The rent here is Rs 500 a month. There are no toilets, just some porta cabins. The roads overflow with garbage and most houses manage with tin roofs. The only benefit of living here — for this community dominated by migrants from Cooch Behar in north Bengal — is the proximity to housing societies and construction sites that offer employment.
The settlement might not have an official name, but those who live nearby in Noida’s Sector 78 refer to it as ‘Bangladeshi Colony’ — a bias reflected in WhatsApp forwards that spread in the area after Wednesday’s violence, demanding that “colonies and societies stop employing Bangladeshi workers”.
In a WhatsApp group of residents in the area, one person suggested, “As a protocol of the RWA, I would advice that all RWAs ban entry of all Bangladeshi workers in our RWA with immediate effect. They are encashing our need and thinking it to be our weakness, they will all come down on their knees in a week (sic).”
NEFOMA — an umbrella body of resident welfare associations in Noida and Greater Noida — issued a statement about the “terror of Bangladeshis in Noida” and suggested similar preventive measures before hiring ‘Bangladeshis’.
Zohra Bibi, the domestic help at the centre of the row, lives in the settlement and worked nearby at Mahagun Moderne society in Noida’s Sector 78. After she didn’t return home on Tuesday night, the settlement nearly emptied, with 100-150 from the close-knit community gathering at the society’s gate, pelting stones and forcing their way inside.
Most of the residents here moved from Cooch Behar to Noida in the last decade, mirroring the boom in real estate in the area. Zohra’s family, for instance, moved to Noida when she was 14. Speaking to The Indian Express, she said, “I have always considered Noida my home, as much as Bengal. We have never thought ourselves as anything but Indians, which is why allegations that we are Bangladeshi hurt so much.”
Love Kumar, SSP Gautam Buddha Nagar, also rebutted allegations that Zohra is an illegal immigrant.
“There are two versions of events and the matter is being investigated. But claims that she is an illegal Bangladeshi migrant are completely false. She has all necessary documents.”
Officers added that they are scouring through the CCTV footage to ascertain the exact sequence of events.