Voting still remains as dream for ‘Pakistanis’ of Kerala

Kochi, May 13: For the octogenarian Pachayi Aboobaacker and others like him -residents of Malabar –the elections in Kerala make them feel that they are aliens in their homeland. When the rest of Kerala votes, Aboo and around 200, “Pakistani citizens of Kerala”, get to only watch from the sidelines. They cannot vote in the very villages they were born.

Pachayi Aboobacker

Pachayi Aboobacker

These men and women, who had migrated from Malabar just before or soon after Partition to earn a living, are now caught between the fault lines that divide India and Pakistan. And, stuck with an identity they don’t really want.

Aboo, who has been living in Malappuram’s Cheekode panchayat with a “Pak citizen“ tag for 23 years, still rues the train trip he made to Karachi when he was 18. “I am a Keralite by birth. But a train ride from Mumbai to Karachi in 1950 in search of a job changed everything,” he says.

“I didn’t know I would have to get a Pakistani passport to return home. I became an alien in my homeland. My application for Indian citizenship has been pending for 16 years,” says Ibrahim Mangalassery, who worked at a Karachi hotel till his return in 1993. There are as many as 189 “Pakistani citizens” in the districts Malappuram, Kannur and Kozhikode, according to statistics available at the Foreigners Regional Registration Offices.

While they returned from Pakistan to settle down in their hometowns, they do not have a vote. Kannur accounted for 131 such “Pakistani citizens” and Malappuram 50. In 2011, the state had pegged the number at 248.As many as 119 people had applied for Indian citizenship and their applications were forwarded to the MHA. The matter rests there.

Moosa Katilvaliyakath

Moosa Katilvaliyakath

Battling age-related ailments and clinging on to his native village of Kathiroor in Kannur, mercifully with a long-term visa that must be renewed every year, 78-yearold Moosa Katilvaliyakath still nurses the hope of getting to participate in the country’s democratic process -at least once.

“It was some years later when my family found a bride for me in Kerala that agents in Karachi told me I would need papers to return. I would have to take a Pakistani passport and apply for an Indian visa to get back home.”

Little did Moosa realise that getting a Pakistani passport meant he would have to relinquish his Indian citizenship. In 2008, Hassan and his family returned from Karachi for good, only to become one of the small tribe of “Pakistani citizens” of Kerala. “My only wish is to vote once in my land. For me, it is an affirmation of my identity and roots,” Moosa says.