In Jodhpur, CAA Divides Citizenship Of Pakistani Hindu Families

After the central government notified the rules to implement the Citizenship Amendment Rules, Pakistani Hindu families in Rajasthan's Jodhpur deal with familial fractures.

Heero and Lakshmi Thakur with their kids

Late on Monday evening, shortly after the central government notified the rules to implement the contentious Citizenship Amendment Rules, a feeling of heaviness engulfed Heero Thakor, 40, a Pakistani Hindu refugee living in Jodhpur. The new rules qualify only half of Thakor’s family to get Indian citizenship, leaving his wife and son in a quandary.

The implementation of the Citizenship Act passed by the Parliament in 2019, would end Thakor’s decade-long wait to seek Indian citizenship after he arrived with his eight-year-old daughter Lakhubai, in Rajasthan on 22 November 2014. They both can now file a fresh application for citizenship online. 

But the rules have no provision for his wife Lakshmi and son Rajkumar (10) who arrived in India in August 2015. 

“To avoid suspicion of authorities, my daughter and I came to India first on a pilgrim visa and a few months later my wife and son followed us. We stayed on a long-term visa and did not return to Pakistan,” says Thakor who fled from Pakistan’s Sindh province of Kot Ghulam Muhammad tehsil in the Mirpur Khas district. 

“We are happy that the Modi government has made policy to help us become Indian citizens. But in terms of citizenship, my family is still broken. Half members of my family will be Indian and the other half Pakistani.”  Thakor and his wife who live in Jodhpur’s Anganwa Basti a colony of displaced Pakistani Hindu refugees, had two more children during their stay and they are naturalized Indian citizens.  

Thakor and Lakshmi who both work as farm laborers, said the constant spate of insecurity, robberies, forceful religious conversion, and kidnapping of Hindu girls as soon as they hit puberty, made his family take the decision to move to India, even if illegally. “The constitution in Pakistan has no place for us. We wanted to return to the country of our ancestors so we could live freely and follow our religion without any fear. But it has not been easy.” The ‘illegal’ citizenship status prohibited Thakor from visiting his ancestral village in Banaskantha, Gujarat, gaining stable employment and building a dignified life.  

He added that hundreds of other Hindu families living in the southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan are desperate to get out but have no guarantee of Indian citizenship. Hindus are the largest non-Muslim minority, accounting for 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s total population. 

The BJP government amended the Citizenship Act to fast-track citizenship for such persecuted Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian, and Jain minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, provided they entered India before December 31, 2014. The rules however leave out those who came in after the cut-off date. 

“It is incomprehensible why the government has decided to qualify only certain people for citizenship. The rules already mention the provision is for the persecuted minorities and those Hindus who are coming to India are persecuted, there’s no doubt about it,” says activist Hindu Singh Sodha founder of the Seemant Lok Sangathan non-profit in Jodhpur. 

Sodha migrated to India from Pakistan in 1971 and has single-handedly lobbied with the Congress and the BJP governments to legalize the citizenship status of Pakistani immigrants fleeing religious persecution for more than 30 years. 

“The Citizenship Amendment Act has been my life’s struggle but I am in pain. It breaks my heart that the new rules would benefit some but thousands of others will have to go through the long administrative struggle to earn a right to live in India.”   

According to him, the new rules will benefit an estimated 10,000 Pakistani Hindus in Rajasthan who have arrived prior to 2014. In the last ten years, an estimated 15,000 more Hindus have fled from Pakistan to India. 

Sodha feels the entire exercise of amending the act and drafting new rules gets futile if it will only consider those living in India before 2014. Other migrants will have to go through the older application procedure, which requires them to hold a valid passport and establish their residency for eleven years. “Why should the government discriminate against those who are also religiously persecuted but have come later after the cut-off date.”

Sodha hopes the government can do away with the cut-off date to accommodate other undocumented migrants. 

The Aaganwah colony has nearly 1500 families of Hindu Pakistanis but roughly only 10 families qualify for citizenship under the new CAA rules. 

“We are happy for those of our brothers and sisters who are getting citizenship but there is more than joy there is overwhelming sadness,” says Ramchandra Solanki. He too arrived from Kot Gulam Mohammad tehsil with his wife and four children in 2018 and does not qualify for the fast-track citizenship process. He spent more than 10,000 Pakistani rupees per person to get the visa which expired long ago. 

Solanki wanted to get his mother,  three brothers, and three sisters from Pakistan but the closure of border post Pulwama-attack in 2019 has closed that door. “They have a passport and valid pilgrim visa but are not allowed to come to India. I lost my father and couldn’t visit home to see him one last time. I am carrying a deep ocean of grief in my heart.”


The news of CAA rules has crushed Solanki as it has closed citizenship options for his family. They cannot return back to Pakistan and have no options to improve life in India. Whatever he earns by working as a laborer is spent in making ends meet for his family. 

“We are in Bharat, but it is like we are living in hell like in Pakistan. The colony where we live has no water supply, electricity or roads. We have to pay double fees to go to the hospital,” he said. 

The tough living conditions in the Jodhpur colony, make him reminisce about life back in Pakistan’s Sindh where they received power and uninterrupted water supply in the streams near his village. “Sometimes it feels, it was better they were in Pakistan. We lived in fear and they broke our temples, but our life was not this bad.”