The photographic series, ‘Living in Limbo’ by Rahul S Ravi is an expression about the state of the stateless people who often take refuge in their own homeland, but as refugees. Denationalised by their own country, the series is about the ‘Pakistani’ citizens in Kerala, all of them Keralites by birth. It is the story of eleven men, now above the age of sixty who were born and brought up in the rural district of Kozhikode and who went looking for jobs in Lahore and Karachi, just before and after Partition. They were seeking a better source of livelihood to support their large joint families back home, and did not see much difference between Mumbai and Karachi at the time. They were taken to Pakistan via Dubai in small ships.
The Pakistan government had adopted the policy to not allow migrants to visit their families in India without a Pakistani Passport. Unaware of such a law, these eleven men, on their return journey, unsuspectingly accepted their Pakistani Passports. Their Visa agents conveniently ‘forgot’ to inform them. Since then, due to the intricate politics of nationality between India and Pakistan, all of them have become aliens in their own land.
Age has caught up with them but the policies of border and citizenship have not been reevaluated. They continue to live under the mercy of temporary visa extensions by regularly visiting local police stations and courts. Any negligence on their part can lead to deportation to Pakistan, now an alien land. Their plea to the Indian authorities: permission to remain with their families at the twilight years of their lives.
None of these people have any past crime record yet the authorities view these “Pak citizens” with a tinge of suspicion, as “Pak agents” and continue to deny them Indian citizenship.