346 Bangladeshis using city as safe haven deported
Smita Nair & Stavan Desai
Indian Express , Mumbai, November 6:
Pakistani nationals coming into the country through Mumbai as legitimate passengers and then disappearing, illegal migrants from Bangladesh showing up in police investigations into recent terror attacks—it’s only natural that Mumbai police’s prime focus is now on illegal aliens who are using the city as a safe haven. The result is a systematic crackdown on the orders of anti terrorist squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi and police commissioner A N Roy. “This was always a problem, but after the 7/11 blasts we have stepped up vigil. We are taking preventive measures, too,” said Raghuvanshi.
According to the statistics available with the Mumbai police, so far in 2006, of the 501 Bangladeshis arrested till October, 346 have been deported. In 2004 and 2005, 701 Bangladeshis were deported. But the challenge for the police is the fact that illegal migrants keep coming back and at times they are the same ones who were deported a year or two before. This, police say, is because of the porous India-Bangladesh border. The special branch is making round-the-clock checks at various arrival points and well-known areas of the city. Among the 16 people arrested by the ATS so far for their alleged involvement in 7/11 blasts, at least two—Kamal Ansari and Mohammed Majid—are known to have escorted the terrorists to Mumbai after helping the them cross the border.
Last year, when the special branch arrested an illegal Bangladeshi migrant, 25-year-old Shabia Mohammed, her defence was: “I am poor and the city gives me money.” Days later, she was deported to Bangladesh. But during a raid last month, the special branch wasn’t surprised to find her in their net—this time, she had changed her name to Bilkis Bano.
“This is a common practice,” says Roy. “Sometimes these Bangladeshis reach Mumbai even before the police escort who is sent to deport them is able to come back from Bangladesh.”
The issue is of a “porous border”, reiterated inspector Vishwanath Satam of special branch. While areas like Raey Road, P D Mello Road, Sakinaka, Govandi, Dongri and Wadala are the traditional hotspots, investigators say “they (illegal migrants) are all over, having shifted to Mira Road and Thane districts.” So well entrenched are the migrants, that most come up fake passports, ration cards and voter ID cards when confronted during a raid. “Repetitive arrests have made them smart. They ensure that paper work is complete. Sometimes, it does not even take more than Rs 100 to get a fake ration card,” says special branch officer. Thankfully, a supreme court judgment strengthens the investigators’ case: only a birth certificate can be ascertained as a legal document in such cases. “Also, we do not have a national identity card which would have solved matters once and for all,” adds Roy.