28 October, 2020

Coming Home To Banishment

Governments demonise Bengali refugees as illegal immigrants

Tribhuvan Tiwari
Coming Home To Banishment
Squatting on a patch of land outside his thatched hut in Vijaynagar village in the Terai region of Uttaranchal, Kiran Mandal is caught between the frustration and fear that has come to haunt him more than four decades after his parents moved from Chunkuri village in Khulna district of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Mandal and 45,000 others could lose their land and refugee status because of a new identification drive started by the BJP state governments of Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, ostensibly to weed out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. An estimated 5 lakh refugees are scattered across 36 villages in the Terai. The local administration maintains that there is an estimated 45,000 illegal-immigrant population here. This is hotly disputed by the locals. "This is not right. We are being confused with illegal migrants. We are refugees and no different from the Sikhs who came here from West Pakistan. Why should we leave?" asks Mandal, adding, "No one ever thought it would come to this."

Last fortnight, Mandal was part of a massive rally which terminated outside the...


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