JAIPUR: It was a deeply emotional moment for Dr Rajkumar, who broke down when the district magistrate of Jodhpur, at a special ceremony in the Town Hall, certified him as an Indian citizen.
A dental surgeon in Sindh in Pakistan, Rajkumar was forced to flee to India along with his family in 2004 after his uncle was kidnapped by Islamist radicals. Since then, he has been struggling for Indian citizenship.
While the doctor and his wife have been granted citizenship, his brother and son are yet to receive the same. His joy at becoming an Indian citizen iafter a 14-year wait is, nevertheless, is boundless. “It feels as if I’ve got a new life. I’ve waited for this for so long. Now I would like to become a municipal councillor in Jodhpur and help other Pakistani migrants get Indian citizenship.”
Besides Dr Rajkumar, 116 people who had migrated from Pakistan over the past three decades were conferred citizenship by the Rajasthan government last week. But most of them got it after an agonising wait of 15 to 20 years.
undreds of Hindu migrants flee Pakistan due to religious persecution, but once in India, their dreams of citizenship get entangled in the unending web of red tape. There are hundreds of such migrant families in Rajasthan’s border districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner.
Even directives from the Rajasthan High Court seem to have little impact on the lethargy of governmental agencies. Over 5,000 applications for citizenship and 17,000 of long-term visas (LTV) are currently pending. Though rules prescribe that LTVs should be issued within 120 days of the application being filed, that never happens.
Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Jodhpur-based organisation Seemant Lok Sangathun which has been fighting for their cause, says, “Despite the notification of 2016, only 233 migrants have got citizenship in the 18 months since then. Central and state agencies take a lot of time. Also, collectors have been given the right to confer citizenship but have not been given the power to grant long-term visas.”
The state home minister assured that some corrective steps would be taken soon. “We have received 2,200 verified applications from Union Ministry of Home Affairs. We will soon organise a special camp to grant citizenship to all these migrants. We are also in the process of sending another 5,500 applications to MHA,” he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje recently met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and asked the Centre to simplify and expedite the process. Raje has demanded that the DMs of Udaipur, Pali, Jalore, Alwar and Barmer should be given the authority to grant citizenship rights to Hindu migrants —a right that currently confined to the DMs of only the DMs of Jaipur,Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. She wants that DMs of these districts should be given the authority for extension of Long-term Visas beyond five years.“The release of Intelligence Bureau reports from the MHA before grant of citizenship is a time-consuming affair,” she remarked.