A day after shanties belonging to hundreds of labourers were illegally razed by a BBMP official, fear has gripped migrant workers in east Bengaluru, with as many as 600 leaving the city even as authorities justified the action citing lack of time and money for verifying documents.
What makes the Sunday demolition tragic is the fact labourers in the shanties in Kundalahalli, Tubarahalli and Kariyammana Agrahara, who play a major role in keeping the city clean, claim that they possess all the citizenship documents, including NRC.
However, the police claim that they cannot spend lakhs of rupees and send a team to West Bengal to verify the documents.
The police also claimed that the West Bengal police never cooperated with them in the past in verifying the documents of these ‘migrants’. “They are not even providing facilities to stay there to verify the documents of these people,” said a police officer in HAL Police Station.
“We had spent Rs 5 to Rs 6 lakh when we took 60 Bangladeshis to West Bengal, but they refused to accept them, saying they are not receiving any Bangladeshis from Karnataka,” said the officer, adding there are a lot of practical problems in deporting them.
Claiming they had warned owners of shanties in Kundalahalli to evict the labourers, the police also questioned the authenticity of their documents.
“They have come from Bangladesh and have Aadhaar card from West Bengal. None of these documents are verified. We told the owners that without verification it is illegal to allow them to stay there. We cannot allow them just because they have Voter ID and Aadhaar card. What is the guarantee that these documents are genuine? There should be proper verification but we cannot do that,” he said.
With their shanties reduced to rubble, migrants began leaving the city. Among them was Anwar Shaikh, a mason, who left for his native Midnapore in West Bengal with his wife and three children.
Recalling the Sunday action, Anwar said two policemen in mufti came around 8 am on Sunday and ordered all Hindi and Bengali speaking residents to vacate the place immediately. “Children were getting ready to go to school just then three more policemen from HAL police station joined them around 10 am and forced everyone out of shanties. We were showing them the documents but they were not ready even to look at them,” said Anwar.
Another victim included Jairul Mondac, a native of Nadia in West Bengal. Mondac said the police threatened to register a complaint and sent them to jail if we didn’t leave the place.
“We sold all our belongings to scrap. We did not get tickets yesterday so we are living today,” he said.
Somashekhar, one of the owners of shanties in Kundalahalli, said he was taken to HAL police station Sunday morning and kept in the station till midnight. He claimed that he was warned not to rent out the shanty to illegal migrants.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said the BBMP and Revenue Department had to do the verification. Rao said they provided security to the BBMP during the eviction drive as the civic body had claimed that they were illegal Bangladeshi nationals.
“We also identified 13 places in the city where these illegal immigrants are staying. The owners have encroached the government land and renting out these shanties to illegal migrants,” said Rao.