Each year the desire to find a suitable match for their kin brings members of the Sodha Rajput tribe from Pakistan to Rajasthan.
The matchmaking exercise for the Sodhas, the only Rajput clan in Tharparkar district of Sindh, is daunting because they get just a one-month visa. However, thanks to the intervention by President Pratibha Patil, the Home Ministry has decided to allow the Sodhas to stay up to six months.
The President received a letter from the former MP, Laxmi Kumari Chundawat, drawing her attention to the fact that the Sodhas cannot marry their children in Sindh since they belong to the same gotra. “They have to come down to India to look for alliances. But the government allows them just one month’s stay and it is difficult to fix alliances in such a short span,” said a Rashtrapati Bhavan official.
The official said Dr. Chundawat earlier met Rajasthan Governor S.K. Singh, who had a five-year stint in Pakistan and was familiar with the Sodhas’ problems. He had already initiated discussions with both the External Affairs and Home Ministries. But the Foreign Residents’ Registration Officer (FRRO) and the District Magistrates (DM) of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Barmer and Bikaner in Rajasthan were trying to extend the stay permit for only three months. “The President’s intervention was sought to make it six months to a year,” the official said.
On merit, case by case
The grant of visa to Pakistan nationals is governed by the Indo-Pak Visa Agreement, 1947, as amended from time to time. The Home Ministry, after discussion with the External Affairs Ministry, has now decided that the visa be given up to six months, case by case based on merit. “It cannot be made a precedent,” the official said.
The Union Home Ministry has written to the Principal Secretary, Home (Rajasthan), directing that while the mission may continue to grant one month’s visitor visa to the Sodha Rajputs, the FRROs and DMs of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Barmer and Bikaner will be delegated powers to extend it for up to six months.
“These visas will be extended on the precondition that the members have come only for the purpose of marriage or seeking alliance. FRROs will have to conduct a proper verification of the genuineness of the case and a report will have to be shared with the Union Home Ministry and Rajasthan Home Department,” the official said.
“There are 25,000 to 30,000 Sodha Rajput families in Pakistan, and 700-800 come to India to look for alliances each year. The extension of visa will offer relief to these people but there still is scope for more. The permission to visit [places] needs to be extended to Kutch and Bhuj as well. We have already taken up the issue and hope the Government will take a positive step in this regard as well,” said Rana Hamir Singh, grandson of Dr. Chundawat.