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Hope springs for Pakistani Hindus: Deportation stayed

Author: Nancy Kaul
Publication: Vijayvaani.com
Date: December 22, 2011
URL: http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=2111

In a major victory for Hindu activists, the Delhi High Court on Dec. 21 granted a stay order against the deportation of 151 Pakistani Hindu nationals who arrived in the capital in September and sought asylum on grounds of religious persecution and oppression in Pakistan.

A bench led by Acting Chief Justice of Delhi, Mr. A.K. Sikri, and Mr. Justice Rajiv Sahay Endlaw, granted the stay till Feb. 28, 2012, after hearing arguments from Senior Advocate Prof. Bhim Singh and Gaurav Kumar Bansal for the asylum seekers, Addl. Solicitor General of India A.S. Chandiok on behalf of the Union of India, and Mr. Vazari on behalf of Delhi Police.

A writ petition (public interest litigation) was filed by Environmental Engineer and social activist Dr. Rakesh Ranjan, of the Hindu Mahasabha, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, seeking direction/order to the Union of India to provide political asylum/extension of stay visa to 151 Pak-nationals on compassionate grounds and for security reasons.

The petitioner stated that there are currently 151 Hindu nationals of Pakistan holding Pak-passports, the first batch of 114 having entered India on Sept. 7, 2011, with valid Pakistani passports and one month pilgrimage visas issued by the Indian Consulate at Islamabad. The said visas expired on Oct. 8, 2011, but the visitors could not go back due to the threat to their lives [1]

Meanwhile, another batch of 32 Pak-Hindu nationals entered India on different dates with valid Pakistan passports and visas. These visas, too, have expired. Another batch of 06 Pak-Hindu nationals entered India with valid Pakistani passports and visas. This makes for a total of 152, who settled at the Majnu-ka-tila ashram of Baba Dhunni Das ji in Delhi; later one person died of illness.

The petitioner informed the court that these 151 Pak-Hindu nationals have appealed to the President of India, the Prime Minister, the National Human Rights Commission, and other appropriate authorities for asylum/citizenship in India on grounds that their lives are in danger owing to the circumstances prevailing in Pakistan.

Dr Rakesh Ranjan approached the court on behalf of the poor Pak Hindus as they had no resources of their own to approach the court. On being authorised by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha to represent these asylum-seekers, the petitioner impleaded the Union of India through the Ministry of External  Affairs, South Block, New Delhi [Respondent No. 1]; the Union Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, North Block, New Delhi [Respondent No. 2]; and the Commissioner of Delhi Police, Government of NCT of Delhi, Police Headquarters, I.P. Estate, New Delhi [Respondent No. 3] as respondents, and sought directions from the court.

The petitioner contended that these Hindu families originally belonged to India before 1947, but were left in the territory of Pakistan at Partition. Since then they have been living in Pakistan as a most depressed and distressed class, as the minorities and particularly the Hindus in Pakistan, have remained most neglected and ignored in all spheres and fields of life and human development. More than half of these 151 Pak-nationals are teenagers. Neither the parents nor the children can read or write.

The Constitution of Pakistan, the writ petition said, is based on religious preference and the Hindus have remained denied of any civil, political or fundamental rights. The majority of the Hindu Pak-nationals have no facility to go to schools nor are they allowed to study the language of their choice. This has kept 90% of the Pak-Hindu nationals absolutely illiterate.

It is pertinent that none of the 151 Hindu-nationals for whom the petitioner appeared had the ability to sign his/her name. That is the kind of degradation they have faced, and they have not been able to share the benefits of universal human rights till date. The inhuman massacre of some Hindu doctors in Pakistan recently has caused a terror in their minds and hence they are seeking asylum in the world’s largest democracy and secular state, India.

Sadly, the appropriate authorities have so far not responded to the appeals of the Pakistani nationals, who have in fact been asked by Police officials to leave the country. With their very lives, and those of their children, in grave danger should they return to Pakistan, the asylum-seekers sought refuge and succor with the High Court of Delhi.

It was argued that as India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the present situation demands urgent attention of the Govt. of India to provide due protection to persons of the minority community from Pakistan who are residing in the territory of India.

Further, Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees protection to the life and liberty of every person and any person who is residing in the country, and Article 21 further provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or liberty without procedure established by law. The Supreme Court of India in its several judgments asserted that the procedure has to be fair and just.

As the lives of 151 persons mentioned in the petition are under threat if they enter Pakistan, their plea for asylum/ citizenship in India deserves consideration by the appropriate authorities in India, in the interests of equity, justice and rule of law and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

Senior Advocate Bhim Singh refused the suggestion of the Court to approach the UN High Commissioner for Refugees regarding the plight of the Pakistan-Hindu nationals, saying it was for the Union of India to take a call on the matter. Forcible deportation is not only against the centuries-old cultural heritage of India, but also against the letter and spirit of the command of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees to every person residing within the boundaries of India the fundamental right to life and liberty.

The right to life and liberty can only be taken away after exercising the due process of law as has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of India. In such a case, even foreigners residing in India are entitled to enjoy the principles of natural justice and right of being heard, he insisted.

These arguments carried the day, and for now the fear of midnight deportation, Swami Ramdev-Ramlila Maidan style, has been averted. The refugees are currently housed in a more congenial environment in an ashram in Bijwasan, near Palam Airport. And tomorrow, as they say, is another day.    

Notes:

[1] See also: Pakistan Hindus: Return to roots, by Sandhya Jain, 22 Nov 2011

http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=2062

The author is convener, Daughters of Vitasta
 
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