Lahore/ Islamabad: A group of some 250 Pakistani Hindus were today allowed to cross over to India for a pilgrimage after being detained at the Wagah land border crossing due to a controversy over reports that they planned to migrate to the neighbouring country.
The Hindus protested at the Wagah border crossing after they were detained for almost seven hours.
Immigration authorities finally allowed the Hindus to cross the frontier at about 2.30 pm.
"We were given the go-ahead from the Interior Minister to allow about 250 Hindus to travel to India. They all have valid travel documents," a senior official of the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore told PTI.
"The Hindus have 33-day visas for different Indian cities.
We stopped them temporarily after media reports said they would not return because of some problems they were facing here," the official said.
The FIA sent a special team to Wagah to interview the Hindus.
"The Hindus dismissed media reports about them and assured the team that they would not speak against Pakistan in India," the official said.
The official said the team had not asked the Hindus to provide any sort of undertaking. "They promised not to defame Pakistan," he said.
Though the Hindus gathered at the border crossing at 8 am, only two doctors and their families were initially allowed to cross to India.
Both doctors had "no-objection certificates" and authorities had earlier said they would only allow people with NOCs to cross the border.
The kidnapping of a teenage Hindu girl, Manisha Kumari, from Jacobabad city of Sindh province on August 7 had sparked widespread concern in the minority community amidst reports of an exodus of some 250 Hindus from the region.
Confusion surrounded the travel plans of the Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan.
Some TV news channels reported they had decided to migrate to India because of forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping.
The Hindus were travelling to India on visas for a pilgrimage to Haridwar and Vaishno Devi but many were not expected to return, the channels claimed.
However, many of the Hindus told the media at Lahore railway station yesterday that they had no intention of migrating and that they planned to return to Pakistan after a pilgrimage.
Taking notice of the media reports, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said yesterday that the Hindus would be allowed to travel only after a probe by the FIA.
Malik claimed the reports of the migration of the Hindus were part of a "conspiracy to defame Pakistan".
Media reports from Jacobabad said seven Hindu families comprising 90 people had decided to move to India for good.
"We are businessmen but have been compelled to leave our motherland because of harassment, lawlessness, looting, kidnapping of girls and their forced conversion to Islam," said Amesh Kumar of Bakhshapur area in Jacobabad.
Another unnamed Hindu man from Quetta told the Dawn newspaper: "Pakistan is our homeland and at the moment we are going to India for visiting our sacred places. But if I find the situation in India better than in Pakistan, I will prefer to settle there and others also think the same way".
There were also reports that 52 Hindu families from Jacobabad had migrated to India about six months ago.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah too took notice of the reports of the migration of Hindus and formed a three-member committee of provincial ministers to assess the situation in Jacobabad and submit a report.
Story first published:
August 10, 2012 16:07 IST