Robbed of a Land

By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Amidst the tumult of world disasters and conflict many situations contain victims, oppressors, and protectors–many times a people’s protectors come from within. But there is one situation–a victimized people with no backing, no protector among countries or governments. These people are alone and homeless with no one to fight for them. This is happening to many people and since they have no one standing up for them we as the citizens of the world need to do what we can to help.

These people originally belong to the South Asian Sub-continent. They are Muslim by religion. When the Sub-continent was divided into two separate countries in 1947 on the basis of religion, these people migrated accordingly. Since they were from the states that were part of India and were Hindu in majority, they migrated to the side that was now called Pakistan and was predominantly Muslim.

Many people during the partition migrated from one side to another to be with their own family and friends. Some migrated just to be with people who followed the same faith as them. In the beginning all immigrants had a difficult time. People believed there were not enough jobs or resources to sustain the people who were already in those parts, let alone newcomers.

However this was not the major issue. Why not? Because everyone had a purpose; they had a cause. They were doing this for their freedom and they all helped each other and stuck together even when things got really tough. The Hindus and non-Muslims helped each other and took in the immigrants as their own. The Muslim did the same for their brothers and sisters who came to what is now called Pakistan.

Let’s come back to these people that have no home now. Where did they go during that process? They were there among the other immigrants. There didn’t seem to be any distinction at that time of what part of the country you came to. As long as you were a Muslim you were welcome in Pakistan. The ‘Biharis’ received the same treatment. Pakistan was divided into two parts, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Most of these people traveled to East Pakistan and settled there.

In 1971, the East Pakistanis decided to become a separate entity. They wanted their own separate government and wanted to be separate from Pakistan.

Then came an ugly episode of ethnic chauvinism, like what happened to the American Japanese during WWII, and more so to the Jews in Europe before WWII. East Pakistan viewed West Pakistan as a tyrant who was ruling them and that’s what they wanted freedom from.

In their efforts to raise their voice against West Pakistan, they raised their voice against the Biharis who had migrated from India. They were viewed as the residents or a part of West Pakistan and targeted. There was significant violence against them and they were kept and treated in inhumane ways. What this eventually did was isolate them–they were forced to live in camps.

Finally East Pakistan was separated and called Bangladesh. Until now the Bangladeshi government refuses to accept the Biharis as their own.

The Biharis have expressed their desire to be a part of Pakistan and have asked to be sent to their homeland, which is Pakistani in their view.

Any intelligent concerned individual would deduct from this story that these people would be sent to Pakistan and would be given a legal status there. But that is not the case as of today.

Over the decades, many Pakistani governments have come and gone, but none has legalized them as citizens.

So, what we are looking at is 250,000 men, women and children who have no home, no citizenship and no place to go. Since the separation of East and West Pakistan they have been living in camps in inhumane conditions because no one is ready to take responsibility for them and no one is ready to accept them as countrymen.

Since no one recognizes them as a part of their own problem, no one is helping them with food, clothing and shelter. They are surviving on the little bit of help from independent organizations such as The Stateless People In Bangladesh, Inc..

We as citizens of the free world should realize our responsibility in all this. We should always remember that the world changes very quickly.

Tomorrow it could be us or our children who could be going through some catastrophe of this sort. If this happened to you or your family you would want everyone to stand up and at least raise their voice against it.

It’s time that we count our blessings that it’s not us and do what we can to get others out of the hell that they are in. Perhaps our aid to these people orphaned by politics and ugly circumstances will be a shelter for us in this life and hereafter.

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