The game of hits and misses: crackdown on “illegal” immigrants

With the Karnataka police on a politically driven “mission” to detain “illegal immigrants” the exercise is in all likelihood going to determine into an anti-Bengali or anti-outsider statement, allowing regional parochialism to raise its ugly head, even as citizens get mindlessly targeted
illegal migrants
Representation Image

There is no denying that the problem of illegalimmigration from Bangladesh is quite real. Although one cannot view this in the background of the NRC (National Register of Citizens) and Foreigners Tribunals, since that is, from its inception a questionable and even arbitrary exercise and has at its base a historically and politically driven document, the Assam Accord. The question in Assam has been deemed by stake-holders there to be state-specific arising out of the tumultuous and even violent years of the 1970s and 1980s. End result however has been a callous and crude bureau-political exercise that led to a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions.

In “preparation for a nation wide NRC”, many states in India have taken up the task of constructing detention centres within their jurisdictions and the police have started cracking down on suspected illegal immigrants, never mind the fact that the exercise in itself may be not quite lawful or statute-driven. This process of trying to identify illegal immigrants is more like a game of darts, sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss. Not knowing how to differentiate a Bengali speaking Indian from a Bengali speaking Bangladeshi immigrant, is the premise of this game.

Recently, the police in RT Nagar of Bengaluru, Karnataka arrested a 37 year old woman from Bangladesh for overstaying. The woman who had come to India on a student visa in 2003, later on got married and has a child. She even procured a PAN Card, Aadhar Card, Voter’s ID and she applied for a passport, when it came to light that she had overstayed and was thus labelled an illegal immigrant and arrested under the Foreigners Act.If ultimately this becomes a legitimate case of illegal immigration, thendue tothe woman’s ignorance of the law her family will have to pay a heavy price.

Not far back, Sabrang India reported that Bengali speaking workers were facing a likely and informal ban in housing complexes in Bengaluru wherein it was also highlighted how many low income Bengali speaking Indians as well illegal immigrants live in the outskirts of Bengaluru and work as rag pickers and how they are exploited. It is now being reported that the many rag pickers living in these outskirts, who were apparently hailing from Assam and West Bengal have fled apprehending detention or arrests, adversely affecting the dry waste processing in the city.

There are reports coming from other states were police are nabbing illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the cities of Mathura or Delhi or Agra or Bengaluru itself.

But there is another side of this coin where Bengali speaking population in Bengaluru is accusing the state of targeting them without reason. In a recent incident, Kaustav Bhattacharya, a resident of Electronic City said he was taken to the local police station for questioning simply because his address on his driving license was of West Bengal.

While it is too early to determine how legitimate will such impending detentions be, one can only hope that innocent and rightful citizens do not meet the same fate as the citizenry in Assam.


Bengali speaking workers face likely ban in Bengaluru apartments, what’s next?
Bangladeshi ragpickers flee Bengaluru; dry waste processing hit

Bangladeshi woman held for overstaying, settling
Bengalis in city say they’re being unfairly targeted



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