Country of Origin Background
India was partitioned in 1947, leading to the creation of two sovereign states: India and Pakistan. The Hindu population of Pakistan, numbering roughly three million, is largely concentrated in the southern province of Sindh. The majority of the population are Dalits, impoverished landless labourers. Although some minor clashes occurred from time to time prior to partition, relations between Hindu and Muslims in Sindh were generally peaceful. After 1947 an influx of Urdu speaking Muslims from India arrived in Sindh province. Communal violence erupted and the first wave of Sindh’s Hindus was forced to flee. Finding themselves subject to religious persecution, they sought refuge in India.
Reason for flight
The tense inter-communal relations between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Pakistan have become more apparent since the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971. Growing insecurity amongst Hindus, particularly with the rise of right-wing Islamist groups in the country caused more Hindus to leave for India. The Islamisation of the country under the dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq made life for religious minorities in Pakistan difficult in the late 1970s and 1980s. After the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992, the backlash against the Hindu population caused many more to flee to India.
Roughly 115,000 people displace from Pakistan have arrived in India since 1965 and most have settled in Rajasthan or Gujarat. The Indian government does not recognize this group to be refugees and as a result, they are unable to acquire residence permits and find it difficult to gain employment.
The Indian Constitution and the Indian Citizenship Act 1955, however, make specific provision for those who were born or whose parents were born in undivided India to apply for Indian citizenship. The Citizenship Amendment Rules 2004 specifically provide for Pakistanis to apply for citizenship in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The conditions for citizenship are that the individual must have been continuously resident in India for five years, rather than for 12 years as is the case with other foreigners applying for citizenship, and intend to settle permanently in India. As a result of this legislation, which dramatically sped up the application process, the Indian government awarded 13,000 Hindu Pakistanis Indian citizenship between 2005 and 2006. Once Pakistani refugees have attained citizenship they are afforded the same rights as Indian citizens. The amendment of the Citizenship Act in 2005, however, has drastically increased the fee structure for citizenship application. For the poorest Pakistanis these fees are prohibitive, leaving them permanently disenfranchised.
Despite the acquisition of India citizenship, some Pakistani Hindus report ongoing problems with accessing the associated benefits including ration cards and other government schemes. The Pakistani communities generally work in the informal sector and often take jobs as manual labourers and in quarries to earn a living. As with many other refugee groups in India, they often experience exploitation in the work place and often do not earn enough to adequately support themselves and their families.