The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengali attack slur on govt

New Delhi, March 3: The Congress and the CPM today closed ranks in the Lok Sabha to pull up the Vajpayee government for hounding out anybody who speaks Bengali in a bid to push out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

“The home ministry should explain what is going on,” said Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

“I have already written a letter to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani about the serious situation that has developed in the country and asked him to convene a meeting of all the MPs of the border states,” said CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Vijay Goel said he would “convey the sentiments of the House to Advani”.

“Are we again going to divide the country on the basis of language'” asked the Opposition MPs.

Das Munshi stressed that people from Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam — working in places like Noida and Gurgaon in Uttar Pradesh and Panipat in Haryana — are being routinely harassed.

“Even after they furnish legitimate identity cards, police are rounding them up and putting them behind bars,” alleged the Congress leader.

“When I told them these were genuine people, the officer in charge of the police station where these people were kept insinuated that I was not doing my national duty,” he said. “Am I to learn my national duty from them'”.

“The names of these people are being deliberately changed in the FIRs. Lakshman Mandal has become Lakshman Khan,” alleged Chatterjee.

Both leaders pointed out these people are being “beaten” in police custody and not produced in court.

“I would like to know from the government if it is still following the Indira-Mujib accord,” said Chatterjee.

The issue has been raised before in Parliament. When the BJP ruled Delhi, CPM MP Hanan Mollah had led a campaign against the police harassment of Bengali-speaking people.

“The BJP government then had almost started a ‘cleansing’ operation,” said a CPM MP.

Das Munshi clarified that his party was not against identifying and pushing back illegal migrants. But that does not mean innocent people speaking Bengali should be harassed, he said.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has also recognised that illegal migration across the border is becoming a serious problem for his state.

Bhattacharjee and Advani have been talking in a similar tone, though some CPM leaders want the chief minister to adopt a softer line.

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