HARDAH (WEST BENGAL): The Central government may consider Rohingyas a security threat, but the much persecuted stateless people are being welcomed in West Bengal. Over 40 voluntary organisations in the state are working towards settling UNHCR-registered Rohingyas in the state’s first Rohingya settlement in Hardah village in South 24 Parganas district.

After settling 29 people, including 11 children, in eight tin houses in the colony, these organisations are demanding citizenship for the 40,000 UNCHR-registered Rohingyas in India.

“I have written a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requesting citizenship for Rohingyas as she is sympathetic towards them. We have plans to make houses for at least 5,000 families in Hardah. Many villagers have agreed to give their lands for the cause. We urge Rohingyas from Bangladesh, Jammu and Hyderabad to come to our village if they are feel unsafe at their present locations,” said Desh Bachao Samajik Committee president Hosen Gazi, who gave his land for the colony.

The move gains significance in the wake of Centre dubbing Rohingyas a “national security threat” and mooting the deportation of those who have entered India illegally.

The Desh Bachao Committee is leading the 40-odd organisations in garnering support for the Rohingyas. They have already organised over four dozen meetings throughout the district in this regard. “We are not sympathetic to them just because they are Muslims. We have plans to settle 140 Hindu Rohingyas, too, in our village,” Gazi said.

He said he had informed the administration about the move. Intelligence Bureau sleuths visited the colony several times to check for the UNHCR cards and left satisfied, he claimed.

Several Rohingyas in the camp said their families in Bangladesh were trying to collect money to pay touts and slip into India. “My father is still in Bangladesh. As soon as we gather enough money, I will bring them to India. The police harass us in the camps there,” said 27-year-old Md Shahidul Islam who, like other Rohingyas, works as a construction labourer in the village.

“I hope our children will go to school and get good education in India,” said his wife Momena Akhtar. However, Gazi is wary of sending the Rohingya children to Islamic seminaries fearing backlash from Hindutva groups. “We want them to learn Hindi, English and Bengali first. They can learn Arabic later,” he said.

Nevertheless, Hindutva groups have protested against the settlement. “BJP-RSS claimed we are housing terrorists. If one Rohingya is found to be associated with a terror outfit, we ourselves will take action,” Gazi said.