The quiet town of Qadian in the border district of Punjab’s Gurdaspur is the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community.
Their population in India is around 1,00,000 while around the world their numbers touch 170 mn. IN QADIAN, thousands of Ahmadis from 35 countries congregate for a three-day annual convention. SECT FOUNDER Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born and lies buried in Gurdaspur. THE CONSTITUTION in Pakistan does not recognise Ahmadis as Muslims, forcing many to marry their daughters off to men in India. 2011 CENSUS saw the sect’s inclusion in India. Later, several high court rulings held them as Muslims. In earlier Census reports, only Sunnis, Shias, Bohras and Agakhanis were identified as sects of Islam. Islamic seminaries in India, like the Darul Uloom Deoband, also don’t recognise the members as Muslims.
It’s not easy for Pakistani brides in Malerkotla, either. Shehnaaz Begum, married to an Indian for 25 years, breaks into tears recounting her failed attempt to get a visa to attend her only brother’s funeral last week. “I visited Pakistan four years ago. Since then they have been denying me a visa,” she says, wiping a tear, and adding firmly, “I will marry my three children here. What’s the point of having a family (in the neighbouring country) if you can’t be with them when they need you the most?”
Locals also complain of police harassment when there is tension at the border. “Last year, when there was talk of war, CID officials started visiting families with guests from across the border. One of my guests from Pakistan was so frazzled that he refused to step out of home during his stay,” says Maqsooda Bibi, whose daughter Shukria is married to a Pakistani.