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Regular-article-logo Wednesday, 07 June 2023

Bangla angle in Bangalore demolition drive

The eviction drive comes in the middle of a raging debate over the amended citizenship law and NRC

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 21.01.20, 09:05 PM
Debris of some of the sheds that were demolished in Bangalore against the backdrop of a giant apartment complex

Debris of some of the sheds that were demolished in Bangalore against the backdrop of a giant apartment complex Bangalore News Photo

Mohammed Nur Hussain Sheikh is still trying to figure out why his hut was razed even after he told the officials he had an NRC certificate from Assam.

“They came in search of Bangladeshis. But even after I told them I have my NRC certificate from Assam, they went ahead and demolished my shop where I lived,” Sheikh told The Telegraph on Tuesday.

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Sheikh ran a grocery store in a colony for migrant workers in Kariyammana Agrahara, a village in Bellandur, in Bangalore’s south-eastern suburbs.

On Sunday, civic workers armed with a JCB excavator flattened the blue tarpaulin-roofed sheds in the village that were home to at least two thousand migrant workers and their families for about ten years.

Sheikh’s store was among the structures that were demolished.

The eviction drive, in the middle of a raging debate over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, has sent shockwaves through the migrant workers who live in similar colonies elsewhere in the city.

“They just came armed with a JCB and simply demolished them (the sheds),” Sheikh, in his fifties, said.

There was no clarity on whether the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had issued the order for the demolition drive, but a joint commissioner of the BJP-run civic body confirmed that a zonal officer had given a letter to the police.

“An assistant executive engineer gave a letter to the police about the time and place for the eviction since the structures were built without permission,” joint commissioner Venkatachalapathy told this newspaper without getting into more details.

A police source said the landowner who had allowed the sheds to come up without proper permission had been sent a notice before the eviction drive began. “The eviction was done based on clearance from the BBMP,” he said.

Mohammed Nur Hussain Sheikh

Mohammed Nur Hussain Sheikh Bangalore News Photo

A BJP lawmaker’s tweets, however, confirmed the Bangladeshi angle. The “concerned authorities were instructed to take action”, local MLA Aravind Limbavali tweeted soon after the sheds were razed, adding that some of the residents were suspected to be “illegal immigrants of Bangladesh”.

Sheikh said the civic workers went ahead with the demolition “without checking our documents, although the people who live here are mostly from Assam and West Bengal”.

“Why should we come (here) if we had sufficient jobs back home?” he said. “There are even people from Karnataka (here).”

Sheikh, who has been here for about five years, has opened another grocery store barely 15ft from where the other one stood. But everyone else who lost their home have left the place.

“We don’t know where they have gone. But those who lost their homes packed whatever they had and left,” he said.

Jithu Bora, a young resident of the colony who identified himself as Jithu Bora from Assam, recalled the scene after the demolition.

“When I returned from work I saw people collecting whatever they could from the debris,” Bora, whose hut was spared with many others, said.

Nayeem Islam, a BCom student who came to the city a few years ago with his parents, now plans to return to his home in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.

“My parents left sometime ago. Now I will join them since I don’t think I can study when my citizenship is questioned at every turn,” Islam said pointing at the debris left by the excavator.

One challenge the evicted migrants would face is the exorbitant rent in the city. “We pay Rs 3,000 for each little shed with no running water. Power supply is erratic, but we still manage to live here just to save some money,” said Islam.

R. Khaleemullah, state coordination committee member of the Swaraj Abhiyan who has been helping the residents, said the police detained five men on Monday night.

“One of them was released at 3am today because he is from Tumkur (near here). I have no idea if the others will be released today although our information is that they have proper documents,” Khaleemullah said.

“With the help of 25 college students, we verified their documents through Monday night. We couldn’t find a single Bangladeshi.”

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