//Afghan Sikh gets Indian citizenship

Afghan Sikh gets Indian citizenship

Suchi Yadav CNN-IBN
Updated 1729 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 25.02.06

New Delhi: After a decade long wait Meet Singh and his family are going to make history. They are the first Sikh refugee family from Afghanistan to be conferred Indian citizenship.

He along with wife Balwant Kaur and son Surjeet took the oath of allegiance to India in New Delhi, which reads "I bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India".

Meet Singh and his family getting the Indian citizenship through naturalisation has raised the hopes of more than 8,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan living in Delhi.

They had fled Kabul in 1992 when the Afghan civil war engulfed their home and life.

Living in Delhi wasn’t easy for the man who was a Afghan police sergeant and the early years were tough.

They had to adjust in a new environment and learn new skills.

FIRST CITIZEN: Meet Singh and his family took the oath of allegiance to India."Yehan per thoda bahut kaam ker lete the. Hum khud bhi thoda bahut kaam karte the. Hum silai ka kaam karte the ghar per se (We used to get some work here. I used to stitch clothes at home to make both ends meet)," Balwant Kaur says.

After 12 years in Delhi naturalization was the logical step but the process was long and often corrupt.

"Apply karne ke liye jis office mein jao to koi apni marji se nahe karta kuch. 50-100 rupai dene per hi kaam hota tha (When we went to apply in the ofice no one used to work untill they were paid Rs 50 or Rs 100 as the bribe)," Meet says.

Singh said that is why there is a delay and adds that his friends living in London say that there the process is very fast.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tries to smoothen the naturalization process from where to go and whom to approach.

It even fills up the naturalisation form for those interested in acquiring Indian citizenship.

"UNHCR has recognised refugees who are interested in becoming Indian citizens through the process of naturalisation. We pay the fees and follow up their cases at different point of the application process," Nayana Bose says.

Today Meet Singh has an identity of his own and there is a place that he can call home.

The journey from Kabul to New Delhi was not that easy for this Sikh Afghan refugee family.

Now as Indians they can work in the formal sector and travel freely abroad but the most important thing is that they now, once again, belong somewhere.