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REFUGEES




































Dear Friends,

Below is an Indian Express report on a communally charged police attack on the Bengali refugees in the NOIDA township, adjoining Delhi and part of the National Capital Region. Read with the fact that this summer two 'summer fires' also chose to devastate the large slum settlements of the poor, dominantly Bengali refugees, in Yamuna Pushta and other areas of Delhi. It is an indication of the actions and inaction of the ruling 'care taker' BJP government with regard to this section of people. The report tells its own story.

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For a secular and democratic south Asia



They came in groups of 4-5, they whipped us like cattle
Deepak Bajpai

NOIDA, May 23: Midnight, a jhuggi in Sector 10: The only sounds inside Suleman's small tenement are that of his sleeping family and a slowly whirring table fan. In a split-second, the peace is shattered when somebody breaks down his door. A man's deafening voice orders the family to get out. Other intruders barge into the small space. The sleep-drugged family struggle to find their feet. In the streetlight, Suleman, 57, realises that the midnight intruders are local cops. It must be a mistake, he is convinced.

Two hundred others like Suleman, all residents of a jhuggi cluster sitting at the juncture of Sector 8, 9 and 10 realised last night that it was no mistake. They were bundled into police vehicles and packed off to the Sector 20 police station. Seventy-seven Bangladeshi women and 38 men were booked on charge of staying in India without immigration papers. Children of the jailed `aliens', 130 in number, were also made to join their parents.

This is the second time since Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Anand Kumar took over as the district police chief on April 12 that alleged Bangladeshis have been arrested in such a large number. Mid-April, 87 persons were booked on the same charge.

When contacted, the police chief said that this exercise was a part of a long-term strategy. "We have noticed that these Bangladeshis are involved in petty crimes like theft, cheating and drug-peddling. So we decided to get rid of these Bangladeshis. In the first phase of the exercise, the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) collected the information about the settlement of Bangladeshis. In the second phase we conduct surprise raids."

"These Bangladeshis are working here as domestic helps. A number of residents of various sectors are approaching us requesting the release of their domestic help. But they have never approached the police for police verification of their domestic helps. In case of any untoward incident, we are the ones who will be blamed," the police chief says as explanation for the raids.

After last night's ordeal, nobody in the settlement went to work today. Work is mainly manual labour and household help. They are still in shock.

Says Suleman: "I thought dacoits had struck. They barged in, asked us to get out, abused us and some of them were drunk. Before we could understand what they had come for, they started dragging the womenfolk out of their beds." He sobs and asks, "They claim to be protectors of the law. Are they not bound by the same law?"

Kumar dismisses all allegations of police atrocities during the operation: "As their people have been booked, their leaders are levelling false allegations. We even served them with tea, coffee and and snacks in the sector 20 police station where they were lodged and interrogated. And we booked only those who confessed to belong to Bangladesh."

Not many are ready to speak about last night. But the few who are, are angry. "We are poor labourers. No one is bothered about us. Policemen regularly collect money from us. Do we pay from our hard-earned money to be insulted and beaten up? They whipped us like cattle."

Narrating the story, an elderly person, a carpenter by profession, said: "It was around 1 a.m. All of us were asleep. My son woke me up and said: 'bapu bhago police pakadne aai hai' (Father run, the police has come to catch us.) It took me two minutes to understand what was happening. There were more than 100 policemen. They were raiding the jhuggis in groups of four or five. The only criterion of picking up persons was their faith. They just asked our names, and if it sounded Hindu, spared; if Muslim, nabbed. They just did not try to identify Bangladeshis among us. They left after their vehicles were packed with our men. They thrashed our men and dragged our women on the road."

The SSP, meanwhile, said that he was planning more operations of this kind in the area.

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