Former Pakistan nationals living in Ahmedabad to vote as Indians this time

Pakistan figures prominently in Gujarat during the elections.

Ahmedabad: Ahmedabad-based Ghanshyam Khatri, 41, is keenly waiting for April 23, when Gujarat votes in the Lok Sabha elections, because he will be voting for the first time. He was 14 when his family migrated to Ahmedabad from Hathumba of Sindh in Pakistan. He was accorded Indian citizenship last year.

Pakistan figures prominently in Gujarat during the elections. This time, the neighbouring country is being mentioned for another reason: As many as 485 former Pakistani nationals who are living in Ahmedabad will vote for the first time as Indian citizens. “Many people migrated from Pakistan years ago and their applications for Indian citizenship were pending for long. From last year we speeded up the process and, after due inspection, Indian citizenship is being accorded to them. They are now entitled to get the voter ID and Aadhaar cards and avail of the benefits of government schemes,” said Ahmedabad district collector Dr Vikrant Pande.

“We have been able to clear the backlog of pending applications. Nearly 400 applications are being processed,” he said.

A gazette notification issued by the Centre on December 23, 2016, authorised some district collectors to accord Indian citizenship to minorities from the neighbouring countries of Afgha-nistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Gujarat, the collectors of Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Kutch have been authorised to accord citizenship.

The migrants, mostly from the Sindhi community, have been living in the city for long. Mostly illiterate and working in the unorganised sector, they were unaware about the procedures and their applications for citizenship were pending.

Ms Dimple Varindani, a Sindhi migrant from Karachi who came to India at the age of 13 and became a citizen later, has been helping them with their paper work.
She runs an NGO called Helping Hands in Naroda area of Ahmedabad.

“We have seen elections in Pakistan but let me say that it was not as safe as we are seeing them here. We were living under threat. Only those who have seen hell can value heaven,” said Mr Nandlal Meghnani, a migrant, in an emotion-choked voice.

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