Mukti

কাঁটা তারের বেড়া

Posted in Rights by jrahman on August 13, 2009

Once upon a time, it was Bangladesh that wanted to erect restrictions on travel to and from India.  In 1972, Bangladesh was adamant that the two country should have a visa system between them.  Back then, Bengali Muslim majority of the country feared that Hindus who migrated around partition would return en masse.  That wasn’t the only worry about India.  In the 1970s, most educated Bangladeshi feared an Indian takeover.

How things have changed.  In last year’s election, the centre-right BNP campaigned on ‘saving the country’ from, among other things, Indian takeover.  Election results clearly showed, in the words of my friend Zafar Sobhan of Forum, that dog didn’t bite.  Bangladeshis are no longer that paranoid about India.

Across the border, things are probably different.  I say probably because I am not familiar with the Indian zeitgeist, and could be misreading things. 

But I say different when I read this statistic: each year, nearly 100 Bangladeshi nationals are killed by the Indian Border Security Forces (they kill a similar number of their own people along the border.  I say different when I watch a news report like this.  I say different because I see no discussion of this in the mainstream Indian media.  I say different because I see fingers pointed at alleged Bangladeshi connection when there is a terrorist incidence in India.

Are there Bangladeshi nationals residing in India illegally?  Sure.  But let’s not forget, whether as a rickshawallah in Delhi, house made in Mumbai, or a road construction worker in Hyderabad, these people are contributing to the Indian economy.  They make it possible for the Indian middle class to enjoy its new found prosperity.

Take the terrorist connection.  When was the last time a Bangladesh-based jihadi outfit has been proved to have a connection with some attack in India?  This is not a rhetorical question.  I would like to know. 

Indian Muslim extremists have crossed the border to Bangladesh.  This is a threat as much to Bangladesh as it is to India.  It is difficult to explore why, after 62 years of secular democracy, Indian Muslims may find jihad attractive.  It is far easier to erect a barbed wire fence along the border, and give the border guards a licence to kill.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t particularly expect something better from state machineries such as ours. 

I am, however, disappointed with the silence among the chattering classes in India on this issue.  I am reminded of this Rage Against the Machine song about similar abuses along the US-Mexico border.  When will an Indian Tom Morello sing about India’s wall of death?  I am sure Kabir Sumon could do a better job, but since he is not, let me:

রেশন কার্ড নাই, ভোটার লিস্টে নাম নাই / এ জীবন জেলখানা, কোন জামিন নাই

এক চিন্তা, আশা নাই / ফুটপাথ যেন ফাঁদ, পালানোর উপায় নাই

জ়্বী হুজুর, জানি আমার হবে না ঘরে ফেরা / পথে আছে যে সেই কাঁটা তারের বেড়া 

এক চিন্তা, আশা নাই / নাম নাই, চেহারা নাই

কাঁটা তারের বেড়া, প্রতিক্রিয়া, দেশ ভাগ

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  1. […] (More at Mukti) […]

  2. Diganta said, on August 14, 2009 at 6:33 am

    In 1972, Bangladesh was adamant that the two country should have a visa system between them.

    – Do you have any reference for this piece of information?

  3. jrahman said, on August 14, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Diganta, I read that in various pieces by Faruq Chowdhury and JN Dixit.

  4. Udayan said, on August 14, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I think the worry in 1972 was more that Hindu property owners who had legal claim on abandoned or occupied property would return and cause havoc for those who had become quite comfortable living in /dealing with those properties. There is a story about an elderly man who went up to SMR on his trip to Kolkata in 1972, bends down to do pronam at SMR’s feet; SMR loves it and gives him a gushing photo op, just as SMR is about to embrace him, he pulls out a set of legal documents and asks SMR to return his property – caused huge embarassment to him and Indira who was standing next to him.

    The same fear holds true today – those Indians whose place of birth is listed as somewhere in East Bengal who apply for visas for BD frequently talk of a grilling about whether they own any property in BD. Though with the passing of time, there are fewer people who would either care or be able to mount any kind of solid legal challenges.

    I have also read that there was a lot of concern about the oft-quoted 10 million refugees who had come to India during 71 itself, who by most accounts were overwhelmingly Hindu. India was worried that they would end up staying, and one reason Indira Gandhi pushed for extended Indian army presence in liberated BD was to reassure them about returning (given the reports already coming back in Jan-Feb 72 of their properties being confiscated by AL activists and neighbors, returning refugees being attacked and threatened etc)

  5. Udayan said, on August 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    For clarification, my point above is that it wasn’t so much a worry about Hindus who had left 47-71 returning to live as such, but to mount legal challenges.

  6. Diganta said, on August 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    More or less agree with you on the post. Terrorism is a global phenomenon and it is not certainly connected BSF’s atrocities in the border. Did they ever even claim that they killed a terrorist in Bangladesh border? Terrorism is a global phenomenon and people over the world are associated in it. It’s a matter of time that people over the world would join hands to stop it.

  7. […] either capital mobility between the two countries, or monetary policy independence.  Given the porous border and weak institutions, it would be practically impossible to restrict capital mobility.  This […]


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