Biharis kept waiting for passports

Muktadir Rashid

Many Urdu-speaking people living in Bangladesh for long do not have passports although the government have given them national identity cards after the High Court recognised them as Bangladeshi nationals, said the aggrieved people, better known as Biharis.
They said they had submitted applications to Department of Immigration and Passports going by all official formalities, but for unknown reasons the authorities had yet to issue machine readable passports to them. Even the authorities seemed unwilling to give a satisfactory explanation for the delay, they said.
SM Reshma, a 27-year-old woman who is a permanent resident of Geneva camp and lives in Sheikher Tek area at Mohammadpur, had applied to the Agargaon regional passport office on November 18, 2012 for ordinary machine readable passports along with her father-in-law Mohammad Ismail and mother-in-law Anisa Begum.
According to Department of Immigration and Passports, an applicant was supposed to get his MRP in two or three weeks depending on the availability of police verification report.
On completion of the police verification, Reshma had inquires about the process.
But, the machine replied, ‘Your application, enrolment ID no…. is in progress. For further information, please visit RPO-Agarogaon with your delivery slip.’
She told New Age on Monday, ‘We visited the office several times and inquired why our passports are not being delivered…but none could give an explanation.’
After waiting for about a year, she wrote to senior home secretary CQK Mustaq Ahmed and regional director of Agargaon passport office on October 26, 2013 seeking an explanation for the delay.
The officials have yet to respond to her queries, said Reshma.
Talking to New Age, a number of Urdu-speaking people admitted that many of them had managed to have MRP as they had not used the Geneva camp address.
Home secretary Mustaq Ahmed told the media on September 30, 2013, ‘Getting national identity cards does not mean getting nationality…  and for this simple reason they are not getting passports.’
On May 18, 2008, the High Court ruled that about three lakh Biharis living in the country were citizens of Bangladesh.
After obtaining Bangladesh citizenship, hundreds of Urdu-speaking people voted in the parliamentary elections on December 29, 2008.
Following the court ruling, many Biharis also started applying for passports.
Passport officials say the government policy regarding the issue of passports for Biharis is still unclear.
‘We assume some one holding a permanent address in Geneva camp will not be eligible for passport,’ said Mohammad Hasan, general secretary of the Association of Young Generation of the Urdu-speaking community.
He urged the government to come up with a formal statement whether the Biharis were eligible for Bangladeshi passport or not.
About 300,000 Urdu-speaking people are living in Bangladesh. Of them, 160,000 live in 116 clusters set up by International Committee of Red Cross in different parts of the country, according to HC documents.
DIP additional director general (passport and visa) Md Siraj Uddin told New Age, ‘An applicant should get passport unless they are in jail or have been convicted [in criminal cases] or there are court orders not to issue passports to them or there are restrictions on their movement.’
A meeting presided over by the prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi was held in the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss the problems relating to MRP service and police verification.
Gowher Rizvi was quoted to have told the meeting that every Bangladeshi had the right to get a passport.
Supreme Court practitioner Sara Hossain said that since the Biharis had been given national identity cards to exercise their right to vote, there was no reason why they should be deprived of having passports.
When asked, state minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan told New Age on Monday that there were still debates among the Biharis over their nationality as many of them wanted to go to Pakistan.
‘Let them finish the debate, then we will decide what to do….,’ he added.

2 Comments

  1. mohammed mrahman says:

    Woaw behari gona get bd passport. .Congrats bd.. Bangladesh should maintain at least a minimum international rule for getting a citizenship. ok so called new generation kids who were not involve in 1971 war crime. Also have some minimum knowledge of bd history & culturee. should respect bangladeshi national value. finally all time support Bangladesh against any country.
    Who will you support , if there is a war between your country (Bangladesh) with PAKISTAN/ INDIA?
    Be honest to get that passport, you traitor.

  2. I don’t see any particular reason why biharis are not given passport …if they are given the national identity cards then they are quite legible to get passport..I hope government will get them passport as soon as possible.

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