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Uttarakhand to liberate its migrant Bengalis from ‘East Pak’ stamp | India News

DEHRADUN: A longstanding demand of over 3.5 lakh members of the Bengali community that had migrated to the hill state from erstwhile East Pakistan has been fulfilled after the Uttarakhand chief minister announced that the government would stop stamping “East Pakistan” on caste certificates issued to them.
Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, “I’m aware of problems faced by people in my home district. It is a long pending demand.” Dhami’s decision comes ahead of next year’s state polls and may help BJP consolidate its base among Bengali voters, a sizeable chunk in Dhami’s home turf of Udham Singh Nagar district.
Earlier, Dhami had held discussions with Saurabh Bahuguna, BJP MLA from Sitarganj, and members of the displaced Bengali community. “It is a shame that East Pakistan is still being mentioned in caste certificates. Neighbouring Uttar Pradesh had stopped this practice around 15 years ago,” Bahuguna told TOI.
“In 2018, we had approached the then CM but the meeting did not bear fruit. Now, Dhami has assured us that this change would be brought,” he said.
Lakhs of Bengali families had migrated to Uttarakhand between 1956 and 1970, many of them from the border areas of Khulna, Jessore and Faridpur. A majority was settled in Udham Singh Nagar. Over the past decades, they have staged frequent protests to get the stamp removed from their caste certificate – a document meant to certify that an individual belongs to a particular religion, caste and community and which is required to avail of government schemes and benefits.
On Friday, members of the community said their decades-long struggle to “truly belong” has finally ended. “It wasn’t just our ancestors whose certificates carried this tag, even the caste documents of people like me born here in India had the stamp,” said Uttam Datta, a businessman, whose family had moved from Noakhali to Rudrapur in 1964. Datta said that he was relieved that their future generations would no longer face the embarrassment he did. “It hurt me every time to look at that document,” he said.
Sanjay Bachar, vice president of Bengali Kalyan Samiti, is also among those born in India, but whose certificates have an “East Pakistan” stamp. “This was a blot on our community and we are relieved the government will do away with this,” he said.

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