When Sona Das, 42, left his home in Pakistan’s Hyderabad and came to Delhi on a cold winter night in 2011, he did not know what would become of him and his family.
After eight years of hardships, Das and family finally have something to cheer about: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday.
Around 750 people live in makeshift tents and unplastered walls with metal roofs in Majnu Ka Tila area in Delhi. Most of them work as daily wagers, while a few youngsters have set up stalls to sell mobile covers.
“We cook on earthen stoves and use solar batteries to light up our homes. Only two or three houses have got television sets. Municipal bodies have made arrangement for water. But there is no sewer network,” Das said.
Dahramveer Bagri, 43, who led a group of 484 Pakistani Hindus to Delhi in 2013, said, “NGOs have been kind enough to provide us basic healthcare. There are a few good people who have been raising our issues.”
The days of hardships will be finally over ‘if we get the citizenship’, he added.
Huddled into small groups, people in the locality on Tuesday welcomed the move by the government and discussed what would change if the bill is passed in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Bagri said, “What’s most unsafe is when Pakistani Hindus are asked to establish their identify when something bad happens, like a theft, for example.”
“Secondly, we do not have regular work. Citizenship will change things for better,” he added.
Rajini Bagari, 26, said things would be a lot better with a voter id card that declares her as an Indian citizen.
“There are many government schemes which are out of our reach now. If we get citizenship, political parties and governments will care for us,” she said.
The government is hopeful it will be able to pass the bill in Rajya Sabha, despite a boost in numbers of those opposing it.
Though the opposition has slammed the bill, alleging it is discriminatory against Muslims and violates the Constitution, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that people belonging to any religion should not have any fear under the Modi government.
The proposed law will give relief to those minorities who have been living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouring countries, he said.
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