Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hindutvas Demolish Homes

In the major city of Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, the shanty homes of hundreds of labourers were bulldozed on the pretext that they were housing “suspected illegal immigrants”. The action, taken with police involvement yet seemingly on no official orders, has left hundreds homeless – either forced to share the limited space in those huts that are still standing, or else sleep on the streets. The incident began last Sunday when men in JCB bulldozers, flanked by plainclothes police officers, descended on the 600-home informal settlement of Kariyammana Agrahara, to the east of the city. They declared that all those present were illegal Bangladeshi migrants, and started tearing apart their homes.

It is commonplace in Narendra Modi’s India for senior political figures to speak of Muslim immigrant workers in extremely derogatory terms – usually as “infiltrators”, sometimes as “termites”. The actions has been welcomed by the local branch of Modi’s ruling BJP party, which called it “the right decision”. The incident was particularly concerning because it came just days after the local BJP legislative assembly member (MLA) for the area, Aravind Limbavali, tweeted a video of the settlement, saying it was “without cleanliness ... a site of illegal activity” and housing people who “are suspect to be illegal immigrants of Bangladesh”. Only two days after the demolition, the BJP’s most senior official in West Bengal state, Dilip Ghosh, said there were “two crore [20 million] Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators” who had entered India, adding that “we will not allow any to stay here”.
Residents tried to produce their voter ID cards, biometric registration documents known as Aadhaar, and other evidence that they were in fact born and raised in other states of India. But the police continued regardless, later telling a local newspaper that they have neither the time nor the money to verify such documents with other state authorities. A senior police officer at the station local to Kariyammana Agrahara suggested it was up to the slum residents to provide verification for their own ID documents, adding:  “What is the guarantee that these documents are genuine?”
Even if they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, or third- or fourth-generation migrants, neither the municipal authorities nor the local police has the jurisdiction to act in the way it did – that would be a matter for the federal authorities.
Lekha Adavi, a member of the Alternative Law Forum collective, said there was clearly a link between the evictions in Bengaluru and a broader anti-immigrant “sense across India right now”, with the government recently passing a citizenship law for refugees that excludes Muslims, and the exercise of creating a register of legal citizens (NRC) in Assam state.

“It is very clear that these guys are implementing their [the BJP’s] agenda, there is nothing more or less to it. They want to implement their agenda of persecuting Muslims, and Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants happen to be one pawn in that entire agenda,” she said.

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