Dear Mr Chidambaram

Surajkund NCR, Haryana

7th January 2009


Honorable Home Minister

Government of India

New Delhi

Respected Shri Chidambaramji,

I am writing this letter to you in a state of extreme grief and shock. This morning (7.1.09) at 3.44 am I was picked up from my rented residence in Haryana on the ground that I was a Bangladeshi. I see in this a vicious design of the police and state to ethnically cleanse the migrants into the state of Haryana from West Bengal. I am so traumatized that I can hardly stand up straight and hence kindly excuse my ramblings as I dictate this letter to my employer in Bengali who is transcribing my words in English for you.

My name is Malati Patra, age 43, female and married and living separately from my husband Bablu Patra. My only child, a daughter is married with a child and lives with her in-laws and husband in Batanagar, Maheshtala area of Kolkata. I was Malati Haldar before my marriage. My father is Shri Ratan Haldar and mother is Smt Saraswati Haldar. I was born at my parents’ home in Jagadhatripur, 14 Laat under Kakdwip Thana of South 24 Parganas. I studied in Manmathapur Shiksha Bhavan High School. My father owns land inherited over generations and I too own land divided by my father among my siblings and I. I work as a part time cook in several houses in Eros Garden in Surajkund NCR.

My father –in-law, Late Bagambhar Patra lived in Patharpratima Thana of south 24 Parganas. My husband lives and works in Delhi while his family stays in the village in south 24 Parganas.

I live in a rented accommodation at the address given above. My co-tenant is a Bengali Muslim family comprising of a married couple and two infants. Last night this Muslim family and I were lifted by the police.

It was 3.44 in the morning and the police came with their faces fully masked. They were neither in their uniform, nor wore badges, carried no search warrant and the only feature that said that they were the police was that they came in a police jeep. I was woken up from sleep by a woman police who was holding a baton over my head. In the cold morning neither the small children nor the adults were allowed to even wear our woolens. I was in my night clothes and insisted that I wear my underclothes. The woman then stripped me and asked me to change in front of her. We were asked not to make any noise and the neighbours were asked to remain indoors and never to speak of the incident to anyone and not to ever discuss what they saw.

The police jeep carried us very far and drove us to a police station. My co-tenant was asked to pay Rs 75,000 to the police. As the police insisted that we were Bangladeshis, I wanted to call up my husband and my friends. They did not allow us to call up anyone. Then in the course of the arguments, they suddenly noticed my red and white bangles and my sindur that married Hindu women wear. Initially they said that I was faking my identity but it seems that there was one among them who caught on my accent and decided that it would be safer for them to let me go. Suddenly the police gave me Rs 30 and asked me to take a bus to Kashmere Gate from where I could board a bus to Badarpur. When I was coming out of the police station it was early morning and the children had started going to school. I asked the school children what the area was and it is from them that I learnt that it was Shahdra, Salimpur.

My co-tenant showed property papers to the police who tore them off. The man was let off after taking Rs 25,000 from him but his wife and children are kept back. One of the children is suffering from high fever and is not allowed to wear warm clothes.

My complaint to you is that in the name of terrorism you are creating an atmosphere of witch hunting where ethnic prejudices are having a free play. The state in my case has behaved like a non-state actor by assaulting the rights of a free citizen to reside and live freely anywhere in India. The state of India has abrogated the Constitutional provision by actively discriminating against the Muslims calling them as illegal migrants when Muslims are an integral part of the Indian population. The police have misused the state machinery to terrorize innocent citizens only to give vent to their ethnic prejudices, which in a multicultural democracy is a scandal. I am appalled by the callousness that you are showing in calling for an end to terror through non-state means of police vigilantism. I ask you why I will not think of India as a FAILED STATE !!!

It is not everyday that I can get to write letters. I can only speak and often my employers are not kind enough to transcribe my thoughts into letters. But today I am insulted as never before in my life and my employer is lenient towards me and so I will write more.

I want to ask you that if you the educated people salivate at the prospects of working in the USA and Europe and become NRI, why will not a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi be allowed to come and work in India? I myself want to go to UK as a housemaid then why not recognize the urge in every human being to wish to migrate to the more developed countries? Like a NRI, even a Bangladeshi or a Pakistani citizen has every right to migrate into economically more developed countries for their livelihood. If the USA or Australia or Canada or Europe did not allow immigration, all your elite NRIs would be only illegal migrants. We want to be a developed nation like the USA then why not allow work permits for non-nationals? I know that Bangladeshi migrants would push down my wages and squeeze my opportunities for employment but despite that I want all migrants who come to my country in search for a better life to be able to do so.

During my childhood in West Bengal I have witnessed the Naxal movement. I have lived through bomb blasts and assassinations. I know what terror in civic life is. This is also why I know that a terrorist lives in camps, is a loner and takes training with military experts. I know for sure that a man living with wife and children, worrying over children’s school and wife’s health is not the image of a terrorist. In trying to look for terrorists I can now see how you are harassing a part of your own population. What scares me even more is that your anti-terror posture is a way of eliminating chunks of Indian population out of the census count. The area I live in has about 20,000 households with a majority of them as the rich class. For the past three years many a times “officers” have come and collected forms and photos for making voter I cards but not a single family in our locality has an I card. This is your innovative way of striking off voters from participating in the voting process. I am dumbfounded at the deviousness of the Indian state which carries such a moral high ground about it saying that it is the world’s largest democracy.

Look at the Prime Minister and yourself carefully. Is the PM not the very Sikh that assassinated Mrs Indira Gandhi? Are you not the same Tamil that assassinated Rajiv Gandhi? If I were to stereotype you as terrorists would that make you comfortable? Then why is the Indian state bothering a law abiding Bengali Hindu who confuses her l’s and n’s, and r’s and a’s as a Bangladeshi and that too a terrorist? If Hindus have torn down the Babri Masjid, will I as an Indian Hindu be responsible wherever I go? If Dhananjay Chatterjee, a Bengali has committed the most gruesome murder, will I be made accountable?

It has been my great misfortune that I, an uneducated person had to remind an educated man like you of the Indian Constitution and the rights of citizenship.

I want a written assurance from you that never will the Indian state use non-state means against any bona fide Indian citizen irrespective of language, religion, caste, creed and ethnicity. I also want from you in writing that you will always differentiate between the lawful citizen and the criminal, the civilian and the terrorist irrespective of whichever community that they belong to.

I wish to remain proud of my country as I always have been. I will be very disappointed if the present government cannot uphold the dignity of my nation which is the sangam of the world religion and culture.

Yours truly,

Malati Patra


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About secondsaturn

Independent Scholar. Polymath.
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