Pic: Wagah-Attari border
The Indo-Pak manmade border defied all emotional quotient, especially along the Gujarat-Rajasthan demarcation line. It cut across bonds that run deeper than religion. This is largely true of Pakistani Hindus seeking entry into India. For Pakistani Muslims, the visits are usually due to a wedding in the Indian side of the family.
However, a recent survey points to nearly 3,000 Pakistani Hindus officially living in Ahmedabad. Of this, 40 women have been married here and are now Indian citizens. The remaining count, officially Indian citizens, have worked their way to the Indian passport, either by profession or due to business enterprises set up in Ahmedabad. In some cases as in medical students, the native Pakistani Hindu comes to study here and then lands himself a job visa to work out of India. In short, some are on job visa, some on student visa while still others, are here on a long stay on medical grounds.
Explaining the trend, a CBI officer shared: “Rules have changed at varying points in time, depending on the diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. Currently, the first entry is subject to a “visitor visa” of 35 days. In order to stay in Ahmedabad, a local contact becomes their guarantor. However, Pakistanis, especially Hindus, coming here are known to look for reasons to stay on.”
Insiders in the immigration office share notes on the fact that Pakistani Hindus are more than willing to get married and settle down in India. “However, so far, not a single girl from Ahmedabad has married a Pakistani and settled there. Interestingly, hordes of Pakistani women come to Ahmedabad for IVF treatment. However, their child even if born in India, does not get Indian citizenship unless either parent holds an Indian passport. In which case, the process to seek Indian domicile can be initiated,” added sources.
Officials also share how any sarhad paar entry into India gives a shot at getting a valid Indian resident card. As they explain: “The visa grants stay of 35, 45 and 90 days, depending on the merit of the application. Thereon, an extension must be sought. Any Pakistani entry into India must be logged in at the local police station. Each week or fortnight, as the case maybe, the visitor must make an appearance at the local PS. Special watchers do keep a tab on the visitor’s movement. All said and done, restricted areas such as borders, cantonment and other sensitive places cannot be accessed by Pakistani nationals.”
Not many know but currently there are 15 Pakistani doctors in Ahmedabad, mostly employed at Apollo Hospital. Some of these doctors have also studied in Ahmedabad and then stayed because of the job. “However, in case of a medical trip or a student visa, Pakistani nationals have to apply for a ‘pre-visa.’ This is a document which seeks added information and requires an appointment letter and an NoC. Many Pakistanis come to Ahmedabad for specialized treatment. But the visitor cannot make trips to other cities in India. He/she can stay only in the place specified during the visa seeking process,” the immigration officer briefs.
Currently, there are only two ways to come to India from Pakistan: by road via the Attari-Wagah border or by a direct flight from Pakistan to Mumbai.