Sunil Dev Maheshwari, a 37-year-old refugee from Pakistan, received a prized possession in August – Indian citizenship. He will now be eligible to cast his vote for the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat next month.
Sunil and 24 other Pakistani Hindu refugees will vote in an Indian election for the first time after being granted citizenship in Rajkot. “Due to religious persecution, my parents and I left Pakistan in 2009 and landed in Gujarat; ever since, I have been living in this country. On August 12, 25 Pakistani Hindu refugees were granted Indian citizenship in Rajkot and it was the happiest moment in our lives. Now, we have an Aadhaar card and other Indian documents, and we are happy that we will be able to cast our vote this time,” he said.
Sunil lives in a rented house in Bhagwatipara area of Rajkot and works as a marketing executive in a private firm in the city. He got married to a Pakistani Hindu refugee in 2014 and the couple has two children. “Since we got Indian citizenship, we are no longer outsiders and nobody can call us ‘Pakistani’. We are very much Indian and proud of it,” he said.
According to sources, there are over 500 Pakistani Hindu refugees living in Rajkot waiting to be granted Indian citizenship. Minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi had handed over citizenship to 25 Pakistani refugees, mostly Hindus, at Rajkot in August.
Sources said many refugee families were waiting for citizenship for the last 16 years and, now that they had it, will be taking part in the world’s largest democracy by exercising their franchise.
Earlier, the central government amended the Citizenship Act, which allows minorities from Pakistan to obtain citizenship in India.
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