Bangladeshi Branding a Conspiracy? Allegations Float as 300 Families Become Homeless in Bengaluru
No illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were actually found in the settlement where the demolition drive was held and senior officials of BBMP have distanced themselves from the entire operation.
The Kariyammana Agrahara area after the shanties were demolished. (Image: Fahad Khalid)
Bengaluru: Last weekend was a nightmare for over 300 poor families living in temporary sheds around the Bellandur lake in the eastern part of Bengaluru.
Officials of Bengaluru’s civic body BBMP came with local policemen on Saturday and started demolishing their huts, alleging that they were all illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Several residents in the settlement held up their identity cards – Aadhaar, voter ID and any other papers they could find - to prove that they were Indians, but the officials continued to raze the sheds to the ground.
By Sunday afternoon, around 300 huts were demolished. In just a few hours the poor families became homeless. Their school going children had no roof over their heads.
No illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were actually found in this settlement. All the people turned out to be either local Kannadigas from outside Bengaluru or migrants from North and north eastern part of India.
This action comes at a time when people across India have been protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), over fears that the exercise would be a bureaucratic nightmare, lead to harassment of poor and be discriminatory against Muslims.
For the people here, the fears of what an NRC exercise in the future may bring became all too real.
According to those who lost their huts, half of them are from different parts of Karnataka and they earn their livelihood doing menial jobs in the state capital.
The remaining half says they are from the states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Mizoram and Manipur. Those from Assam said their names had figured in the NRC list published in the state last year.
They admit that a few suspected Bangladesh nationals lived there, but they had fled the area days before the demolition drive.
Those who are now on the road with their family and luggage say the land is privately owned and they had taken it on rent. Even the owners of the land confirmed their claims.
Karanna, a migrant labourer from Koppal district in North Karnataka region told a leading Kannada daily "Prajavani" that despite his protests that he is a native of Karnataka the BBMP officials demolished his hut calling him a Bangladeshi.
"I am a Kannadiga. I have all documents. Is Koppal in Bangladesh? I know only one language - Kannada. I don't even know where Bangladesh is," he said.
A security guard from Mizoram also suffered a similar fate. He says that no one was ready to listen to them as excavators brought their homes down. Many others say their children have no place to sleep and have stopped attending schools.
Senior officials of the BBMP, left red-faced, have distanced themselves from the whole demolition drive and placed the blame on some “overzealous local officials” for the operation.
Some local activists allege that the rich residents of apartments, condominiums and villas around the lake had conspired with local officials to evict the poor people whom they considered a "nuisance". "They used Bangladesh as excuse," Manjunath, one of the local shopkeepers said.
They filmed and started circulating fake videos of the area branding it a Bangladeshi settlement, they allege.
The demolition drive had come after a video, reportedly taken in Bellandur, was shared widely on WhatsApp and was also tweeted by Mahadevapura's BJP MLA Arvind Limbavali. The video had claimed that Bangladeshi immigrants were illegally staying in the area. A local news channel had also claimed the presence of Bangladeshi immigrants in the area.
BBMP’s commissioner BH Anil Kumar said that he was going to take strict disciplinary action against the concerned officials for demolishing the huts of the poor.
"It happened without my knowledge. Local officials have no right to seek police protection and launch a demolition drive without proper verification. We will initiate action against them" he said.
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