Displacement continues to haunt octogenarian Beero Devi who, along with her family, has now taken shelter in a make-shift camp set up by the Army for flood-affected families of the “Tawi island” at Government High School, Sura Chak. It is her fifth displacement since she came to India as a refugee from Pakistan’s Sialkot area in 1947.
Last week’s floods that forced residents of some villages of the Tawi island to leave their homes have refreshed memories of the Partition holocaust for Beero Devi, who was newly married at that time and was, along with her husband, forced to leave their home.
Beero Devi belongs to the virtually “outcast” West Pakistani refugee community, which has faced “inhuman” and “discriminatory” policies propagated by successive governments at the state and Central levels. The community has been denied basic constitutional rights and has faced repeated displacement.
“Since 1947, we have been facing displacement from one place to another, sometimes to due to the inhuman approach of the state governments and sometimes due to the nature’s fury,” rued the octogenarian, whose dream of having a stable life was shattered due to the flash floods.
“From teenage to the fag end of my life, displacement continues to haunt me,” she says, while narrating how everything was washed way in the flood.
Beero Devi and her family was living a “settled” life for the past twenty years in Rambagh village of the Tawi island, which comprised over 45 villages. Although these stateless refugees have been denied citizenship rights, this family was “satisfied” that they had an accommodation on a piece of land temporarily allotted to them. However, their home was completely damaged in the flood.
Every section of the society has borne the brunt of the September 6 floods but the “worst” victims are families of West Pakistani refugees who were settled in Sura Chak, Sampuranpur Kullian, Rambagh, Bhotay Chak, Laxmanpur, Sumb, Toph, Mukhda, Mehta Chak and other villages of the Tawi island. As these refugees have been deprived of citizenship by the successive state governments, they fear that they would be denied compensation. “We don’t have the ownership right over our immovable properties, so there is every possibility that the state government will create hurdles in sanctioning compensation to us,” said Gain Chand, a West Pakistani refugee, who too has taken shelter in the camp.
West Pakistani Refugees Action Committee chairman Labha Ram Gandhi said West Pakistani refugees were the “worst” victims of the recent floods. “Unlike other people, these refugees have been living in mud houses and so they faced maximum damage,” he said.