Denying what recent news reports had called a reaction to the “crackdown” by Bengaluru Police on illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the city, apartment complexes in the tech hub of Marathahalli said that they had placed no restrictions on the entry of Bengali-speaking workers for fear of unknowingly employing illegal immigrants.
The Central Crime Branch (CCB) of Bengaluru Police had on 26 October, arrested 30 Bangladeshi nationals who they claimed were living in the city without visas. They have been booked under the The Foreigners Act, 1946 and their deportation from the city is imminent.
Following this news, several reports had emerged of residents in apartment complexes in West Bengaluru ‘banning’ Bengali-speaking people for fear of not being able to tell them apart from Bangladeshi migrants. However, when The Quint visited apartment complexes in the area, both domestic workers and residents denied any discrimination or job losses as a fallout.
The Bengaluru Apartments’ Federation, comprising hundreds of societies, said that the issue had not come up before their governing council and they had no knowledge of any such ‘directives’ doing the rounds.
“We don’t see it (employing Bengali speakers) as a problem at all. There has been no official communication of any kind issuing any ban. We are against this sort of discrimination totally, and it's nonsensical,” said president Muralidhar Rao.
'No Ban, No Discrimination’
Prabhu Patil, president of the Rohan Vasantha residents association in Marathahalli, said that there had been no change in policy when it comes to verifying the identification documents of the people regularly permitted inside the residential complex.
“We have not said anything or given any official communication about not hiring Bengali speakers. How can we stop them from coming to the apartment? If their documents are valid and genuine, we will not stop them. Someone has given wrong information. We have also not approached the police to aid us in the verification process. Why should we do that?”Prabhu Patil, president of the Rohan Vasantha residents association
Upon submission of valid photo identification to the complexes, all staff members are issued id cards without which they are not permitted to enter the building society.
“We all have been asked to submit our original ID cards and documents for checking and verification. This double checking has been going on for a week now and almost all the apartments in the area are doing it. They have become stricter but so far nobody has been asked to leave their jobs,” said a domestic worker working in the area.
Other apartment complexes claimed that they had intensified document verification in the aftermath of the arrests, but only as a cautionary measure.
“This is the protocol we follow with all new employees. We ask for a government-issued ID proof, and we keep a copy with ourselves. There is also an application form which each resident fills and we verify the details in that. We have intensified checks in the area, but only after news of the arrests broke. However, nobody has been fired by us, everything has been according to book, so far,” said SA Raja, general manager at Purva Riviera, adjacent to Rohan Vasantha apartments.
Several other domestic workers that The Quint spoke to, including migrants from Delhi, said that their documents had been checked again in the last week, but nobody had lost their jobs.
Santu Burman, a native of Kolkata, working as a security guard at one of the apartment complexes said that he had not faced any harassment or discrimination from the building authorities.
“They are checking people’s id cards. Some people do get it illegally but I don’t know what they will do now. If your documents are in order, they won’t bother you. Many of my friends are from West Bengal, and none of us has faced any issues,” he said.
‘Some People Have Stopped Coming to Work on Their Own’
“They had identification cards but recently some 20-40 people may have stopped coming. We have not stopped anyone from coming, but afraid of the police crackdown, few people have stopped reporting to work. If they have ID they can work, we don’t care what language they are speaking,” said Giri, a staff member at Purva Fountain Square in Marathahalli.
Sridhar, general manager of Purva Fountain Square, said that the onus of police verification is on the owners.
“Owners will do the police verification. The police will check their criminal record, will make sure they live where they are supposed to etc. We are not restricting, since the cops have begun hunting for such illegal immigrants, some of them have run off. This they have learnt in their own circles and they have not come back to work,” he said.
Speaking to The Quint, Bengaluru police commissioner Bhaskar Rao said that they had not issued any notice warning citizens to be wary of Bengali speakers who could possibly be illegal immigrants. “We have credible information about where the illegal immigrants are. Someone may be a Bengali Muslim but that does not make him an illegal immigrant. We have not issued any such order and neither have any residents reached out to us for helping them verify documents of their help,” he said.