New Delhi, Nov 23: Perpetual fear of being targeted in their country has led a group of 140 visiting Pakistani Hindus to remain in India and seek shelter wanting to make Delhi their new home.
The group from Sindh province came to India on a tourist visa, which has since expired, and does not want to return to to their birthplace as they feel their future there will be in jeopardy.
Living in penury and with their visas having expired two months back, the 27 families from a village in Matiari district near Hyderabad feel they will be secure in India.
Currently living in tents put up by an organisation in Majnu Ka Tilla in north Delhi, the old, the young and the children have only one appeal to the Indian Government -- extend visas and give them proper accommodation in the city.
Having got tourist visas after waiting for several years, the group of 140 people crossed over to the Indian side from Pakistan by foot on September two and reached the capital two days later.
Ganga Ram, who is coordinating with the NGO, says they had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in this regard, but are yet to get a reply.
Making rotis in an open space surrounded by her family and friends at the camp, 20-year-old Jamuna narrated her tale of leaving Pakistan to India with a glimmer of hope that at least her children would be able to get better life and education in a peaceful environment.
"There is no religious freedom in Pakistan. We (Hindus) were never allowed to study. We have always been targeted. We were waiting for the Indian visa so that we can come here and settle in Hindustan. We just don't want to go back," she told.
The 27 families have been provided with separate tents, blankets and groceries by Dera Baba Dhunni Dass to make both ends meet. Some youths in the group have started working too in nearby shops.
Jamuna, who went in and out of school, said the families have left their home, land, cattle and other articles behind with just a prayer in their mind that "Indian people would help us."
40-year-old Chanderma summed up why they fled Pakistan.
"Children went to school but they were asked to sit separately. They were not even given water there," she claimed, adding, "We did not want to live in an environment of fear. That is why we came here through a tourist visa."
She says the community can take care of their expenses, but they want their visas to be extended and accommodation provided so that their children can resume their education.
The tale of 13-year-old Aarti would move anyone. She has never studied but learned Hindu mantras from her grand-parents and she teaches other kids in the camp when she finishes cooking meals for her family.
"I learnt the mantras and now I want even my young friends to know them. I bust my stress by teaching them whatever I learned from my grand-parents," she said as her brother joined in.
He would not reveal his name, but asks why can't they, despite being Hindus, can't live in India. "There are thousands of Bangladeshis, Nepalis and Tibetans living in India. Why can't we live here. The Government should make arrangements for us to carry on our life here," he said.
"How can we live peacefully when every single day someone comes and asks us to get converted to Islam?" Aarti's brother asks.
Sagar, who was a mechanic in his village in Pakistan, echoed his neighbour's sentiments and says the tourist visa was the only way to get out of Pakistan.
"Some people in our village used to come and beat us up. They used to ransack our homes and take away things. Things never improved and would never. We now want a place to live. We can take care of ourselves. There is no problem in that," he said.
The children, most of whom either dropped out of school or never went to one, have made open space outside their camps and spend their free time playing cricket and other games.
"We don't want to go back. I am scared of going back. I want to be here only," Amar, 12, says as he asks his friend to bowl.