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"Biharis" Total population 919,000[1] Regions with significant populations Bangladesh, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, India, Pakistan Languages Urdu, Bihari Religion Islam (Sunni and Shia), Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jain Related ethnic groups Other Indo-Aryan and possibly Dravidian peoples, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil Stranded Pakistanis, also known as Biharis, describes the people mainly of the Bihari ethnic group currently residing in Bangladesh who did not support its independence from Pakistan in 1971 and continue to claim Pakistani citizenship. They are mostly descendants of Muslims who migrated from what is now the modern Indian state of Bihar to the eastern wing (now Bangladesh) of the Muslim state of Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947. Not sharing the ethno-linguistic heritage of the Bengali people, who formed an overwhelming majority in the eastern wing, they opposed its agitation for independence from West Pakistan. Their support for the Pakistani army and participation in pro-Pakistani militias such as the Razakars led to considerable hostility and retaliation from the Bengalis. After the independence of Bangladesh, the Biharis were relocated to refugee camps and have since petitioned the Pakistani government for the right to settle in Pakistan. Their petition has only met with marginal support from Pakistani authorities, who have allowed only a small number of the "Stranded Pakistanis" to settle in Pakistan. Contents 1 Independence 2 Independence of Bangladesh 3 Refugee crisis 4 Bangladeshi citizenship 5 See also 6 References 7 Links Independence In pre-independence British India, there was an Urdu-speaking Muslim minority in the Hindu majority state of Bihar.[2] In 1947, at the time of partition, the Bihari Muslims, many of whom were fleeing the violence that took place during partition, fled to the newly independent East Pakistan. They held a disproportionate number of positions in the new country, due to the fact that Urdu (which was the mother tongue of many Biharis) was made the national language of the new state. This led to much resentment from the native Bengalis who had to acquire a new language and were at a disadvantage on their own soil. Independence of Bangladesh In 1971, the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out between East and West Pakistan, and the Biharis sided with West Pakistan, opposing the Bengali demand of making Bengali an official language along with Urdu. With covert and later overt support from India, East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh. During the war there were "many attacks on the Bihari community as they were seen as symbols of Pakistani domination."[3] Refugee crisis The Biharis were now left behind as the Pakistani army and Pakistani civilians evacuated, and found themselves unwelcome in both countries. Pakistan feared a mass influx of Biharis could destabilize a fragile and culturally mixed population which shared no similarity with Bihar; furthermore, the Pakistani government believed that since Bangladesh was still the successor state of East Pakistan, it had to fulfill its duty in absorbing these refugees just as Pakistan (West) did with the many millions of refugees (incidentally, including Bengalis) who fled to West Pakistan. Some groups in Pakistan have urged the Pakistan government to accept the Biharis.[4][5] In an agreement in 1974 Pakistan accepted 170,000 Bihari refugees; however, the repatriation process has since stalled.[6] Post-independence Bangladesh scorned the Biharis for having allegedly supporting the Pakistani army. With neither country offering citizenship, the Biharis have remained stateless for 36 years. Organisations like Refugees International have urged the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to "grant citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of people who remain without effective nationality".[7] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is not addressing the plight of the Biharis.[citation needed] In 2006 a report estimated that between 240,000 and 300,000 Biharis live in 66 crowded camps in Dhaka and 13 other regions across Bangladesh.[8] In 2003, a case came before a high court in which ten Biharis were awarded citizenship according to the court's interpretation of the constitution. So far, however, little progress has been made in expanding that ruling to others. Many Pakistanis and international observers believe the plight of the Biharis has been politicized, with political parties giving the refugees false hopes and impracticable expectations. In recent years, several court rulings in Bangladesh have awarded citizenship to Biharis living in Bengali refugee camps, as the majority of these refugees were born there. International observers believe that Bangladesh, as the successor state, needs to fulfil its international obligations and grant citizenship to this officially stateless ethnic group or arrange for the peaceful repatriation back to their native state of Bihar, over the border in India from where they originally came.[citation needed] In a visit to Bangladesh in 2002, Pakistani president Musharraf said that while he had every sympathy for the plight of thousands of people in Bangladesh known as 'stranded Pakistanis', he could not allow them to emigrate to Pakistan, as Pakistan was in no position to absorb such a large number of refugees which shared no linguistic, cultural, or historical ties with Pakistan. He encouraged his Bengali counterpart not to politicize the issue and accept the refugees as citizens of the successor state of East Pakistan. Pakistani government officials have threatened to deport the more than 1.5 million illegal Bengali refugees living in its country if the issue is not resolved acceptably.[9] Bangladeshi citizenship In May 2003, a high court ruling in Bangladesh allowed 10 Biharis to obtain citizenship and voting rights.[10] The ruling also exposed a generation gap amongst Biharis, with younger Biharis tending to be "elated" with the ruling, but with many older people feeling "despair at the enthusiasm" of the younger generation.[11] Many Biharis now seek greater civil rights and citizenship in Bangladesh.[12] On May 19, 2008 the Dhaka High court approved citizenship and voting rights for about 150,000 refugees who were minors at the time of Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971, and those who were born after would also gain the right to vote.[13] See also Foreign relations of Pakistan References ^ Joshua Project - Bihari Muslim of Bangladesh Ethnic People Profile ^ Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights - Refugees international ^ "Chronology for Biharis in Bangladesh". Minorities at Risk Project. Center for International Development and Conflict Management. University of Maryland, College Park. ^ PRC Wants Urgent Steps for Biharis’ Repatriation - Arab News ^ MQM demands issuance of CNICs to Biharis-2004 : Dawn ^ Bangladesh State and the Refugee Phenomenon - The Bihari Refugees, South Asia Forum for Human Rights ^ Citizens of Nowhere: The Stateless Biharis of Bangladesh - Refugees International 2006 report ^ Refugees International (see below) ^ Musharraf wraps up Bangladesh visit - BBC News - 31 July, 2002 ^ Vote for 'stranded Pakistanis' - BBC News 6 May, 2003 ^ Mixed feelings over Bihari ruling - BBC News 28 May, 2003 ^ Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights -Refugees International ^ "Citizenship for Bihari refugees". BBC News. 2008-05-19. 7407757. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7407757.stm. Retrieved 2008-05-21.  Links Stateless people In Bangladesh v · d · ePakistani diaspora Africa Egypt · Libya · South Africa Asia Middle East Bahrain · Iran · Iraq · Israel · Jordan · Kuwait · Oman  · Qatar · Saudi Arabia · United Arab Emirates · Yemen Elsewhere Afghanistan · Bangladesh · Brunei · China (Hong Kong) · Indonesia · Japan · Kyrgyzstan · Malaysia · Singapore · South Korea · Sri Lanka · Thailand Europe Austria · Denmark · France · Germany · Greece · Ireland · Italy · Netherlands · Norway · Russia · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland · Turkey · Ukraine · United Kingdom (London) Americas Canada · United States (Punjabi · Punjabi Mexican) Oceania Australia (Afghan)  · New Zealand Related Demographics of Pakistan · Desi · Foreign relations of Pakistan · Little Pakistan · Baloch diaspora · Pashtun diaspora · Punjabi diaspora · Immigration to Pakistan v · d · eImmigration to Bangladesh Groups Armenians (Dhaka) · Chinese · Indians · Pakistani Biharis