Kendrapara settlers remember former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Kendrapara: As the country mourned the death of the “People’s President”, settlers in the seaside villages of Kendrapara district remember him as the man who saved them from deportation.

The settlers are suspected to be Bangladeshi infiltrators.

“His death has deeply upset us – it seems as if a near and dear one has passed away. It was Kalam who had saved us when the government had asked us to pack our bags. We were served Quit India notice on January 15, 2005. The notice had made it mandatory for us to leave the country with bag and baggage in a month’s time,” they said.

“It was because of the kind-hearted gesture by Kalam, who was the President then that we are still living in the country,” said Rabi Mandal, a resident of Lunimathia village.

On January 15, 2005, as many as 1551 suspected Bangladeshis from 362 families in Mahakalpada tehsil of Kendrapara district were served ‘Quit India’ notice under Foreigners’ Act. A month later, the deportation move was kept in abeyance by the union home ministry.

“We had everything with us to prove that we are Indians. We had voter identity cards, rations cards, names figuring in voter list. Many had PAN cards. Still we were branded as foreigners and were asked to leave the country.

“We had moved various quarters but to no avail.

Finally, we had launched a postcard campaign addressed to then President APJ Abdul Kalam. We were later told that the President’s office had made prompt inquiry and had sought a report from the state government. We are of the firm belief that deportation was halted only after presidential intervention,” said Prafulla Mistry, a resident of Ramnagar.

“All of us are in deep mourning since we came to know of his death from TV news last night. He was a kind-hearted man”, bemoaned Dipen Baidya.

Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at IIM Shillong yesterday.