Pakistani Hindu refugees settled in Bhatti Mines area of South Delhi are struggling to arrange food amidst the lockdown. The severity of the crisis could be gauged from the claims of the community representatives who said that a few families have food stock sufficient for two days only. Many members of the community were engaged in excavation and construction work in the neighbourhood and earnings barely supported their livelihoods. With work opportunities vanished, the community is solely dependent on the food distributed by non-government organisations and self help groups.
Talking to NewsClick, Kailash Kumar, a daily wage worker recalled his journey and said, “I came from Sindh province of Pakistan in 2015 because we were subjected to religious persecution. Here, I used to work as a labourer in the locality where contractors would take us to the construction sites and pay us in the evening. I have four children to feed, but I am left with only days of ration. Even though the nearest school is only 500 metre away where food is getting distributed, we cannot go because the police could beat us. I am living in a rented house and need to pay Rs 2,500 per month. The landlord understands our problem and has deferred the rent now. But what to do about the food?” Kumar broke down and added, “It is worse than the Pakistan days. At least I was getting food there. We will die from hunger. I came here with the expectation that we will be treated like equals, but it is not happening.”
Amir Chand, a local grocery shop owner who fled Pakistan in 2014, said that the many members of the community are not literate and do not know how to apply online for ration. He said, “Many families do not have Aadhaar cards, let alone ration cards. I helped people with my stock of ration, but my stock has also depleted. I never thought we would see these days.”
The community had made to the headlines when the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed in Lok Sabha a few months back, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah emphasised their suffering owing to the religious discrimination.
But the community members think that they have been abandoned to bear the brunt of the lockdown.
The lockdown has only amplified the misery in the lives of the refugee families. The members allege that the children of the community had to struggle legally to access education in schools run by the Delhi government. As per Habitat International Coalition- Housing and Land Rights Network, the area in Bhatti Mines spanning over 125 acres was earmarked for refugees from Pakistan by Sanjay Gandhi in 1970. The area now houses more than 10,000 people. Jawahar Kumar, a community representative, said that the fight for dignity is long and a daunting task. He said, “We hear that the government has arranged food for the people stranded in cities. Why do we not figure in their considerations? Are we less of a human just because we are not voters?”
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