JAIPUR: A week after they got separated from their mother, six-year-old Kanchan and her two brothers, Mohit (8) and Kuldeep (9) simply can’t stop crying. Their helpless mother Junta is stuck in Pakistan’s Sindh province while the kids continue to cry endlessly ever since they returned to Jodhpur last week with their father Leelaram.
This unfortunate family in Rajasthan's Jodhpur district is facing a situation caused by Covid crisis and the tense relationship between India and Pakistan.
Leelaram Mali came to India from Pakistan in 1986 and was granted Indian citizenship. Twelve years ago, he married Junta, a Hindu girl from Pakistan who is yet to get Indian citizenship. In February this year, when her mother got critically ill, Junta went over to Mirpur Khaas in Pakistan along with her husband and three children. Unfortunately, India was locked down due to Covid-19 and they got stuck there as train services between the two nations were suspended.
During the lockdown period in April, the visas for the entire family expired.
Last week when both the nations agreed to roll out a special shuttle service for people stuck on both sides of the border, the family planned to return to India. However, while Leelaram and their three kids, being Indian citizens, were allowed to return, Junta (33) wasn't allowed to return. Now, while Leelaram got back to Jodhpur with his three children, Junta still stays in Mirpur Khaas.
Junta had been living in India on a long-term visa (LTV) and she had left for Pakistan to visit her mother on a No Objection to Return to India (NORI) visa for 60 days. Under this category, if the person does not return on stipulated time, the whole process to renew the visa has to be restarted. After the expiry of the family's visa, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad only gave an extension to Leelaram and his children but Junta’s visa was not extended.
"I tried my level best at the Indian embassy in Islamabad but the officials did not grant my wife the permission to return. I had no choice but to come back to India with my children leaving my wife behind. I can bear this separation but it’s tough to see my kids crying for their mother all the time," said Leelaram.
Seemant Lok Sanghthan, an orgnisation working for the cause of Hindu immigrants from Pakistan, has taken up Junta's case with the central government. "The children are very young and I couldn't bear to see her condition. I have spoken to Arjun Meghwal, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister who belongs to Rajasthan and is the MP from Bikaner. I’ve requested him to personally look into this humanitarian issue. Necessary instructions should be sent to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to ensure that this family is reunited,” said Hindu Singh Sodha, the president of Seemant Lok Sangthan.
While Sodha hopes that corrective steps will soon be initiated to end the family’s suffering, Leelaram is making special pleas to all officials in Jodhpur to ensure an early return of his wife so that his children can be reunited with their mother at the earliest.