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In Pictures: Plight of Biharis in Bangladesh
Hundreds of thousands of Urdu-speaking Bihari community in Bangladesh battle social stigma on a daily basis.
Last updated: 26 Mar 2014 14:14
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The Bihari community in Bangladesh has come a long way from filthy tents to voting rights, but they continue to battle social stigma.

The Biharis say the planes that were supposed to take them to Pakistan never arrived and the 300,000-minority community was stranded in one-room houses as stateless refugees.

The Urdu-speaking Biharis are descendants of Muslim refugees who fled from India after the partition of 1947, fearing communal riots.

During the 1971 Bangladesh’s Liberation War, some factions supported West Pakistan resulting in conflict and forceful deportation of thousands. But the rest remained and moved into refugee camps and continue to be looked down upon.

In 2008, about 150,000 Biharis, who were minors at the time of the liberation war of 1971 or born after were given citizenship rights. They were able to vote for the first time.

Ahmed Ilias of Al-Falah Bangladesh, campaigning for the rights of the community says authorities will not give passports to Bihari youth if their address is inside the refugee camp. “There is no economic rehabilitation and our youth cannot work overseas, they are trapped,” he says.

About 94 percent of the Biharis are illiterate, according to the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, while the national average is 46 percent.

Walking down the narrow lanes means jumping over open drains, garbage, mud and slush. The camps look more like self-sufficient towns, mud-brick houses, dotted with cottage industries, shops and schools. Unable to get jobs, many work as day labourers in the city; the camps are well known for embroidery work, dyeing, thread making, weaving of Banarasi saris.

“We demand compensation, so we can start businesses; free education till high school and reservation or quotas for our families,” says Muhammad Nadim, who lives in Rahmat Camp in Dhaka.


/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

According to the rights group Al-Falah Bangladesh, the Bihari community does not get the same rights like the citizens and are treated with disdain.  



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

The Urdu-speaking community is from the Indian state of Bihar. They migrated to East Pakistan fearing communal violence during and after the partition of India in 1947.



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

During the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Biharis were accused of supporting West Pakistan and even now many view them as traitors. 



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Despite getting citizenship rights thousands continue to languish inside the refugee camps in Dhaka. 



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

“Some of us have college and university degrees, yet we struggle to get jobs. We are forced to work as day labourers, rickshawpullers,” says Muhammad Hasan, 24.



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

A house is sublet inside the Rahmat Camp, Dhaka. Most live with their extended families in overcrowded one-room houses.



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

A family makes paper bags earning $2-3 for every 1000 bags. Some keep goats and poultry.



/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

Many Biharis aspire to go to Middle East particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia to work, but few are able to get a passport. 



/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

"I have been living here since the day Bangladesh was founded. There is so much suffering here. Broken toilets, water logging, damp houses, unsafe drinking water. Everyday we have to deal with it,” says Khairun Nisha.



/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

A woman sews sequins and draws patterns with golden thread, a common sight in most Bihari houses.



/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

Ahmed Ilias of Al-Falah Bangladesh says because of social stigma they are unable to integrate with the mainstream society.



/Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera

Older Biharis still hope for repatriation. But the younger generation considers themselves as Bangladeshis, they only wish for acceptance and their living conditions to improve.




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images:
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captions:

According to the rights group Al-Falah Bangladesh, the Bihari community does not get the same rights like the citizens and are treated with disdain.  

;*;

The Urdu-speaking community is from the Indian state of Bihar. They migrated to East Pakistan fearing communal violence during and after the partition of India in 1947.

;*;

During the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Biharis were accused of supporting West Pakistan and even now many view them as traitors. 

;*;

Despite getting citizenship rights thousands continue to languish inside the refugee camps in Dhaka. 

;*;

“Some of us have college and university degrees, yet we struggle to get jobs. We are forced to work as day labourers, rickshawpullers,” says Muhammad Hasan, 24.

;*;

A house is sublet inside the Rahmat Camp, Dhaka. Most live with their extended families in overcrowded one-room houses.

;*;

A family makes paper bags earning $2-3 for every 1000 bags. Some keep goats and poultry.

;*;

Many Biharis aspire to go to Middle East particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia to work, but few are able to get a passport. 

;*;

"I have been living here since the day Bangladesh was founded. There is so much suffering here. Broken toilets, water logging, damp houses, unsafe drinking water. Everyday we have to deal with it,” says Khairun Nisha.

;*;

A woman sews sequins and draws patterns with golden thread, a common sight in most Bihari houses.

;*;

Ahmed Ilias of Al-Falah Bangladesh says because of social stigma they are unable to integrate with the mainstream society.

;*;

Older Biharis still hope for repatriation. But the younger generation considers themselves as Bangladeshis, they only wish for acceptance and their living conditions to improve.

Daylife ID:
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Photographer:
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Image Source:
Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera;*;Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera;*;Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera;*;Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera;*;Khaled Hasan/Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
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