Introduction / History
The so-called Biharis are Muslims who originated from different ethno-linguistic groups in Bihar and neighboring States of British India. Following communal riots during and after the partition of the Indian Subcontinent hundreds of thousands of Urdu-speaking Muslims migrated from Bihar and other Indian States to East Pakistan. When the nationalist movement of the Bengalis led to the War of Independence, the Biharis sided with Pakistan and shared in the war crimes against millions of Bengali civilians. After the war they became victims of revenge and were gathered by the Red Cross (ICCRC) into 66 Relief camps to await repatriation to Pakistan. Until 1982 approx. 200,000 "stranded Pakistanis" were epatriated until internal ethnic conflicts caused Pakistan to refuse to accept any more Bihari migrants. In spite of many promises by different Pakistani governments approximately 300,000 Biharis remained stateless in Bangladesh for 39 years. The 66 former relief camps have evolved into urban slum communities where each family occupies a 6x6 sq ft. room. The congested housing situation, lack of sanitation and potable water causes many health problems. Poverty, hopelessness and social deterioration have made the camps a breeding ground for crime.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Traditionally Biharis are respected as skilled, hard workers. Children are expected to learn a trade at a young age to contribute to the family income and to stay away from unsupervised play. Due to lack of employment opportunities, many Biharis run micro-enterprises. They operate small auto repair and electrical shops or work as metal workers, drivers, rickshaw pullers, weavers or barbers. Still bearing the stigma as traitors, the younger generation is slowly coming to the realization that they will have to stay in Bangladesh. In 2007 the interim government granted voting rights and citizenship to Biharis who were minors during the 71 war or born later. While this a positive change the future development of the Biharis camps remain uncertain.
|Profile Source: Anonymous|