Balangir/Kendrapara: The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 has come like manna from heaven for Sarada Sitwani, a Hindu woman from Pakistan, married in a family of Balangir district.
She has been denied an Indian passport even 29 years after her marriage to Mahesh Kukreja of Thikadarpada village in Balangir and having two children. To this day, Sarada holds a Pakistani passport and is not considered an Indian citizen. All that may change now.
She left Pakistan with her Sindhi family when she was 18-years-old and later settled in Koraput district of Odisha. Sarada, who is now in her early 50s, claims that despite repeated appeals, she has not received the citizenship of India.
Recalling her ordeal in Pakistan, Sarada said her family had been tortured and exploited and some anti-socials had also picked up some of her family members for religious conversion. This is when they escaped to India.
Like Sarada, the CAA has brought hope to 1,551 Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh residing in the seaside villages of Kendrapara. They were served ‘Quit India’ notice by the district administration in 2005.
Deepak Mandal of Pitapatha village under Mahakalapada block said he had been wrongly served the ‘Quit India’ notice despite being born in Kendrapara. His grandfather had come to Pitapatha from Midnapore district of West Bengal in 1948. “We are not Bangladeshis,” he said.
Asim Mirdha,50 is from Hariabanka. His grandfather came to Kendrapara from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) after partition as a refugee. “We were illegally served ‘Quit India’ notice, which branded us as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. We challenged the order by filing a writ petition in the Orissa High Court which directed the Government in 2016 against taking any coercive action against us. The CAB has brought us a big relief,” he told New Indian Express.
In 2015, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had informed the Assembly that 3,987 Bangladeshis were illegally staying in the state. The highest number of 1,649 infiltrators were staying in Kendrapara district.