June 09, 2005


It was pretty disturbing to hear the news that due to an entanglement between the Power authorities and the ministry in charge of the refugees, power has been cut in Geneva camp in Dhaka, one of the sixty six camps all over Bangladesh which refuges some 250,000 Urdu-speaking Pakistani Muslims. According to this report:

"Four camp inmates have died over past three days due to the suffocating heat that has made dozens of men, women and children sick."

I cannot imagine how can people live in this heat wave in the box-like shanties without electricity? You wouldn't treat your enemy like that.

Some introduction is required for these stateless people, known as Biharis apart from what is claimed in this website. During the liberation war in 1971 they were notoriously famous for their support to Pakistani Army and were involved in many atrocities against the Bengalis. Some of them were opportunist and grabbed properties of Bengalis who have fled from towns to villages as the war progressed. Even people say that they played a role in the murder of the intellectuals in December 1971.

After the war the Bengalis took their revenge. I presume (I have no data off hand) they took possession of their lost property driving them out. I don't think the revenge was much lawful. After 1971 many biharis opted for Bangladesh and are now living peacefully. Now why are these camps still remaining? These are the people who boldly opted to go back to Pakistan because how could they live in a place where the people they hated live? They kept hopes for Pakistan alive. But Pakistan did not take them. Because many Pakistanis treat people of East Pakistan as of a no class of their own (even now). Pakistan probably will never recognise them as they are not pure Pakistan blood.

I think it is to the credit of then Bangladeshi government, they were provided camps and protection so that they can be secured from public hatred after the war. And Bengalis are not a violent nation. Now-a-days there remains almost no public grudge against these Biharis. As far I know there are many NGOs working here in Bangladesh to help those people regarding health and education.

I wonder why these people are choosing this plight. As far I know, they had the chance to opt for Bangladesh as it is easy to start their lives as Bangladeshis. You know Bangladesh do not have a national ID system as of now. So it is easy to get a ration card or voter ID posing as Bangladeshi (Just the trouble India is facing about some economic migrants from Bangladesh). And I know that in Dhaka almost 40% of the barbers are from Bihari camps. That means they do not have any restrictions for private jobs. Only for government jobs nationality is an issue. So I am not sure why are they choosing the hard path of keeping their hopes of Pakistan alive.

The lack of sufficient resources and bureaucracy have augmented the plights of these people. I hope that the government takes necessary steps to immediately resolve the power crisis and keep the camps in more humane condition. But my question is how long Bangladesh government can maintain these people, whose heart lies somewhere, with proper facilities from limited resources. And why the international communities are not doing anything to pressurize Pakistan to take care of these people?


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