Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Illegal Immigrants From Bang'desh Is Kicking, Hurting India

By Likha Veer | INNLIVE Bureau

FOCUS The vernacular press in West Bengal is all charged up because BJP stalwarts have promised to deport Bangladeshis if the party comes to power at the Centre. Front page articles and editorials have all denounced this as a move to foment trouble in the state and create divisions between communities. Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh have become villains in the eyes of this section of the media. Those who are indulging in such commentary have either not understood what the BJP wants to do, or are twisting the remarks to create controversy.
The issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh is changing the demography of West Bengal and the earlier the country wakes up to the fact, the better for it. Compassion can never be an issue across borders unless persecution in the country of origin is decisively proved. Then, too, immigration may be allowed only on the merits of the case. Here, India is facing a situation where immigration is taking place unhindered and without reports of large scale persecution in Bangladesh. 

Further, most of those who are entering India illegally are from the majority community in Bangladesh. So the question of escaping from persecution does not arise. They are escaping from lack of economic opportunity and India cannot allow itself to bear the burden of such people. It has enough of its own to look after. But the vote bank blinkers donned by parties in West Bengal does not allow them to take a harder pro-India stand on the issue.

Narendra Modi has unequivocally said that for him, the country is the religion and the Constitution is the Holy Book. He has time and again said that solutions to all problems facing the country will be found by strictly adhering to the constitution. His record also does not show any instances where he has tried to subvert the constitution. 

So when he says that he will deport Bangladeshis, how do people infer that he is talking about all those who have migrated to India since 1947? That is not legally possible and no one can attempt to do that. Even those who migrated after the ‘Nehru-Liaquat Agreement’ of 1950 have legal sanction and cannot be deported. Those who migrated as a result of the Bangladeshi liberation war are covered under international agreements on displaced persons and refugees. 

India had allowed them to settle and earn their living in the country, even giving them concessions like non-transferable housing land at low cost (as in refugee colonies in Kolkata and other places of West Bengal). Most of them have become Indian citizens through naturalization with their children having acquired Indian citizenship by birth and that fact is indisputable.

But if someone makes out a case for retaining those who are entering India illegally since then, no right thinking Indian will tolerate it. Taking advantage of a porous border and corrupt security forces, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have been entering India in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. One only has to visit the border areas in these states to confirm this. Unscrupulous agents, backed by political parties out to create a vote bank, get them everything from ration cards, voter identification cards and driving licenses. 

Backed by these documents, if they do not find livelihood in the area, these illegal immigrants are going to places such as Delhi, Mumbai and the rest of the country. They work mainly as farm labour, vehicle drivers, industrial labour, masons, construction workers and goldsmiths. Their spouses do household work for middle class families. 

Sometimes entire families migrate while at other times, the earning male member migrates and sends back money to Bangladesh by the hawala route. He saves enough to buy a piece of land somewhere and brings in his entire family clandestinely. Some people even enter India as day labourers and go back in the evening. This is not something out of a C-grade Bollywood film. It is happening everyday on the Bangladesh border.

On examining census figures in West Bengal (see chart), it is clear that in both the periods, 1981-1991 and 1991-2001, the jump in Muslim population in the state was much higher (almost 6% higher) than the jump in Muslim population on an all India basis. It did not mean that the West Bengal Muslims were procreating more. It simply meant that their ranks were swelling due to continued illegal immigration from Bangladesh. We have to keep in mind that the first period under review is from ten years after the 1971 war and up to twenty years later. 

That means that these immigrants were not those who India had so graciously accommodated as displaced persons and refugees. These were just plain criminals breaking international laws by paying a price. The situation in Assam was even worse during this period. When the census figures were released, there was much hue and cry all over the country. This scared the agents who brought them in. But the illegal immigration continued unabated. Only the strategy of settling them in West Bengal and Assam was changed.

When we examine the figures for the period 1991-2001, we see a marked drop in the rise in Muslim population as compared to the all India figure. While in the previous decade the difference was nearly 6 percent, it had come down to just 2.5 percent in this decade. So did illegal immigration started to peter out? No, it was continuing with abandon. Only, now the immigrants were not being settled in West Bengal or Assam to escape detection in the census. 

They were being sent to Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala, among other states. This tirade about “all Bengali speaking people are not Bangladeshis” is old hat. Even we know that. But to give shelter to Bangladeshis under this pretext will not do. If we have the welfare of the country in our heart, Bengalis themselves should take the lead in identifying and helping in deporting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who are a menace to the country in more ways than one.

If proof was required than it could not have come from a better apolitical source than the Chief of the Indian Army. Speaking at a seminar organized by a think tank as currently as in February 2014, General Bikram Singh said that “the problem of illegal migration in Bangladesh has led to demographic changes in the northeast. 

It has led to serious internal security challenges in Assam.” The same is true for West Bengal. He further said that it is a matter of grave concern and a threat to national security. If political parties resist the move to stop this illegal influx and that to identify and deport those already here, then they are doing a great disservice to the nation, all for a tiny vote bank.

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