Thursday, May 22, 2008

Branding the Bangladeshi migrants as terrorists: Illegal immigration or a humanitarian crisis of displacement due to poverty and unemployment?

Am I hated because I am poor?
In the wake of the Jaipur blasts the entire nation is still sad and our hearts go out to the families who have lost their members in this madness.

We don't know who the real perpetrators are and in most of the recent cases of bomb blasts, the police haven't been able to catch the culprits.

But there is a clamour for deporting all the Bangladeshi migrants. Earlier, we used to hear names like Jaish, Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen. 

Now, with India and Pakistan cosying up, the name of Bangladesh-based HuJi is the first organisation on which the needle of suspicion is pointed after such an activity.

But should the entire Bangladeshi populace be blamed for this? The politicians are the first to create the hysteria. How can so many Bangladeshis be deported for the wrong-doing of a few persons and even this is not clear if the Bangladeshis were indeed responsible.

Aren't they humans? Is it just because they are poor? And is it urban India's prejudice and contempt for the poor that gets manifested in such demands. They are human beings, who toil hard to earn their bread.


In urban India, it is quite common to hear that yeh jhuggi jhopdi wale', as if those who live in slums are responsible for every menace including petty crimes and making the cities look ugly. 

The same upwardly middle-class and upper-class that can't manage without a domestic help and whose household comes at a standstill is the first to blame them for every ill, just because they are poor.

Barely a couple of days week, a girl Arushi Talwar was murdered in Noida and the murder mystery is yet to be cracked. But initially every channel and paper screamed, 'Nepali servant suspected to the killer' (and not that 'Servant suspected to be the killer').


Why it has to be a Nepali? Couldn't they have just said it, 'servant' or 'domestic help'. The word Nepali shouldn't have been used. But did anybody object? It is clearly racist and in no civilised society, it ought to be allowed to paint an entire group as criminal.

Is it that he was 'the other', an outsider and more so, a poor person. Later it was found that he was also murdered along with Arushi.

This reflects the hollowness of our society. Are all Nepalis criminals? Or, all Bangladeshis terrorists? Of course, the latter are mostly Muslims and have a different religion, which makes them even more an anathema for a large section of populace.

If Bangladeshis are infiltrating and living illegally, there should be a proper policy or they should be identified and given work permits, licences and allowed to live here. But you can't treat a poor person in this way just because he is desperate to feed his family and comes this far to eke out a living.

We all know that India is a target of terrorists. They attack mosques and temples, they kill Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Christians alike. And they ought to be caught. But that should happen. Unfortunately we don't see the real culprits arrested. We just hear jingoistic rhetoric and hysteria.


And who asks for the deportation? India's former deputy prime minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, who himself had left the land of his birth [now Pakistan] came to this country! Unfortunately the fiery speeches do little to help anybody's case or nab the culpirts.

In 1984, two guys killed Indira Gandhi and we had statements like 'A tree falls, tremors are felt' that gave virtual license to mob to kill innocent Sikhs. We must not lose sanity. A story 'The Usual Suspects' in The Daily Star of Bangladesh written by Naeem Mohaiemen starts with the quote:

"They let us cook rice-daal for them, let us raise their children, trust us with the keys to house-home-jewelry. And then they turn around and vote for people who call us terrorists and want to cut us into pieces and bury us inside the ground." -- Bangladeshi taxi driver in Delhi.


Round up the usual suspects. Calling Abdul, Rahman, Rahim, Karim, Salim. All you "illegal" Bangladeshi immigrants within our borders. Report to the newest detention centers. It's not who you say you are, it's what we say you are.

Bangladesh has emerged as the all-purpose "Nondo Ghosh" [joto dosh] for Indian intelligence agencies. Attack on train station? Defused bombs? Bicycle bombs? Bag bombs? It must be the ultra-efficient, tentacle-spreading spectre of "terrorist organisations based in Bangladesh."

There is enough to write on the issue. We, Indians, also go to other countries looking for jobs. I think there has been enough of hysteria. There must be a proper system to deal with unchecked migration--either permit system or certain other visa.

The situation is similar in Assam, where every Muslim, even those speaking Bengali and ethnic Assamese, are termed as foreigners and outsiders or 'settlers'. But poor can't be termed criminals and exploited. We must understand the humanitarian aspect. That's all I want to say for the moment.