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Didi’s U-Turn On Bangladeshi Immigrants

Updated: August 9, 2014 10:47 am

The issue of Bangladeshi migrants before the general elections and the war of words between Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee are known to everyone. But things seem to be changing as promised by Narendra Modi (achhe din), as things now are falling in place.

The changing trend can now be seen with some decisions of Government of West Bengal. A recent interstate agreement between Maharashtra and West Bengal on dealing with rescued trafficked girls, Ministry of Child Welfare and Woman Development, Government of West Bengal clearly notified Maharashtra Government that among the rescued girls anyone speaking Bengali cannot be directly sent to West Bengal without identifying their nationality.

Going back, during an election rally in Serampore in West Bengal on April 28, 2014, Narendra Modi said: “Bangladeshis will be deported if he comes to power.” Targeting the state’s Trinamool Congress government, Narendra Modi also said, “You are spreading the red carpet for vote-bank politics. If people come from Bihar, they are outsiders to you. If people come from Odisha, they are outsiders to you. But if Bangladeshis come, your face seems to shine. This country cannot run like this. We won’t allow you to destroy the country for the sake of your vote-bank politics.” He also added in his sharpest speech ever made against the Bengal government: “You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed,” in a rally in West Bengal, which shares a porous border with Bangladesh.

Narendra Modi’s comments appearing to draw a distinction between Hindu and Muslim migrants triggered a row during the election campaign. But he continued and cleared, who are real migrants and who need our support when he said: “We have a responsibility towards Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. Where will they go? India is the only place for them.

Our government cannot continue to harass them. We will have to accommodate them here.”

His party’s manifesto also mentions that India is a natural home for persecuted Hindus.

Immediately, after the speech made by Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, reacted with her sharpest attack. Mamata Banerjee dared Modi to implement his promise of sending Bangladeshis packing after May 16 if his party came to power. She also added: “Touch a single person, we will see. The paper tiger should know there is a royal Bengal tiger in Sunderbans. First you face that.” Claiming the then Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate did not know history, she said that Bangladeshis came to India under a pact signed between 1971 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bangladesh’s the then President Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. “He does not know that speaking in Bangla does not make one a Bangladeshi. That anyone who speaks in Bangla across India is branded a Bangladeshi is discrimination,” she said alleging that Modi wanted to divide Bengalis and non-Bengalis.

But now according to the agreement with Maharashtra, Government of West Bengal with its Chief Minister as Mamata Banerjee has withdrawn from its own stand by closing the doors for Bangladeshis in her state. The agreement was signed between the States of West Bengal and Maharashtra on how to deal with victims of child trafficking traced in Maharashtra, an Interstate Standard Operating Procedure was agreed upon by two states (West Bengal and Maharashtra), a copy of which is with Uday India, where West Bengal has cleared its stand that it’ll not accept Bangladeshi nationals. Earlier Bengali-speaking rescued girls were directly sent to Bengal. Now it has been agreed that Maharashtra will have to directly initiate a different SoP (Standard Operating Procedure) with Bangladesh, as in the agreement it is said that “If it is confirmed that the child/woman is of Bangladeshi origin, the state of rescue (Maharashtra) will repatriate the Child/Woman following their SoP (Standard Operating Procedure) with Bangladesh”.

When asked about the decision Sashi Panja, Minister for Child Welfare and Woman Development, Government of West Bengal, said: “It is an initiative which will help in tracking trafficking problems and which will help the girls directly return to Bangladesh. So this SoP is signed, where first their nationality will be identified and then they will be sent either to West Bengal or to Bangladesh”.

The sharp U-turn by the state government after Narendra Modi’s government came to power is seen as if the state government is now falling in line with the central leadership. Also, recently while passing TRAI amendment bill to remove legal hurdles in the appointment of former TRAI chief Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, initially the Trinamool Congress MPs where seen protesting on the floor of the house but later they supported the BJP government and ensured smooth passage of the bill in both the houses of Parliament.

While talking to Uday India, the West Bengal State Bharatiya Janata Party President Rahul Sinha cleared that Mamata Banerjee is under pressure when he said: “The Trinamool Congress government has to change its stand since it knows, now the support of the people is with Narendra Modi and Trinamool Congress too has to follow it in the larger interest.”

Reports suggest that there are about 20 million Bangladeshi immigrants in India at present, but there are no reliable figures. Many of them have reportedly been able to get voter ID cards, ration cards and other documents for legitimacy. The BJP calls them a drain on the nation’s income and resources. Deporting illegal Bangladeshi immigrants has always been a part of the BJP’s agenda, but the way in which the present government under the leadership of Narendra Modi is working, it indicates it could move beyond rhetoric.

By Joydeep dasgupta from Kolkata

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