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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 219
December 17, 2005

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Law Event

Urdu speaking camp dwellers demand rehabilitation

Tasmia Persoob

Speakers at a consultation called for formulation of appropriate rehabilitation programmes for the camp dwelling Urdu speaking community in Bangladesh. The appealed to the government, civil society institutions and the development partners of Bangladesh to be more sensitive to their cause.

The consultation on Urdu Speaking Community's Own Perception about their Future in Bangladesh was jointly organised by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of Dhaka University and the Forum for Safe Migration and was held at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka on Thursday 8 December 2005. Representatives of eleven Bihari organisations participated in the consultation.

In his introductory statement Dr. C R Abrar of Dhaka University and chair of the session regretted that successive governments have not addressed the Bihari question with earnestness. He also noted the absence of any meaningful participation of NGOs in addressing the plight of this “forsaken community”. Abrar noted that recent pronouncements of the highest court recognised the camp dwelling Biharis as Bangladeshis and called on the community to organise themselves to realise their rights as Bangladeshis.

Most speakers at the consultation stated that overwhelming majority of the camp dwelling Biharis consider themselves to be Bangladeshis and want to be rehabilitated with dignity. Ahmed Ilias of Al Falah Bangladesh stated that lack of education has proved to be the bane for the community and called on fellow members to collectively devise a comprehensive plan for economic, social and cultural rehabilitation. He noted that the government initiated Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) has addressed concerns of other marginalised groups but not the Biharis.

Sadaqat Khan of Stranded Pakistanis Youth Rehabilitation Movement (SPYRM) stated that vested quarters have misled the community in the past. He said 80 percent of the camp dwellers have been born and bred in Bangladesh and consider themselves to be Bangladeshis. He claimed that on 16 March 2004 a note was sent by Prime Minister's Office to the Home Ministry to examine the rehabilitation prospects of non-Bengalis, but little progress has been made to this effect.

Mohammad Hasan of Association of Young Generation of Urdu Speaking Community stated that Bangladesh is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual state and the community should strive to establish its own linguistic and cultural rights while being loyal to the Bangladesh state.

Khurshid Alam of Bangladesh Mohajir Welfare Trust underscored that the community will not accept any plan that makes it move to other locations. He demanded that the government should accord voting rights to the Biharis and ensure education of the camp dwelling Bihari children.

The Chief Advisor of SPYRM, Moshtaque Khan stated that by promising repatriation, successive governments of Pakistan have played with the future of two generations of Biharis. Sartaj Aziz as Finance Minister of that country raised million of dollars from various sources in the name of repatriation of “stranded Pakistanis from Bangladesh” and thus Pakistan cannot be absolved of its responsibility, he added.

The author is a programme officer, RMMRU.


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