They had waited for years. So when the opportunity came they took it, even if it meant leaving behind friends and neighbours, brothers and husbands. Even a three-day-old baby boy. Seven weeks ago, almost 500 Hindus from Pakistan crossed into India on the pretence of visiting a religious festival. In reality, they had come to escape religious persecution and poverty. Some said they would rather commit suicide than go back.“Pakistan is worse than hell for Hindus,” said one of those who managed to flee, Laxman Das, a fruit trader from Hyderabad. Though Pakistan was established as a state for Muslims, the original vision of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was of a place of tolerance and inclusion.“You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” he said in speech in August 1947.Yet Jinnah’s vision has steadily been eroded. Today, as Pakistan prepares for a historic election on 11 May, its Christians and Hindus, which together comprise perhaps 3 per cent of the population, face persecution and assault. Some have fled. “If people have any resources, they want to leave here,” Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said from Karachi.The Pakistanis who have made their way to the village of Bijwasan, not far from Delhi’s international airport, all belong to the same low Hindu caste and come from the same part of Sindh province. They have applied unsuccessfully for visas to India for years and hit upon the idea of asking to visit the Kumbh Mela festival, the most auspicious date in the Hindu calendar.