Illegal Bangladeshi Immigrants Deportation Notice Under Judicial Scrutiny
Gadaharishpur Panchayat is a stunningly green and beautiful patch of land on the periphery of coastal Erasama Block of Jagatsinghpur District populated by Bengali-speaking Muslims, accused of being illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The funny thing is that the settlers posses valid government documents—from electoral rolls with their fathers name in them to birth certificate, ration cards and judicial stamp papers signed by easily identifiable magistrates. Some even have land tax records, the most conclusive evidence of Indian nationality and live in government-sponsored Indira Awas Yojana houses, enjoying all sorts of government benefits.
Unconfirmed reports estimate that the number of these infiltrators, settled in Garia, Suakunda, Ghasua, Patharkunda and Ahanda villages, is about 15,000. Moreover, in Paradeep port town and its adjoining Musadia and Sandhakuda villages about 5,000 illegal Bangladeshi people reside, but official reports put the number in Jagatsinghpur district to be 887—Erasama block 423, Balikuda block 167 and Paradeep Municipal Area 297. However in neighbouring Kendrapada District these Bangladeshi settlers are about 80,000, official reports said that as many as 1886 infiltrators had been identified residing in Patamundai, Mahakalpada and Rajnagar blocks in a survey conducted by the revenue department with police assistance in the year 2003.
Frequent infiltration of Bangladeshis into coastal patches along the Mahanadi deltaic region, which has the country’s second largest mangrove cover, has become a matter of concern for the local administration. These Bangladeshi immigrants have caused serious threat to the rich mangrove cover—by destroying the mangrove forests they create homestead land for their living as well as for cultivation. Many of them have resorted to massive prawn farming in the region which is likely to cause ecological disaster in the area. They are also involved in counterfeit currency racket, and setting up illegal broadcasting stations for propagation of criminal activities of all kinds.
With Bangladeshi allegedly mowing down mangrove for habitation purpose as well as for prawn culture, the mangrove cover of the Bhitarkanika National Park has been reduced to 145 square kilometers, with an estimated 40,000 people living in and around the park, Bhitarkanika is the only wildlife sanctuary of the country being used for such immense population purpose.
While the migrants have encroached 1872 acres of revenue and nearly 228 acres of forest land in Bhitarkanika belt, in the year 2004 few Bangladeshi intruders were arrested from Mahakalpada area on the charge of circulating fake currency in Jambu, Kharnasi, Talchua, Dangamal and Rangani villages. And in 2001 Rajnagar police had unearthed six underground broadcasting stations operated by Bangaladeshis in Balabhadrapur, Baradia, Kuitkulla, Dushigaon, Odasahi and Dhamara, the discovery of which led to the arrest of a few persons. This rattled the cops because of its security ramifications for the state and the country as the state has two major missile testing facilities located in Kendrapada and neighbouring Balasore District.
In another instance, during the year 2003, Rajnagar police had picked up eight Bangladeshi persons in connection with the killing of a forest guard Shyam Singh while he was on patrol duty in Gahirmatha marine sanctuary area. The settlers from time to time have also come under the police scanner for making forays into flesh trade. In this regard Mahakalpada police arrested a dozen immigrants on the charges of trafficking girls to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal. In the year 2004 Erasama police discovered that few Bangladeshi-made articles such as medicines, eatable foods, perfumes, soaps, Bangladesh currency notes and cigarettes were being utilised by Bangladeshi settlers staying in Gadaharishpur Panchayat.
Sources inform that the Bangladeshi intruded into Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur districts after December 1971 and they took sea route to reach the region. All the immigrants concealed their nationality. With these immigrants bearing a striking similarity in physical appearance and mother tongue with those of the locals who have migrated from West Bengal, it becomes a herculean task for the civil administration to keep apart the Bangla nationals.
Locals allege that with infiltrators getting political patronage, their unlawful stay was legalised over the years with sizable number of them availing ration cards, voters identity and BPL cards and allegedly enjoying the government benefits.
However in 2005, the authorities served notice under Section 3 of Foreigners Act 1948 to the infiltrators—1886 in Kendrapada and 887 in Jagatsinghpur districts. Reacting to the move the immigrants petitioned the National Human Rights Commission against the state government’s directive and also moved to Odisha High Court in the form of a writ petition subsequently. Considering it a sensitive issue the High Court stayed the deportation process and the case is still pending for final adjudication. The quit India process received an abrupt halt in the past seven years and the infiltrators are enjoying judicial advantage till date.
Illegal immigration of Bangladeshis has been for long a divisive issue in coastal Odisha. But for the political patronage extended to the settlers by successive governments, which sought to cultivate them as vote banks, the problem could have been nipped in the bud. Political patronage was the stepping stone to their gaining social acceptability and a measure of clout which saw many of them developing ambitions of having their own. The trend continues notwithstanding government’s move to identify and deport infiltrators. The recent ethnic violence between Bodo’s and Bengali-speaking Muslims, which started in Kokrajhar District in Assam killing 77 people and displacing over four lakh persons, happened due to illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Odisha has been witnessing public outcry over Bangladeshi infiltrators since years but with political intervening and few undisclosed reasons deportation could not be carried out.
By Kahnu Nanda from Jagatsinghpur