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He is fair. He’s handsome. He’s not like those Bangladeshis, Indian people are familiar with. The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Salahuddin Ahmed, arrested recently in Shillong for trespassing into India, has received treatment unlike his fellow citizens those sneak into their Big Brother’s land for livelihood. Hours after being put into a government-run mental asylum, Ahmed was put into the Shillong Civil Hospital and they shifted to the super-specialty North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Science (NEIGRIHMS) in a couple of days. His wife Hasina, who flew in to Shillong, said she is going to urge the Indian government to grant permission to take him to Singapore for ‘treatment’. According to doctors, he is suffering from kidney stones and cardiac problems. He might not be fortunate to be flown to Singapore, but he is sure to get the best possible treatment in India. Yet, he is an illegal migrant, possibly sneaked into India through the same holes in the barbed wire fencing, been used by his fellow citizens for decades!

Most Bangladeshi origin people, especially the Bengali Muslim migrants are looked down upon in India. For that matter, every poor migrant is meted with such treatment in any foreign country. There is a comparatively better situation in Europe for African migrants due to increased world attention, but elsewhere they are victims of racial abuse. Their woes multiply especially when they cannot match the physical features of the native population. More than being migrants, they are victimised, exploited and deprived of minimum human rights because of their physical appearance. In the tribal-dominated states of North-east, a Bangladeshi migrant and a poor Indian labourer face the same racial bias. Let alone Bangladeshis, ‘Indians’ are a big No No in some regions.

It is the race that plays the dirty role more than the nationality. Hate between Indians and Pakistanis is palpable. But, a common Indian Muslim does not hate the Pakistanis (he might even love them just for having the same religion) as much as an Indian Hindu does! Same way, a Pakistani (Muslim, obviously) does not look at an Indian Muslim the way he gets irked by the face of an Indian Hindu. On the other hand, all these racial differences are buried when someone is high and mighty. Just like the case of Salahuddin Ahmed, the former minister in the then Khaleda Jia-led BNP government. Money and power play the trick here. Race and money (that leads to power) have always divided the people. They were treated differently, they are and they will be. Hope time proves this editorial wrong.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 22, 2015)

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