he dusted off his harmonium sitting under the tin roof of his unplastered house.

"We do not have proper homes, toilets, electricity... We cook on earthen stoves and use solar batteries to light up our homes. With the government amending the citizenship law, we hope for better days ahead," Das said.

Having his lunch by an earthen stove with his brothers, Roopchandra (27) expressed hope that 15 members in his family would get voting rights soon.

"Citizenship and right to vote would bring us closer to others... Make as more equal. If not regularly, at least during the elections our voices will be heard... We have been told that the citizenship forms will be filled up February 12 onwards," he said.

Aarti Devi, 21, the mother of a two-month-old girl, named Nagrikta by her family after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in December, said, "If I had a voter id card, I would have voted for those who gave us home here, who are thinking about us."

Under the amended citizenship law, Indian nationality would be granted to people belonging to minority communities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 08 2020. 20:50 IST