On July 23, 1998, as the 8029 Down Kurla Express rolled into Uluberia station in Bengal, it was attacked by a 9,000-strong mob collected by the local MLA of the Forward Bloc, a junior partner in the ruling Left Front. The crowd, armed with sharp weapons, burst open a compartment carrying 34 prisoners, including seven women, all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
The 14 policemen from Maharashtra who were accompanying the prisoners fired 11 rounds in self-defence until they were rescued by the Railway Police. According to the Home Ministry in Delhi, the prisoners were “snatched away”. Their guards were handed over to the West Bengal Police.
The next day, it happened again. As the Kurla Express entered Kharagpur station, the West Bengal Police intervened. They asked their counterparts from Maharashtra to quietly hand over the 38 prisoners before another mob decided on “direct action”. The prisoners, who were zari workers, were awaiting deportation to Bangladesh following court orders in Mumbai.
According to the Times of India, “The drama in Uluberia and the pre-emptive strike in Kharagpur were not spontaneous expressions of indignation. They were carefully orchestrated by the Left in West Bengal to score a point over the BJP and its Shiv Sena ally and, at the same time, consolidate its own electoral base.” (1)
While members of the Indian public have expressed their frustration at why nationalist political parties are not delivering on their promise to send back illegal Bangladeshis, the reality is that it has been sabotaged by the left-liberal-secular ecosystem that has blocked these efforts.
According to former Home Secretary Madhav Godbole, the Shiv Sena-BJP government’s campaign in Maharashtra to detect and deport illegal immigrants in Mumbai was frustrated due to the opposition of the then Jyoti Basu-led Left Front government in West Bengal.