Guwahati: Today on October 13, Centre for Koch Rajbanshi Studies and Development (CKRSD) submitted a representation with the Union Home Minister, Sri. Rajnath Singh highlighting that the problem of Bengali (Hindu) refugees from Bangladesh and that of indigenous and aboriginal communities of South Asia like the Koch-Rajbanshis, the Garos, the Khasis, the Mizos, the Mech, the Rabhas, the Dimasas, the Meities, and others (be it Animist, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian etc.) residing in Bangladesh are different and will need to be looked at from a different perspective. In a press release sent to media, CKRSD opines that, Like the Bengali Hindus the above mentioned Indigenous communities are in minority in Bangladesh vis-a-vis the Bengali Muslims. But unlike the Bengali Hindus the people from the said Indigenous communities like the Koch-Rajbanshis do not share the same language, literature, ethnicity, racial background, history, culture, etc like the Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. The historical fact is that, Bengali nationalism could not keep the Bengali people united, as they got divided on religious line, i.e., Bengali Hindus and Muslims; otherwise for all other matters they are one and the same class of people. Whereas that is not true with the above referred indigenous communities, as within Bangladesh society, they are the ‘minority within minority’ and the position of such indigenous communities like the Koch-Rajbanshis, is far worse than the Bengali Hindus as these Indigenous communities are persecuted by the Bengalis (both Muslims and Hindus) since they are racially, ethnically, linguistically, culturally and religiously different (definitely from the Bengali Muslims and in many cases from Bengali Hindus), and form the most backward, marginalized and persecuted class of people in Bangladesh.
Presently, the Indian legal framework has no uniform law to deal with the refugee issue, in particular that of trans-border indigenous communities; the Foreigners Act (1946) is the current law consulted by authorities with regard to refugees and asylum seekers. But the primary and most significant lacuna in this law is that it does not contain the term ‘refugee’; consequently under the Indian Law, the term ‘foreigner’ is used to cover aliens temporarily or permanently residing in the country. This places refugees, along with immigrants, and tourists in this broad category, depriving them of privileges available under the Geneva Convention.
CKRSD prayed for – (i) To enact a National Refugee Law for the Trans Border Indigenous People of South Asia having linkages with similar class of indigenous people in India, (ii) To have a separate ‘Task Force’ (like the one for Sindhi and Bengali people) for Refugees and Asylum seekers belonging to the Indigenous communities, (iii) In the North-Eastern states and in North Bengal, refugee and asylum status should be granted only to people belonging to Indigenous communities of South Asia having linkages with similar Indigenous communities on the Indian side, i.e., North-Eastern states and in North Bengal and (iv) No refugee or asylum status holder other than from traditional Indigenous communities of South Asia (having linkages with similar class of people in North-Eastern states and in North Bengal) should be settled in the North-Eastern states and in North Bengal.