After HC Order, Bihar District Admins Start Process of 'Sensitising' People on 'Illegal Migrants'

The Patna high court, in its August 18 order had asked the government to raise awareness how to identify and report such migrants, especially in the border areas, with the help of digital and print media.

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Patna: The Bihar government appears to have started the process of implementing the Patna high court’s order of building detention centres and putting a mechanism in place for people to report “suspected illegal migrants.”

The Patna high court, in its August 18 order had asked the government to raise awareness on the matter, especially in the border areas, with the help of digital and print media.

As The Wire had reported, the court’s order came in connection with a petition that was moved by a trafficked woman from Bangladesh, who had pleaded to be allowed to stay in India and begin life anew. Even though the woman had been deported, the court continued hearing the petition, which should have been considered disposed of, according to experts.

A notice was issued from the office of the District Magistrate of Kishanganj, Aditya Prakash and is addressed to the district public relations officer of Kishanganj. The letter number 1656, released by the district legal section, is dated September 1, 2021. 

The notice, in its subject, talks about compliance with the high court order of August 18. The order, in its reference, refers to letter number 394, dated August 27, 2021, from the Upper Secretary of the Bihar home department.

Also read: How a Trafficked Woman’s Petition Is Being Used to Push for Detention of ‘Illegal Migrants’

In the letter, the District Magistrate, referring to a paragraph from the court order, says:

“In fact, we are of the considered view that such process of sensitizing people, more so along the border areas, must be carried vigorously both through electronic and print media as also associating the public spirited persons/N.G.O’s for deportation of illegal migrants is of paramount importance and in national interest.”

The District Magistrate further explained to the District Public Relations Officer in the letter that, at different locations in the city, especially in the areas near the border, there needs to be a campaign for citizens to be informed about suspected illegal migrants. The letter says the campaign has to be undertaken with the help of digital and print media, to comply with the order of the high court. The letter also asked the public relations officer to consider this “very important.”

A picture of the letter. The case name which contains the name of the trafficked woman has been covered to protect her identity.

While the office of the District Magistrate did not respond to The Wire‘s requests to confirm whether he had indeed sent the letter, local journalists claimed that copies of the letter was indeed sent to them by the District Magistrate’s office on a WhatsApp group of reporters.

Another document, a public notice, has surfaced on local portals and WhatsApp groups in Bihar. It is undersigned by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Siwan district, Abhinav Kumar. The public notice, signed August 29, 2021, asks citizens to inform the nearest police station of any “illegal immigrant,” especially from Bangladesh. The notice also asks people to cooperate in legal proceedings against them by doing so.

A public notice released by Siwan Police.

When contacted, SP Abhinav Kumar said that the notice was for internal circulation. He said, “The public notice you’re talking about was for internal communication. It was made as a draft for the DPRO office in compliance with a high court order.”

While the high court order speaks of “sensitising people” along border areas – largely considered to mean the Bangladesh border which is close to Bihar’s eastern state border with West Bengal – Siwan is a district bordering Uttar Pradesh.

Sources said that the government has sent similar notices across all districts of Bihar.

Former IPS officer S.R. Darapuri said there is already an established procedure and such steps could flare anti-Muslim sentiments.

“Steps like these will only increase suspicion and public mistrust trust in society. There is no need for a campaign like this as these notices suggest. This will only end up increasing already existing sentiments and violence against Muslims in these times. This can also lead to policing by normal citizens,” he said.