A woman stuck at India and Pakistan’s Attari-Wagah frontier for more than two months has named her newborn “Border” to mark her family’s struggle to cross the boundary due to issues with their paperwork.
Nimbu Bai and her husband Bala Ram, Hindus from Pakistan, are among the hundreds of travellers who had arrived in India last year before Covid-19 pandemic restrictions were implemented.
The couple had travelled for pilgrimage trips to northern India’s Haridwar, which sits on the River Ganges, and the western state of Rajasthan. Though travel is tightly restricted between India and Pakistan and they share almost no direct flights, the South Asian neighbours permit their citizens to cross the border for religious pilgrimages.
Many travellers were stuck in India after restrictions were set in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in March 2020, when India went into the world’s largest single lockdown. In order to sustain themselves, some took up informal jobs — including as stone carvers in the Rajasthani cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Since September this year, nearly 100 Hindus from Pakistan, including this couple, have been camping at the Attari border in their bid to go back home.
To travel from India to Pakistan, they were required to submit documents such as a fresh Covid-19 test report and an exit letter that is needed since their visas have expired. These travel documents arrived on Monday, following which most of the 100 people camping at the border crossed into Pakistan.
But Nimbu Bai and her family’s wait has become longer since they now need Border’s birth documents and passport from India, without which Pakistani officials will not let them enter the country.
Border was born last week on 2 December. “My son’s name is Border. We gave him this name because he was born along the border,” the woman said, according to the Hindustan Times.
“It will always remind us of our hardships at Attari international border, especially spending cold nights out in the open,” the child’s father told The Times of India.
The couple have four other children. Their fourth child, a girl, was born in Jodhpur and was named “Bharti” as a reference to Bharat, the Hindi name for India. They added that they hoped these names will remind their children of their Indian connection.
Mr Ram said that he has appealed to the Indian government to facilitate their journey home but all efforts have been unsuccessful. “We are told that one family alone couldn’t be sent back and we would have to stay till our visa or exit letter arrives,” he added.
Punjab Police’s protocol officer Arun Pal said: “On Monday, all the other Pakistani Hindus crossed over to Pakistan via the Wagah border, except the newborn and his family. The Pakistani officials have refused to accept the baby without the necessary documents.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies