NEW DELHI, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Dozens of Pakistani Hindus on pilgrimage to India said they have no intention of returning to Pakistan and may seek refugee status.
The Hindus are among a group of 171 people who arrived in Jodhpur in the western Indian state of Rajasthan on 30-day religious pilgrimage visas.
The leader of the group told the BBC's Urdu language service that many of the pilgrims don't intend to return to Pakistan because of religious persecution. The group, which includes 32 women and children, belongs to the tribal Bheel community, the BBC reported.
"I lost my father recently and did not get a place to perform his last rites," one pilgrim told the BBC.
"We were denied wherever we went. You cannot even imagine our pain," said the leader of group who said he didn't wish to be identified.
"We will not return to Pakistan, you can kill us here, but we do not want to go back. Every day we face persecution and our troubles have doubled with the rise of Islamic extremism," he said.
The group was met at Jodhpur rail station by the campaign group Seemant Lok Sangthan, which has sought refugee status for the Pakistani Hindus, the BBC report said.
A report by the BBC in early August said 200 Pakistani Hindus with valid pilgrimage visas issued by India were held up by Pakistani border guards over concern that they might not return.
Border authorities were alerted after local media reports said the group attempting to cross at the Wagah crossing near Lahore was going to remain in India to escape what they said was persecution in the dominantly Islamic Pakistan.
Pakistan has more than 7 million Hindus, accounting for around 5.5 percent of the country's population of 170 million. The majority of Hindus live in the urban areas of Sindh province, the Pakistan Hindu Council estimates.
Under British occupation and before partition of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947, Sindh had a majority Hindu population. But just before partition many moved to Rajasthan ahead of the British leaving which created Muslim majority Pakistan and Hindu majority India.
Although Pakistan has said in the past that its Hindu minority is protected, Pakistan President Asif Zardari formed a parliamentary committee last month to investigate the alleged persecution of Hindus in Sindh province, which borders the Indian state of Rajasthan.
In its report to Zardari earlier this month, the committee said some Hindus complained about abduction of girl children and forced conversion to Islam, which had caused resentment and sense of insecurity.
Last month Zardari met Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to discuss issues and reports of alleged forced conversion of minorities in Sindh to Islam, a report by The Express Tribune said.
Qaim said media reports of mass migration of Hindus to India are speculative but people of the Hindu community are insisting that a law is made against forced conversions.
Members of the Sindh Hindu community have voiced concern about alleged kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam of young Hindu girls just before they are married.