In shocking move, Bengal decides to build detention camps

Remember when Mamata Banerjee had said, ‘I’m your paharadar, nobody can displace you from Bengal’? Well, her true intentions are now under the scanner as her government is in the process of building two detention camps, apparently for accommodating just 110 under trial foreign nationals.

Detention Camps

The radar spikes each time one hears that a detention camp is being set up in the rest of the country, apart from Assam. While Assam is supposed to finish the construction of a detention camp in Goalpara in accordance with the detention camp manual issued by Centre, other states like Maharashtra and Karnataka have already followed the bandwagon. There have been confirmed reports of Maharashtra government acquiring land for building a detention camp in the outskirts of Mumbai and construction of detention camp in outskirts of Bengaluru is already underway as confirmed by State government officials.

The reports of construction of detention camps in West Bengal, however, has struck like a bolt. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minsiter of West Bengal has vehemently criticised the process of NRC all along and leaves no opportunity to disparage it. The Telegraph reported that Bengal is in the process of constructing two detention camps, for which it has identified land in New Town and Bongaon.

The State’s Correctional Services Minister has said that the proposed detention camps had nothing to do with NRC and it is only for foreign nationals who are arrested on criminal charges and who mostly hail from sub-Saharan African nations. According to state correction services department, Bengal has 110 foreign nationals who are under trials. The Ministry further said that they are only following the Supreme Court’s directives about keeping foreign nationals in separate detention camps in accordance with international norms.

Mrinal Sharma, Policy Advisor with Amnesty International India said that the government does have the power to detain foreigners and build detention centres under the Foreigners Act, it is only to be sued as a last resort. She added that rampant use of detention was not in accordance with international law, which permits detention to be used only as a last resort where it is necessary, reasonable, and proportionate to a legitimate government objective.

Centre preps for nation-wide NRC

In November last year, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that process for framing guidelines for keeping foreign nationals in detention centre across the country was under preparation. Reportedly, the Central Ministry of Home Affairs issued a ‘2019 Model Detention manual’ in January this year to all the States and Union Territories specifying the amenities to be provided in such camps.

Bengal’s stand against NRC

The State’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has clearly stated time and again that Detention centres for undocumented immigrants will not be built in West Bengal. At an administrative review meeting in Siliguri town, she reiterated, “There is no question of detention camps. They have to do it through the state government, but we are not going to do that. You can be rest assured about it. There will be no detention camp in Bengal.”

West Bengal Communist Party of India (Marxist) Secretary Surya Kanta Mishra had said at a party gathering in Howrah that the party would lead people to demolish detention centres if the Centre tried to build them.

BJP state chief, however, dismissed these statements and mocking Banerjee said, “She loves to talk big,” Ghosh said. “Could she prevent implementation of GST, abrogation of Article 370 and the Triple Talaq Bill? She will not be able to prevent it once the process of National Register of Citizens is launched by the Centre.”

It is not just the ruling government in Bengal that has been against the implementation of nation-wide NRC. There is a Joint Forum Against NRC which is set to begin a rally from November 15 onwards which is to begin from Darjeeling and conclude at Kakdwip on December 8. Kanhaiya Kumar is to flag off the yatra. In the Yatra 50 members of the forum will pass through major districts of the state and demand inclusion of the 19 lakh NRC excluded persons as citizens, scrapping of National population Register, NRC, withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Bill, among other things.

Why the detention camps then?

While sources from the west Bengal government claim that the two proposed detention camps are absolutely not for the purpose of NRC but only for detaining foreign nationals hailing from sub-Saharan African regions booked for crimes, the actions are still dubious. One wonders why a state like West Bengal which has put its foot down against carrying out NRC, is now building detention camps, albeit under a guise. The real motive of the state government is hard to ascertain at this moment but this development is bound to instil more fear amongst the citizens in Bengal which has already seen suicides in anticipation of NRC in the state.


Bengal camps for arrested foreigners
Rally in Bengal from November 15 against NRC
Detention centres for undocumented immigrants will not be be built in West Bengal: Mamata Banerjee
Don’t spend tax-payers money on detention centres: Anti-NRC Forum
‘I’m your paharadar, nobody can displace you from Bengal’: Mamata on NRC
Bengal Suicide: Panic over NRC is taking lives



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