The wait for a new passport

Ten kilometres from Jodhpur city, on a sultry afternoon under a flapping tent, a baby girl is born to Sadhu and Radha. People crowd around and peer into the tent to congratulate the couple. Someone in the crowd says, "The first Indian among us, she should be named Bharati." The suggestion is met with nods of approval and cheers of "Bharati".

Over the last one month, the makeshift tent has been home to around 250 Hindu migrants from Pakistan and has seen the birth of two baby girls. While the migrants in the camp think these babies are Indian citizens by virtue of their place of birth, they do not know that a 2003 amendment in the Citizenship Act took away that privilege. Now, like all the other migrants housed in that tent and many more across Rajasthan, the two babies too will have to go through a prolonged nationality crisis before they become Indian citizens.

Over the last few decades, Rajasthan, which shares its western boundary with Pakistan, has seen an increasing influx of Hindus from that country. Though the biggest migration took place during Partition in 1947, the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 also saw Hindus cross over to Rajasthan in hordes. The years after that were less turbulent but in recent years, the growing intolerance towards religious minorities in Pakistan is said to have increased the flow of refugees.

According to Seemant Lok Sangathan, an organisation that works for the resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced Pakistani Hindus, at least 20,000 Hindus from the neighbouring country have migrated to Rajasthan since the 1990s, of whom 13,000 were granted citizenship in 2004-5. According to estimates, at least 395 Pakistani Hindus have come on pilgrim visas over the last few months and refused to go back to Pakistan.

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