New Delhi: A division bench of the Karnataka high court has slammed the Bengaluru police for aiding the eviction drive of people, claimed to be “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrants, living in a locality in Bellandur without an investigation.
The division bench, which comprised of Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar, also directed the state government to provide a plan to rehabilitate those who had been evicted, according to a report in the Indian Express.
Several people living in shanties on private property in the Bellandur area were evicted after a demolition drive was carried out on January 12, 18 and 19 after a police notice was issued by the Marathahalli police station inspector on January 11 for eviction.
The notice issued to the landowner referred to viral videos which claimed that there was an illegal Bangladeshi settlement in Bellandur. Soon after, BJP MLA Arvind Limbavalli of Mahadevapura constituency tweeted a video and alleged that people had taken shelter in “illegally constructed sheds” and said that concerned authorities had been “instructed to take action against it”. Limbavalli also said that some of the residents were suspected to be “illegal immigrants of Bangladesh“.
A few days after the police demolished over 100 makeshift homes, those who had been evicted established that they were migrants from the Northeast and Karnataka by showing their valid identity cards.
A petition was then filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties on behalf of the affected migrant workers, many of whom were from different parts of Karnataka.
“It is submitted that the residents of the property in question are not from Bangladesh but in fact are extremely poor migrant families, having migrated from districts of North Karnataka, including Raichur, Hubli and Dharwad and other states, including Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar,” the petition stated. “It appears that the bogey of Bangladeshi is being used to evict the innocent poor.”
Last week, the court had sought records from the police and city corporation.
The court also asked the police to state the basis on which it concluded that “illegal Bangladeshi migrants” had been provided with shelter in “the illegal sheds put up on the subject land”.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike claimed that it was not involved in ordering the demolition while the police reported that residents of the locality had voluntarily vacated their sheds after the property owner had asked them to leave.
The police did admit that a notice, claiming that illegal Bangladeshis had been living on the property, had been issued by the Marathahalli police inspector after complaints were filed by residents and an alert had been issued by the MHA to sensitise officials about the presence of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the area.
The court, however, said that the complaints had been general in nature and that there was “nothing on file to indicate that police inspector visited the site to verify if there are Bangladeshi immigrants”.
“It began with the letter of the police to the land owner to remove structures and in this situation we are of the view that the state will have to rehabilitate those who have been dispossessed,” the division bench said in an interim order. It also sought the state government’s response on February 10.
The bench further questioned the state advocate general about the police’s decision to act on mere suspicion and held that strict action be taken against the police official who issued the notice as the police had assumed the power of a civil court to issue the order.
“Where is the gentleman who has taken this decision, does he still serve in a police station? He should be thrown out of the job. Who is he to decide if they (the residents) are immigrants? Was there an inquiry?” the chief justice asked.
“What started with police has to end with the state now. We have no other choice. Let the state tell us how much time it needs to rehabilitate or compensate those who were thrown out of their homes,” the bench said and added that the state would have to accommodate those evicted at the existing or an alternate location.
Bengaluru police commissioner Bhaskar Rao has frequently claimed that a large number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants reside Bengaluru.