By Asmita Sarkar:
The Delhi Government recently met with a delegation representing the 70 Pakistani Hindu refugee families who have been living temporarily in New Aruna Nagar, popularly known as Majnu ka Tila, in north Delhi. The refugees had been living in the area without water and electricity. The delegation met Arvind Kejriwal at his recent ‘Janta Samvad’, a senior government official said. He also pointed out that a team had visited the refugee families on the bidding of the Chief Minister. “Government has decided to provide electricity to these families by installing solar power panels at their areas since they are living in temporary structures. Besides, water tankers have been placed there,” the government official further informed.
Majnu Ka Tila’s serpentine lanes and its many storeyed buildings house refugees from Tibet. Contrary to what many of us believe, this area isn’t some newly formed refugee haven, and has accommodated refugees since decades. The first round of refugees that settled there were the migrant workers from British era who had been employed in the construction of Connaught Place in the early 1900s. Around half a century later, some Tibetan refugees who had come with Dalai Lama to India in 1959 settled in this place. It is now also called ‘Mini Tibet’. The second round of Tibetan refugees came to Majnu Ka Tila from the border areas of India and China after the 1962 Sino-India war. Legend has it that the place is named after a mad Sufi mystic whose devotion had brought Guru Nanak to him.
In light of the ability of Majnu Ka Tila to house displaced populations from various conflict zones, the area saw a new group of immigrants who landed up here eight months ago. 70 Pakistani Hindu families had shifted base from the Sindh Province in Pakistan due to the violence meted out to them. One such case involves a spate of violence that came in the wake of a rumour during Holi that a Hindu man was seen burning a Quran in Larkana, Sindh Province. Burning the Quran is a crime under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Subsequently, a Hindu Temple and a Dharamshala was set on fire by a mob and the man was taken into protective custody.
Whether India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Myanmar, South Asia has seen a resurge of ethnic violence, that is propelled by the various governments which are held down by religious extremists, who are bent on “othering” minorities by excluding them on the basis of language, ethnicity or religion. The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who were recently forced to migrate as their country refused to acknowledge them, had been turned away from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Their country systematically forced this community out, unlike the Pakistani refugees. Sindh Province has always been a peaceful space for the minority – Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Hindus – however there has been massive unrest against the minorities within the country but the violence is localised and penalised by the government, imprisoning those who were responsible for the burning of the Dharamshala in March 2014.
— beena sarwar (@beenasarwar) March 31, 2014
Delhi Government’s decision to accommodate the Pakistani refugees without fuss, is commendable and in line with the humanitarian Bombay High Court ruling from February this year, which said that water must be provided to illegal slums because availability of water comes under the ambit of Right to Life of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The refugees from Pakistan, like the Tibetan refugees, have had to forego their property and livelihood in the land they were born in, only to scale across borders into another country to set up a home, and an income source for the sustenance of their families.