Jaipur’s ‘mini Bangladesh’ lives on the edge

May 15th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by admin  

By Sahil Makkar
Jaipur, May 15 (IANS) An eerie silence prevails in a slum area that many in Jaipur call ‘mini Bangladesh’. Most of its residents, who are from West Bengal and Bangladesh, have withdrawn indoors to avoid police questioning after the serial bomb blasts here that killed at least 61 people. Several teams of investigating officials, in plains and uniform, and administration have been camping at the slum in Bagrana, an hour’s drive from Jaipur and home to 250 Bangladeshi immigrants, keeping a hawk’s eye over the minutest of developments.

That is because intelligence agencies suspect the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) to be behind the eight coordinated blasts that went off within a span of 15 minutes in the walled city area of the Rajasthan capital Tuesday evening.

The people here, mostly rag pickers, rickshaw pullers, and vegetable sellers, were Thursday asked not to go to work. When senior officials came, they had to stand in front of their shanties, many of which were gutted in a fire April 24.

“Sir, we are not terrorists. We have been living in this place for five years but never faced trouble. Now we fear that police might brand us terrorists and put us behind bars,” said Illyasuddin, a Bangladeshi who came to Jaipur two years ago to work as a labourer.

Like his neighbours, he was also trembling when police officials grilled him and his family for nearly 15 minutes. Flicking through pages of their record books, the officials assured themselves they were not linked to the blasts in any manner.

The officials walked the bylanes and narrow streets, shouting loudly to every one to come out and prove their identity.

A large number of Bangladeshi immigrants initially lived close to the Jaipur railway station and shifted to this slum when forced to vacate the public place.

Khiral Lashkar, who claims to hail from West Bengal, pleaded before the policemen who were calling him a Bangladeshi. “No sir, I am Indian, I have come from Kolkata,” he said, but the policemen asked him to report to the police station all the same.

Not even half-naked kids running around were spared. Police quizzed them also to cross check the version given by their parents.

“Being a Bangladeshi is not a crime. Why are police targeting people who speak Bengali here? People from other communities also live here,” said Rabia Sultana, a 50-year-old Bangladeshi national who runs a tea stall in the slum.

Police said they were keeping an eye on the slum since the blasts.

“We are checking those who have come recently in this ‘mini Bangladesh basti’. We ask people to tell us if they have had any guests visiting them recently,” Jeewan Ram Bishnoi, deputy superintendent of police, told IANS during his round of questioning slum dwellers.

“We have been directed to check everything. Our men in plain clothes are keeping an eye on this slum. All is done because of the blasts and security reasons,” Bishnoi said.

The Slum dwellers said the police had picked up some men from their neighbourhood in the past two days, but this could not be confirmed from officials.

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