With rows of two-room houses made of tin and asbestos with semi-concrete flooring, an under-construction common toilet and a tubewell, the new colony stands in sharp contrast to the fading homes that dot Kulari village. The new residents of these tin homes, with their broken Bengali, stand out, too.
With eight families, 29 adults and 11 children aged 75 days to six years, this colony for Rohingya refugees has come up over the last few weeks in this village under the Baruipur police station area in South 24-Parganas.
Although the central government has described the Rohingya as a “national security threat”, local residents say the new colony has come up under the West Bengal government with contributions from individuals and local welfare organisations. Local police say they have informed the state government about the colony and that the new arrivals possess refugee cards from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
In Kulari, meanwhile, one of the most visible supporters of the Rohingya is the Desh Bachao Samajik Committee, headed by a local paint supplier Hussain Gaji.
“There are 16 rooms and eight Rohingya families. My organisation constructed the colony on 15 cottahs of land, which belong to me. All of this has been built with donations from individuals and various organisations in West Bengal. More such colonies are being set up. At present, there are around 4,000 Rohingya in Bengal and many others, who do not have any documents, are in jail,” says Gaji.
Inside the colony, the refugees are reluctant to speak about their refugee cards or produce them. What they are eager to speak about, instead, is how they have been provided jobs with welfare organisations taking care of their medical needs, too.
“I have a 75-day-old baby and have to take care of two other children. It is difficult and we are grateful to these people. They are providing us rice, pulses, vegetables, eggs and occasionally meat. They also gave us warm clothes and medicine. They have said that this will continue until my husband earns enough for us. We feel safe here than anywhere else,” says Momena Akhtar, busy cooking on a earthen stove while holding her baby girl in one hand.
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