According to press reports, the Indian government under Narendra Modi will be providing 426 Pakistani Hindus with a short 10-day visa to allow them to scatter the ashes of their deceased family members in the holy Ganges at Haridwar.
Even though Pakistani experts and Hindu advocacy groups have gladly accepted the Indian government’s proposal, the External Affairs Ministry of India has not approved or turned down the decision yet.
The Existing Policy Of Asthi Visarjan
The Indian law already grants permission to Pakistani Hindus to visit the country for asthi visarjan, or “immersion of ashes,” on one condition: they must have a blood relative or colleague in India acting as their sponsor.
If the policy initiated by the Modi government of allowing 426 Pakistani Hindus to scatter the ashes of their dead in the Ganges in India is carried out, it will cause a deviation from the already existing law. The External Affairs Ministry of India has not yet approved or turned down the decision.
Pakistani Hindus Desperate To Visit India
Many Hindus in Pakistan have been deprived of immersing the ashes of their dead in the holy waters of Ganga because they didn’t have any relatives in India to sponsor them, or even if they did, most of the relatives were not willing to fund their trips from Pakistan. Even if a few of them luckily managed to find themselves sponsors, they had to go through a very complex and slow investigation procedure.
The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan revealed that Pakistan is home to over 22 lakh Hindus, the majority of whom live in Sindh. Therefore, those who couldn’t or didn’t want to bury the ashes of their loved ones in Indian rivers scattered the ashes in local rivers like Jhelum and Sindh.
Ravi Dawani, Secretary-General of All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, claimed, “People had even resorted to burials as they couldn’t get the visas for immersion in India.”
How Pakistani Hindus Reacted
The secretary-general of All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, Ravi Dawani, told the press, “All Hindu-Pakistanis welcome this decision.” She added, “Now those, whose ashes have been waiting at Shamshan Ghats across Pakistan for years to be immersed in Ganga, will get shanti and mukti (peace and moksha).”
Ram Nath Maharaj of Sri Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir, Karachi, said, “It’s welcome news for all of us. The Indian High Commission will not ask us to get sponsorship from India for visiting Haridwar to perform the last rites of our dead ones.” He added, “We have begun the process of applying for visas for the family members of dead Hindus, whose ashes were lying in various crematoriums.”
Mariana Baabar, a Pakistani reporter, said, “This is significant for the bilateral relationship as there is at least respect for the deceased.” She also claimed, “These are the kind of soft openings the bilateral relationship needs. But there are no requests for dead Muslims to return [to Pakistan] to be buried yet.”
Pakistani experts and Hindu advocacy committees have claimed this decision of the Indian government to be “significant.”
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