Is every Bangla-speaking poor Muslim in India Bangladeshi migrant?

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

New Delhi: The attitude of government agencies, both central and state, particularly police gives the answer in positive. There is no denying the fact that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have infiltrated our country over decades. But it is also a fact that lakhs of Bangla-speaking poor Muslim residents of West Bengal have become internal migrants in search of livelihood over a period of time, and can be found in various states. The pity is that these Indian citizens are also treated as illegal immigrants though they have valid election IDs or ration cards issued by West Bengal government.

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So far BJP leaders have claimed that there are several crore Bangladeshi migrants in India. Now the Central Government seems to have concluded that there are two crore illegal Bangladeshi migrants. A news report in October 4 issue of Indian Express says that according to estimates sent by state governments regarding number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh living in states, their population now constitutes two percent of India’s total population. It is an open understanding among governments and politicians that by Bangladeshi infiltrators they mean only Bangla-speaking Muslim migrants. The question is: if the government has enlisted Bangla-speaking Muslim residents of West Bengal also as Bangladeshi migrants. The attitude of government agencies towards these people again gives the answer in positive.

Like in other parts of the country, Bangla-speaking poor Muslim residents of West Bengal are in thousands in Delhi. Hardly a day passes when they do not face harassment – that ends up in extortion — at the hands of law enforcing agencies. A petty crime or terror blasts and police pounce on their clusters thinking them as ‘natural’ perpetrators.

Prakash Vihar is a jhuggi-jhopri colony in New Delhi’s Rohini area. The colony has about 200 poor Muslim families from West Bengal. Their only source of income is rag picking. Almost all of them have valid proofs of their being Indian citizen – some possessing election IDs or ration cards from West Bengal while others have similar documents from Delhi. Yet they are vulnerable to khaki terror and are living at the mercy of the police. They are frequented with police raids; some young men are picked branding them as Bangladeshis and released only after their family coughs up money.

With Commonwealth Games in Delhi round the corner they are facing another round of police torture and harassment. A couple of weeks ago a police team pounded on them threatening to push them out to make the city ‘clean’ before the Games. While the area is not on the map of Games venues they are being harassed.

Hazrat Khan is living in the colony for seven years. He has election ID both from West Bengal and Delhi. Hailing from Birbhum district in West Bengal Khan earns from rag picking. “Though I have valid proofs of being Indian citizen police brand me Bangladeshi and harass me,” Khan tells He lives here with wife and children while other members of his family – mother, sister, brother, uncle and others – are in Birbhum. Before this colony he lived in Amar colony area in the city. He came to Delhi 19 years ago.

Kanchan Khan, a man in mid-twenties, is also from Birbhum. He is living here with his family for seven years. He too is a rag picker.

Some of the residents of this colony are from Murshidabad. This is Jamruddin Khan. He left Murshidabad in West Bengal 15 years ago and first settled down near Yamuna River in east Delhi. He has been living in Prakash Vihar for seven years. He is also a rag picker. In support of his being Indian citizen he shows a ration card issued from West Bengal government.

Why do police ignore their valid proofs of citizenship and brand them as Bangladeshi? “Because they are poor and followers of Islam” says Pramod Kumar, general secretary of Green Flag Waste Workers’ Union. Kumar lives near the locality and has been working for welfare of these residents. He says Bangla-speaking Hindu residents of West Bengal are not treated as such.

Faisal Khan of National Alliance of People’s Movement, who is working with Pramod, is planning to organize a protest by Bangla-speaking people possessing valid proofs of citizenship before the Delhi police headquarters or National Human Rights Commission. On the fact that police reject their election IDs as fake, Khan said it is on the authorities to prove their allegation. It is easy for election commission to check genuineness of an election ID, Khan said.

The residents of the locality have a makeshift mosque in the middle of the colony. Faiz Ahmed, Imam of the mosque, says these residents hail from West Bengal. Police harass them as they do not catch big people and make money from them. Ahmed, himself from Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal, has been rendering his services as Imam in the mosque for the last 10 months. Earlier he lived in Rajasthan.