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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Delhi's Bengali speakers 'harassed'

Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in New Delhi

Bengali-speaking people in the Indian capital, Delhi, say they are being regularly harassed by police as part of a drive to curb illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

Bengali Muslims in Delhi
These people say they are Indians not Bangladeshis
Many say they are from the Indian state of West Bengal, not Bangladesh - both places where Bengali is spoken.

They say the police force them to admit they are illegal Bangladeshis and they have to pay bribes to remain in Delhi.

The Indian home ministry recently ordered a crackdown on those they believe to be Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.

A key political aim of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is to deport illegal immigrants.
We had to pay the bribe because otherwise they threatened to beat us up and deport us
Mohammed Aminur Rehman

Bangladesh, however, denies there are any Bangladeshis living illegally in India.

Bengali Muslims often work as domestic help or in unskilled jobs and some say they are regularly harassed by the police.


Mohammed Aminur Rehman says he comes from the Coochbehar district in West Bengal.

Mohammad Aslam
I was sent to the Indo-Bangladesh border to be deported to Bangladesh though I kept on insisting that I belong to Kharagpur in West Bengal
Mohammad Alam

When we approached him, he came out of his small, dingy house fearful that somebody had come to harass him again.

He said he had been picked up by the police early that morning and paid a bribe of 500 rupees ($10) to get his wife and himself freed.

"Some policemen came to my house in the morning and asked me and my wife to come to the police station saying we were Bangladeshis," said Mr Rehman.

Mr Rehman works as a daily-wage labourer on construction sites and earns about 75 rupees on a good day.

"We had to pay the bribe because otherwise they threatened to beat us up and deport us and there is nobody to help rescue us," he said.

His wife, clad in a half-torn saree with her baby boy in her arms, came out as well and after a while some of their neighbours gathered by.

One of her them, Ahmed Khandokar, said he had paid a bribe of 700 rupees ($14) to get himself and his family released.

"The police kept all our original [identity] documents and asked us to come back in seven days to collect them," he alleged.

Mr Khandokar, who says he hails from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, showed the BBC copies of these documents.

But a senior police officer alleged such documents could be forged.

Sent back

Mohammed Alam, 28, was sent back from the border by India's border police, after being evicted from Delhi.

"I was sent to the Indo-Bangladesh border to be deported to Bangladesh though I kept on insisting that I belong to Kharagpur in West Bengal," said Mr Alam who now runs a tea-shop in Kishangarh in Vasantkunj in Delhi.

"The Indian border security force sent me back after being convinced that I was an Indian."
Beauty says she can earn more money in Delhi

But some genuine Bangladeshis said they did come to Delhi in search for better livelihood.

Beauty is from Bangladesh and says she has already paid more than 4,000 rupees in bribes to policemen to stay in the city.

"My parents have died already and there is nothing which can lure me to go back to my country. I am happy here earning good money which I could not have done in Bangladesh," said Beauty, who has been in Delhi for over a decade working as a domestic help.

A senior police officer in the area refused to comment when asked about these allegations.

But the officer, Tejinder Luthra, said the police would order an investigation to find out if they were true.

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