Bengaluru Apartment Complexes Plan to Ban Bengali Speaking Migrant Workers

The crackdown on 60 alleged undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants has triggered panic in many residential areas.

New Delhi: After the Bengaluru police arrested 60 people on October 26 on the suspicion of being undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants, reports say that several apartment complexes in the city have decided not to employ Bengali-speaking people, especially minorities, as domestic help or labourers.

According to Deccan Herald, which accessed internal communication and emails among several apartment dwellers, plans were being made to enforce an informal ban from Monday. The apartment complexes are located in areas such as Kadubeesanahalli, Koramangala, HSR Layout, Somasundara Palya, Panathur, Sarjapur Road, Kundalahalli and Tubarahalli limits. The dwellers are afraid of police action and subsequent “interrogation”, according to the newspaper.

A resident of one such complex, Anagha Kulkarni, said there are rumours that Bangladeshi-origin maids will not be allowed to enter the apartment complex from Monday. She said that though the residents were yet to hear from the association, she expressed concern that the potential move would effect several working couples. “We don’t know whether this is driven by the BJP government’s stand on having an NRC in Karnataka. The authorities must come out with guidelines as the talk of a ban has led to chaos,” she told Deccan Herald.

There are about 25,000 people of Bengali origin working as cooks, maids and live-in attendants in various apartment complexes, according to reports.

One resident of an apartment community in Panathur said that a neighbouring apartment has banned Bangladeshi maids and labourers from entering the complex. Another resident of Kundalahalli said that police held a meeting with the security personnel of the apartment and there has since been uncertainty on the future of Bengali origin labourers.

The Stree Jagruti Samithi, which works for the rights of domestic workers, termed the move absurd. Geetha Menon, a representative of the Samithi, said that just because someone is a Bengali-speaking Muslim, he/she “cannot be dubbed an illegal immigrant and removed from work”. She told Deccan Herald, “If that is the case, what about a similar crowd working in MNCs? Why only target daily wagers? If the government has ordered such a verification, officials must lay down the procedures and we will help the maids prepare for that.”

Ruth Manorama, president of National Alliance of Women said the issue of undocumented immigration is a complex legal problem that needs to be resolved by experts. “Until then, the government must come to the rescue of such labourers on humanitarian grounds,” she said.

Panic about NRC

After the BJP came to power in Karnataka, it said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would also be implemented in the state. However, it announced that the exercise would be shelved and would instead create a database of immigrants who have entered the state without necessary documents. The decision, according to media reports, was taken partly because of the practical difficulties in preparing and maintaining an exhaustive registry.

However, the state is already building a detention centre to imprison foreigners found to be living in the state without papers.

On October 23, hearing a petition, the Karnataka high court asked the state and the Central governments what steps they were taking to deport undocumented Bangladeshis.

While political rhetoric in Karnataka has claimed that there are several hundred thousands of “illegal Bangladeshis” in the state, a February 2011 census showed (only recently released) that people of Bangladeshi origin (including legal residents) in Karnataka is just 4,420 (0.00007% of the state’s population).