They were brought from Andhra Pradesh by the British in the 19th century to work as street sweepers and most of them are still doing this job. But in Bangladesh they have always been marginalized. A few days ago, the Dhaka South City Corporation began demolishing the houses in its neighborhood, described as “abusive”. They also demolished two evangelical churches.
Dhaka () – More than a thousand Telugu Christians have been left homeless due to evictions being carried out by the Dhaka South City Corporation in Dholpur, in the Jatrabari district, one of the two municipalities into which it is divided the capital of Bangladesh. They are members of the Catholic Church, the Golgotha Baptist Church and the Jordan Church of Christ.
“Only one day after giving the eviction notice, which was served orally, the Dhaka South City Corporation kicked us out of our church and our houses. Now we cannot celebrate the daily and Sunday liturgies. It is very painful for me as a pastor,” 83-year-old Pastor Das of the Golgotha Baptist Church protests in tears, in dialogue with .
Between 1836 and 1850 the British government brought 40 Telugu families from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to Dhaka to work as street sweepers. Most of them still do this job. Wiping away tears, the pastor says that this is the third time the Telugu community has been evicted from Dholpur. “In 1990 – he explains – the government had assigned us land, but now it tells us to leave. It is a complete injustice. Our people receive a very small salary, how are they going to find another house?
“They brought us here, now we are citizens of this country. We have the right to live with dignity. We want the government to give us a place to live in peace,” continues Pastor Das.
came to visit them and discovered the inhumane conditions in which this community lives. They have cut off the water, gas and electricity connections, and sewage water floods the streets where they live. The Golgotha Baptist Church and the Jordan Church of Christ have already been closed and destroyed. There are 25 Telugu Catholic families who also live in Dholpur but have no church of their own, they go to Laxmibazar parish which is 3 kilometers away.
“We live in inhumane conditions, without electricity, without gas for cooking or drinking water. Children and the elderly are the most affected, how are we going to live? wonders Niromola Malleti, 51, mother of two children.
Evacuations ordered by the Dhaka South City Corporation because of “abusive” construction began on February 12. Several leaders of human rights groups have already visited the victims in the Telugu community and have called for the evictions not to proceed. The Catholic Nirmol Rozario, president of the Christian Association of Bangladesh, affirmed that “it is an injustice to expel them without offering them an alternative place. We call on Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take care of the Telugu community, so that they can live in dignity.” The mayor vowed to intervene.
“Nobody wants to rent a house to the Telugus because they are street sweepers,” Nirmol Rozario continues. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Bangladeshi government last year provided 70,000 houses for the landless and homeless. But now he is evacuating people from the Telugu community: it is an unacceptable contradiction.”