Three hundred and twenty-nine people have been arrested on charge of trespassing into Bangladesh from India in the last three weeks.
The arrestees, who entered the country through the borders in Jhenidah and Jashore’s Benapole, were detained by the Bangladesh Border Guard and handed over to police. They were sent to district jails by courts after cases were filed against them for trespassing, said BGB and police sources.
Although the arrestees claimed to be Bangladeshis, they could not show the authorities any documents in support of the claim. They also claimed they fled from India fearing harassment and detention by the police there, the sources said.
Talking to The Daily Star, officials of BGB Battalion-58 in Jhenidah said they held 67 minors, 69 men and 78 women between November 1 and November 10.
The arrestees illegally entered the country through the border points at Jaluli, Polianpur, Khashalpur in Maheshpur upazila, they said.
Habildar Moktar Hossain of the battalion said the arrestees were mostly from Bengaluru, the capital of India’s Karnataka. Some of them had shifted to the city from Assam.
He said many of the arrestees claimed that they had gone to India from Bangladesh four to five years ago, but came back fearing detention by Indian police.
Seventeen cases were filed against the arrestees with Maheshpur Police Station, said OC of the police station, Rashedul Alam.
He said although the arrestees claimed to be from Maheshpur upazila of Jhenidah and Sharankhola upazila of Bagerhat, they could neither tell the names of any of the local union parishad members nor give the mobile phone numbers of any relatives in Bangladesh.
Director of Maheshpur BGB Battalion-58 Lt Col Kamrul Ahsan also quoted the arrestees as saying that they went to India four to five years ago. He said BGB had been detaining such intruders since the beginning of this month.
Most of the arrestees were Muslims, he added.
Our Jhenidah correspondent managed to talk to two of the arrestees before they were sent to jail.
One of them, Sabbir Sheikh, 42, detained on Wednesday, claimed that he had gone to Bengaluru in 2014 from Mahisdia village in Khulna’s Dighalia upazila. He worked at the Indian city as a porter earning RS 500-600 daily.
He said, “police often harassed his family as they could not obtain Indian citizenship”. In face of the harassment, they decided to leave India two months ago, he claimed.
Tusher Sheikh, 38, who was arrested the same day also claimed to be from the village in Khulna. He claimed that he left for India in 2015 and worked at a bread factory in Bengaluru.
Quoting the arrestees, Jhenidah Deputy Commissioner Saroj Kumar Nath said they had no valid passport or other travel documents. They had to leave India in the face of heightened vigilance by Bengaluru police.
Jahid Hossain, who lives in Kushumpur village in Maheshpur, said many people were being held for illegal entry for the last few days.
Locals said the number of those coming from India was higher than that of the detainees.
In Jashore’s Benapole and other border points, officials of BGB Battalion-49 and Battalion-21 detained 115 for trespassing from India. Of them, 20 are children, 28 women and 67 men, said BGB sources.
Commanding Officer Lt Col Muhammad Monjur-E-Elaihi of BGB Battalion-49 said they detained 54, including an alleged human trafficker, in Daulatpur border area on Wednesday when they were trying to enter Bangladesh.
Later, a case was filed with the Benapole Port Police Station in this regard. Since the beginning of October, 33 cases have been filed with the police station over illegal entry into Bangladesh, said Mamun Khan, officer-in-charge of the police station.
The BGB official said the arrestees were Bangla-speaking Muslims and that they claimed to be from Narail and Faridpur. They, however, could not show any documents to prove their claim.
One of the arrestees, Rahima Khatun, in her mid-thirties, told our Benapole correspondent on Wednesday afternoon that she had gone to India about 10 years ago. She was a domestic worker in Delhi while her husband a day labourer. The couple and their two children, aged 8 and 10, left India fearing arrest.
On August 31, India published the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, virtually stripping about 19 lakh people of citizenship. The register is a list of people who failed to prove they came to India before March 24, 1971.
On Wednesday, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said the NRC would take effect across the country.
Bangladesh shares borders of over 4,000kms with India. The bordering Indian states are West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.