Arjun Sharma | Sep 10, 2019 | 4 min read
A Pakistani Sikh who was a lawmaker and a member of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party is seeking asylum in India on the grounds that the minorities are not safe in the Muslim-majority country.
Baldev Kumar, 43, was a Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He was associated with the country’s ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He is a Sahajdari Sikh who hails from Barikot city in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Three years ago, he was framed in a murder case; he was acquitted only last year.
“Atrocities on Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan are increasing by the day. Not only are girls from minority communities being converted and forced to marry Muslim men but we are also being implicated in false cases,” Kumar told 101Reporters.
He came to India with his wife and two children on August 12 via Wagah border and is desperately seeking asylum before his three-month visa to India expires. The family is staying in Khanna town in Punjab's Ludhiana district. Kumar is seeking asylum from the Indian government on the grounds that minorities are not safe in Pakistan. He has not applied for asylum formally and has only appealed for it through the media.
He was charged with murder of a fellow Sikh MPA from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in April 2016 and thus arrested. MPA Soran Singh, the then advisor to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, was gunned down near his house in Buner district in April 2016. The PTI had expelled Kumar after his arrest. In April 2018, the anti-terror court in Buner declared him innocent, a month after which he took oath as an MPA. Three days after his swearing-in, Federally Administered Tribal Areas were merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, ending his stint as a legislator.
He contended that the police arrested him merely on suspicion.
“People back in my country had thought that it would be a naya [new] Pakistan after Imran Khan took oath as the Prime Minister. However, the situation has now turned grave. Minorities like me are desperate to come to settle in India, where the minorities live with respect and dignity,” he averred.
He claimed that the instances of forced conversion of Sikh and Hindu girls in Pakistan’s Sindh province are much higher than what is known. “Girls are forcibly picked up by members of majority community and converted. Even the police don’t act in time and allow the perpetrators to convert and marry these young girls,” he alleged.
Kumar had got married in 2007 to Bhavna, an Indian citizen and a resident of Khanna, where they are putting up in a two-room rented accommodation. His in-laws are footing the bill. He has one more pressing concern: his 11-year-old daughter who is suffering from Thalassemia and needs regular blood transfusion. She has to be taken to Rajindra hospital in the adjoining Patiala district every two weeks.
Kumar says he will not leave India and go to Pakistan at any cost as he fears for his life. “Minorities do not have any rights in Pakistan. They [extremists] can kill me on my arrival to Pakistan. I request the Indian government to grant me asylum,” he pleaded.
Responding to a question about Kartarpur corridor—the four-kilometre route between two Sikh shrines in India and Pakistan, facilitating visa-free movement of Sikh pilgrims of both the countries—he said the Sikhs have been betrayed. He said their Gurus were backstabbed by the very people in Pakistan who are now advocating the corridor.
He also hailed scrapping of Article 370 in Kashmir and compared Modi to a lion, fearlessly taking tough decisions.
Kumar said he won’t mind working anywhere if he is granted asylum. “I have no political goals. I will work in India anywhere but it has be a place where I get respect. I am seeking asylum only because my self-respect was at stake in Pakistan,” he asserted.
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