Raichur Hindu Banglas feel 'safe' amid NRC talk

Left in lurch

Nirepada Mallick (74) shows his citizenship certificate in RH-2 camp in Sindhanur. DH Photo/Pushkar V

Any talk of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) gets immediate attention at one of India’s largest settlements of Bangladeshi refugees near Sindhanur in Raichur district.

But on the face of Amulya Dutta, one of the residents, there are no signs of worry. “We are Hindus and Home Minister Amit Shah has clarified that NRC won’t affect us. We are not infiltrators,” he says.

The 68-year-old resident of RH-3 camp was among the 727 families that shifted to Raichur at the behest of the Centre, as tensions escalated between India, Pakistan and the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) ahead of the 1971 war.

One of the first to settle after migrating from Bangladesh, Amulya is among the 3,000 families in Sindhanur. Most of these repatriated Bangladeshis are confident the NRC will not apply to them, as they are Hindus and have been rehabilitated by the Centre. 

That doesn’t mean they don’t have immediate problems to worry about. These Bangladeshi Hindus remain ‘virtual refugees’ despite having been granted citizenship three decades ago, because they neither possess title deeds for the allotted lands nor their five-decade-old settlements have been declared revenue villages.

“Hindu communities were targeted during the war that acquired religious overtones,” says Amulya.

Recalling the perilous times, he adds that families of Kshatriya and Naamashoodra castes camped for a year near Sindhanur before settlements came up at the present site.

At RH-2, the largest among the five settlements with a population of around 7,000, preparations are in full swing for Durga Puja when Amaresh Mallick opens up about their immediate concerns.

“When my parents came here, water in the canal used to run throughout the year, save for 20-30 days. Now, water in the canal is available for four months only,” he says.

While inadequate water makes farming unpredictable, the lack of land records adds to the uncertainty.

“We have been here for close to five decades now. Neither do we have title deeds for the lands nor the village is recognised as a revenue village,” he says.

And then there are the names, RH-1, RH-3, which hark back to the refugee era. But, mercifully, plans are afoot to change them. There are proposals to rename RH-1 as Mahaveer Nagar and RH-3 to Rabindra Nagar.

The families, according to Prasen Raptan, a social worker, originally hailed from Khulna, Jeshore, Barishal and Kumilla districts.

“The number of families now is around 3,000, with a population of around 15,000-17,000. The NRC isn’t related to us. But people were skeptical initially,” Raptan says.

Some residents like Darimal Vyapari recall some families losing their border slips - a document issued after they left Bangladesh as refugees.

“We were first shifted to Uttar Pradesh and then brought here,” he says. “Though we have voter ID, citizenship certificate and other documents, some of us have lost (border) slips while being shifted. We have nothing to worry as Hindus are not infiltrators. Only Muslims are.”

 

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