[Reader-list] Fearing Taliban, Pak Hindus take Thar Express to India

Aditya Raj Kaul kauladityaraj at gmail.com
Fri Sep 11 22:16:43 IST 2009

Fearing Taliban, Pak Hindus take Thar Express to India*Vimal Bhatia
**10 September 2009
The Times of India*

Link* -

*JAISALMER:* In the past four years, some 5,000
have crossed over from Pakistan, never to return. It has not been easy
abandoning their
homes, sometimes even their families, but they say they had no choice: they
had to flee the Taliban.

It started as a trickle in 2006, the year the Thar Express was flagged off.
The weekly train starts from Karachi, enters India at Munabao, a border town
in Barmer, and runs up to Jodhpur. In the first year, 392 Hindus crossed

This grew to 880 in 2007. The next year, the number was 1,240, and this
year, till August, over 1,000 have crossed over. They just keep extending
their visas and hope to become Indian citizens.

Incidentally, these are official figures. Sources say there are many more
who cross over and melt in the local milieu. And officials have a soft
corner for these people, most of whom have harrowing stories to tell.

Ranaram, who used to live in the Rahimyar district of Pakistan’s Punjab,
says he fell prey to the Taliban. His wife was kidnapped, raped and forcibly
converted to Islam. His two daughters were also forcibly converted. Ranaram,
too, had to accept Islam for fear of his life. He thought it best to flee
with his two daughters; his wife was untraceable.

Dungaram, another migrant, says atrocities against Hindus in Pakistan have
increased in the past two years after the ouster of Musharraf. "We won't get
permanent jobs unless we convert to Islam."

Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan, a group working for
the refugees in Barmer and Jaisalmer, says there's unfortunately no proper
refugee policy in India even though people from Pakistan reach here in large

He said in 2004-05, over 135 families were given Indian citizenship but the
rest are still living illegally in the country and are often tortured by
police because they don't have proper citizenship certificates. "In December
2008, over 200 Hindus were converted to Islam in Mirpur Khas town of
Pakistan. But there are several others who want to stick to their religion
but there’s no safety for them in Pakistan."

Immigration officer at Munabao railway station, Hetudan Charan, says the
arrival of Hindu migrants had suddenly increased as over 15 to 16 families
were reaching India every week. “None of them admit they are to settle here
but seeing their baggage, we easily understand,’’ he said.

Ravi Kumar, who was Barmer collector till his transfer two days back, said
the government in 2007 had given permanent citizenship to a few Pakistani

Aditya Raj Kaul

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