The Rohingya living in the only camp for them in West Bengal have started to leave out of fear of crackdown by government agencies. Out of the 29 men, women and children from eight families, only 12 people from three families currently remain in the camp. Hussain Gazi, head of the organisation that set up the camp in 2017, says the camp is likely to be dismantled.
According to Gazi, the Rohingya panicked following a recent advisory by the Centre to the state governments to identify Rohingya and collect their biometrics. The recent developments in Assam, where seven Rohingya were sent back to Myanmar, has added to the fear, said Gazi.
On October 1, during the Eastern Zonal Council meeting between Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of other states at Nabanna, states were told to collect biometrics of illegal immigrants. It was said that once this was done, action will be taken through diplomatic channels with Myanmar.
“They have read reports and are in fear. They have started to leave over the past two weeks. They have faced atrocities in Myanmar and say they will be killed if they return. They have told me that they would rather commit suicide here if they are forced to return than be hacked to death there. In Assam, Rohingya are detained and pushed back to Myanmar,” said Gazi, head of Desh Banchao Samajik Committee, which set up the camp in Hardaha village at Baruipur in South 24 Parganas district in December 2017. The camp, set up on 15 cottahs of land owned by Gazi, has 16 two-room sets and asbestos.
Asked where the families have gone, Gazi said, “I do not know.”
Gazi said that after the Rohingya came to him in 2017, seeking refuge, he built shelters on his own land. Since then, he said, he had been trying to get some help from the state government but had been unsuccessful.
“I have written to CM Mamata Banerjee, who had earlier said we will embrace whoever comes here seeking refuge from atrocities. I also met ministers, MPs and MLAs but no one could find any solution. Initially, some organisations gave me financial help, but now everyone seems to have lost interest. Now I don’t know when there will be a crackdown and I will be tagged as one who had given shelter to illegal immigrants,” he said.
“I am still hopeful that the state will provide some kind of legal papers to these people to stay here. Otherwise I will have to abide by whatever the state government decides. The camp will be closed down if there is no one to give shelter to,” Gazi said.