Refugees thank Amit Shah for CAA, recall horrors of East Pakistan
The refugees who have been living in Uttar Pradesh said they felt overwhelmed by the government’s decision to amend the citizenship law.Updated: Jan 21, 2020 22:20 IST
A group of minority refugees from Bangladesh living in Uttar Pradesh who had come to Lucknow on Tuesday to thank Union home minister Amit Shah for amending the citizenship law, said they felt overwhelmed by the decision.
Nirmal Vishvas from Ravindranagar, Mohammadi near Lakhimpur Kheri, told HT that his family had come from erstwhile East Pakistan, Bangladesh. “Back then in 1964, I was only 8 years old. My father died while migrating,” recalled Nirmal who is now 65 years old.
“Those were horrifying years. Back in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, we were hounded and targeted by the majority. We watched our women get raped, our children killed. Many were forced to convert,” he said recalling the reasons why they shifted to India.
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Amit Shah met them ahead of his Lucknow rally. “When I met them, they had tears in their eyes and found words hard to come by,” Shah said.
The BJP claims that the group comprised refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Under the Citizenship Amendment Act they can qualify for Indian citizenship if they arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.
The refugees said nearly 200 families had initially come to India, mainly from East Pakistan’s Khulna, Jessore and Faridpur areas. Gradually, their numbers grew as atrocities across the border increased, they said. Anukool Chandra Das, who came from Lakhimpur Kheri’s Ramia Behad block, said his parents migrated from East Pakistan’s Faridpur.
“I was only 14 years old then. Initially, we put up at a camp in present-day Chhattisgarh and after spending three months in the transit camp, nearly 1700 families arrived in Udham Singh Nagar. Later, thousands of others came to settle in Lakhimpur Kheri in 1970,” he said.
Another refugee said, “In India, those who had arrived after 1964 weren’t registered and so we lived on roads without any facilities. After the citizenship law we would be able to get facilities, respect and recognition.”
UP minister Shrikant Sharma had recently said that the state government has identified 33000 refugees who had migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and were living in UP. “These were initial numbers and these would obviously be updated,” Sharma said.
The district magistrates have been tasked with physically verifying those who had migrated from these three countries and were living in UP.
Government officials said that the refugees would only be made to fill up a simple form before initiating the process for their registration.
At the rally, Shah said that the CAA will not be taken back and called for a public debate on the legislation that has sparked protests in various parts of the country and forced the BJP to launch an awareness campaign.
Shah accused the opposition of spreading propaganda against the citizenship law that fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Opposition claims that the law is unconstitutional because it makes religion a test of citizenship.