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HVK Archives: Deporting the past

Deporting the past - Mid Day

M. V. Kamath ()
August 13, 1998

Title: Deporting the past
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: Mid Day
Date: August 13, 1998

Before Jyoti Basu has a heart attack, let us get some things
clear. This is a free country and a certified citizen of the
country has every right to go wherever he pleases, live wherever
a job opportunity comes his way and not be answerable to any one.
His caste, creed, religion and language are of no account. As an
Indian, ad India is his home. As an Indian, that is. Not as a
Bangladeshi. As a Bangladeshi he just can't casually cross the
border, take a train to Mumbai, set up a hutment in a slum and
claim the right to work because (a) he is poor and (b) he is a
Muslim and (c) because as a secular nation, India should be
particularly nice to him because of his religion.

On behalf of the people who have been deported in recent weeks,
it has been charged that this is the work of an anti-Muslim
government run by the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party and
that it is not only vindictive but also inhuman. It is also
charged that the Maharashtra Government is anti-Bengali. None of
this makes sense.

In the first place the Maharashtra Government is not anti-poor.
Goodness knows there are enough poor people in Maharashtra to
break any decent man's heart. It is argued that there are no poor
people in Maharashtra and therefore there is plenty of scope for
the poor from outside to come to Mumbai to make a living. That is
sheer nonsense. It is argued that only Muslims are being harassed
and not Hindus. Nobody has as yet charged that Maharashtrian
Muslims are being harassed and driven away. Those being deported
are people who have come from Bangladesh and such people have
been deported since 1982 for which figures are available. Those
were the years when Maharashtra was governed by the Congress -
not the Sena or BJP. In 1982, only 88 Bangladeshis were deported.
By 1986 the number had swelled to 280. Two years later this went
up to 497. In 1990, as many as 736 aliens had been deported. And
this has been going on every year. It is not that the Sena-BJP
government suddenly woke up to the fact that Bangladeshis have
been infiltrating Mumbai and has been vengefully throwing them
out. To single out the present government as being anti-
Bangladeshi or anti-Muslim is not only unfair, but untrue. It may
further be asked: if Bangladeshis can find no job in their own
country why don't they settle in Calcutta where, at least, they
can claim linguistic affinity? If Basu is not perturbed about the
fate of Bengali-speaking people, the least he can do is provide
them shelter in West Bengal itself. That, surely, would redound
to his credit. That he can't, he would say, because West Bengal
can't take in any more people, even if they are Bengali-speaking.
That would be an honest admission and one would respect him for
that. But he wants to blame Maharashtra, for the simple reason
that he can't envisage a BJP government in power and has to
denigrate it. He should think again. Bangladesh, obviously, is
in a poor state. According to the latest issue of Newsweek
(August 3), "Recently a group of 150 Bangladeshis who had lost
their jobs in South Korea paid an illegal broker $ 6000 each," to
get themselves admitted into Japan. They were caught. And
deported.

India is under no obligation to help the poor in other countries
when between 40 to 60 per cent of its own citizens live under the
poverty line. India's primary duty is to look after its own. We
may sympathise with the Bangladeshi poor but they are not India's
responsibility. No one compelled Bangladesh to secede from India.
No one is stopping Bangladesh from joining India. Should
Bangladesh ever rejoin India, no government in Maharashtra,
howsoever anti-Muslim it may be, will dare keep Bangladeshis out.
If they come to Mumbai they would come as fellow-citizens, not as
aliens or refugees.

They may not necessarily be welcomed, but at least they will not
be dubbed as foreigners. Now they are treated as foreigners, not
because they are Muslim, but because they are citizens of another
sovereign country.

It is quite possible that pucca West Bengal Muslims - and not
Bangladeshis -often invite the wrath of the state police. It is
equally possible that many policemen are corrupt and often try to
penalise genuine Indian citizens who just happen to be Muslims
>from West Bengal in the hope of making a quick buck.

It is not argued that the Mumbai police are saints. There are
many who are crooks, who should not have been in the police force
under any circumstances. But how is one to make a distinction
between a West Bengali Muslim and a Bangladeshi Muslim?
Identification cares can be forged; even genuine cards can be
'bought' for a price and nobody would know. There is corruption
everywhere. So here's a genuine dilemma.

It is obvious that the Bangladesh government couldn't care less
for its people's welfare or why would they want to leave? Do
Muslim Punjabis from Pakistan come in large numbers to India to
Eve in slums? And no

Hindus from Pakistan are comings to India. All of them came in
the wake of Partition and there are hardly any Hindus left in our
neighboring country.

To condemn the Maharashtra Government as communal is unfair. This
is not to say that any Sena or BJP member doesn't entertain
hostility towards Mislims. Many no doubt do. Nobody wishes to put
in a kind word for them. If there are anti-minority elements in
the Sena or BJP they can be unreservedly condemned. Home
Minister L K Advani says his government is willing to give work
permits, to aliens so that they can live legally. It is very
noble of him to say so. But before he gives work permitted, he
has first to create work and how does he propose to do that? It
is stated that issuing permits and identification cards will cost
the nation several thousand crores of rupees. Has the BJP
government lost its head? Where is the money to come from? We are
a deeply indebted nation.

Bangladesh is a highly irrational state. It should join up with
West Bengal and become part of India. Lord Curzon once divided
Bengal that division had to be undone after popular protests
reached a crescendo.

The division that was enforced in 1947 has once again to be to be
undone and Bangladesh must join the Bengali mainstream as a proud
and respected member of the Indian federation.

The answer to Bangladeshi immigrants and their deportation lies
not in name-calling, but in undoing the original sin of
Partition.

That is the bare truth and we should move towards that instead of
raining curses on the Sena-BJP government. Why can't we face
reality for once?


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