Page last updated at 07:47 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 08:47 UK

Citizenship for Bihari refugees

A Bihari refugee camp in Bangladesh
There are over 300,00 Bihari refugees in Bangladesh

Some 150,000 Urdu-speaking Muslim refugees have the right to be Bangladesh citizens, a court has ruled. The Dhaka high court ruling applies to those who were minors when Bangladesh won independence in 1971 or born after. The Biharis, as they are known locally, moved from India to what was then East Pakistan following partition in 1947.

Many of them were stranded in the majority Bengali-speaking Bangladesh without citizenship when the country attained independence from Pakistan.

Correspondents say the issue has been controversial in Bangladesh because many of the Biharis sided with Pakistan during the war.

The high court said refugees who were minors at the time of Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971 and those who were born after would also gain the right to vote.

The judgement does not cover refugees who were adults at the time of independence.


The judgement has been met with mixed reaction

There are about 300,000 Biharis located in more than 60 camps in Dhaka and across the country.

They are Urdu-speaking people, mainly from the Indian state of Bihar, who moved to Bengal at the time of partition.

During the Bangladesh war of independence they supported Pakistan, but were denied permission to emigrate.

As a result, they faced widespread discrimination in Bengali-speaking Bangladesh.

Even today they say it is harder for them to get jobs or get their children into schools.

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06 May 03 |  South Asia
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30 Jul 02 |  South Asia
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24 May 02 |  South Asia
Pakistan declassifies 1971 war report
31 Dec 00 |  South Asia

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