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The Rediff Special/Giridhar Gopal in Kendrapara
January 24, 2005
The Orissa government's decision to deport 1,551 alleged Bangladeshi migrants in the coastal district of Kendrapada will end up splitting families.
Many families have received notices asking only one or a few of their members to leave India. In many cases, it is the breadwinner who has been declared a migrant. There are also instances of women and even children figuring in the deportation list.
Those who have got the notice -- over 800 when reports last came in -- can't believe they have been asked to leave.
"How can I go when I have not come from Bangladesh?" 60-year-old Rishikanta Sana asked. He says his ancestors were from West Bengal.
Sana lives in Ramnagar village in the district. Despite his age, he goes every morning to the Bay of Bengal for fishing. He has no other source of livelihood.
"I was shocked when I returned home from fishing last Saturday afternoon. My wife and son started weeping. When I asked them the reason they showed me the notice served by policemen," an upset Sana told rediff.com
The notice said he had to leave India within the next 30 days, failing which he would be forcibly deported.
Surprisingly, he is the only member in his family who has been asked to leave. "How can I leave my family here?"
Arabinda Kayal of the same village is distressed by the prospect of his children being deported.
Born in 1949, he has five sons and six daughters and is employed as a worker in Paradeep port. Kayal is not only a beneficiary of government-sponsored schemes, but he also has a photo identity card proclaiming him to be an Indian. He pays income tax and even holds a PAN card.
The administration has served notices on two of his children.
"How come only some of my brothers and sisters are Bangladeshis and not the others?" asked Mahendra, Kayal's son, who has not got the notice. "We were all born here and my father has been working here since long. We are Indian citizens and nobody can tell us to vacate India."
The Ramnagar Gram Panchayat headquarters are located about 100 km from Bhubaneswar, the state capital. It has three revenue villages and three tiny hamlets, where more then 12,000 people live. Ninety per cent of them are Bengali settlers who came between 1951 and 1955.
All of them are Hindus, said the sarpanch Mrutunjaya Mandal.
They came here because of the torture they underwent in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), he told rediff.com Most of them have land pattas, voter identity cards and many are beneficiaries of government programmes. "How can the government serve such a notice on them after accepting them as citizens?" he asked.
Mandal has formed an organisation called the Utkal-Bangiya Surakhya Samiti to fight for the cause of these people. "We have approached the prime minister, President, governor and chief minister. "If we do not get justice we will move the court," he said. "We will also stage demonstrations and block roads."
Locals in other villages in the district are also equally agitated and are protesting against the state's decision.
"They have been living here since long and become an integral part of our lives. How can the police separate them from us?" asked Ajay Shukla.
Several men will have to leave their wives and children behind; many women will be separated from their families. Even children have been served the notice, Shukla noted. "How is it possible that only a few members of a family are Bangladeshis?"
Officials admit that instances of only one or a few members of a family getting notice could be a 'minor error.' However, a district official, requesting anonymity, said, "We have not come across any such incident."
Shukla alleged that the identification process had been arbitrary.
According to a state home department official, Bangladeshi immigrants are divided into three categories -- those who came before March 25, 1971, those between March 25, 1971 and December 16, 1971 and those who came later.
The government announced that those who migrated to Orissa before March would not be disturbed. The cases of people who came between March and December were referred to the central government, which gave the state the permission to deport them, the official said.
The government has identified about 3,000 'infiltrators', a majority of them Hindus, in the 30 districts in the state. Twenty-one of them were arrested and deported from Nabrangpur district in 2002. The state also deported 103 'infiltrators' between 1973 and 1993, a home department official said.
These people were identified by the administration a couple of years ago, District Superintendent of Police Dayal Gangwar told rediff.com
But the villagers and those who have received the notice seem determined to stop the administration from going ahead with its decision.
"We will not allow the police to deport anybody. None of these people will vacate their place and country," Shukla said.
"We have been living here for decades and have become Indians," said 50-year-old Binayak Kayal, a resident of the same village who has also received the notice.
"My name was in the voters' list, but the local revenue officials deleted it when I refused to pay Rs 3,000 as bribe for having my name in the fresh list," he said.
Most people who received the notice or whose names figure in the list of people to be deported have made such allegations.
It is to be seen if the villagers' protests prevail over the administration. If it fails, then there will be many broken families.
Photograph: Rishikanta Sana and his wife Bhabani Sana. Rishikanta has been declared a migrant.
Headline Photograph: Shivaji Maulik | Headline Image: Rahil Shaikh