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ILLEGAL BANGLADESHI MIGRANTS & EMERGING CONFLICTS IN INDIA - SHIB SHANKAR CHATTERJEE Photojournale | Photo documentary and Photo stories from around the world

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Lisa Shukov

Photojournale : Photo documentary and photo journal stories from around the world

In fact, pre-independent India had no infiltration problem worth the name. Whatever foreigners came to India from the Middle Ages came either through the western gaps or through the plain patches of the eastern boundary. Most of these intrusions were of the nature of invasion. They came not to settle in India, but to rob India of her treasure.In post-independence period, other things remaining the same, the erstwhile East Pakistan that is, East-Bengal, locally called Purba Bango or Purba Bangla, turned into present 'Bangladesh', was curved out as a new International Border with India in the east-south fringe. The plague of foreigners has been suffered by India today therefore is mostly due to this Bangladesh. Bangladesh was made out of pre-independent East-Bengal plus the Sylhet district of the then undivided Indian State Assam. So, the Bangladeshi people have a common stock with that of Indian States, Assam and West Bengal. Both the people have the same anthropological features, linguistic and cultural similarities and also likeness in social customs and manners. Due to these factors, it is often difficult to distinguish a Bangladeshi from an Indian. 'Infiltration' is not only an anti-national activity in Northeast India as well as others parts of India and South Asian countries, but there is more important is the activity by the people of the fundamentalists group backed by Pakistani intelligence wing of former West-Pakistan, presently Pakistan, 'Inter Services Intelligence' (ISI), from Bangladesh. These activities are both anti-national and anti-social in nature as they intend to keep the Government busy with the terrorist activities and communal disturbances, which often take place specially, in Northeast Indian States. The other motive of these activities is to carry on a silent invasion far deep into the State by dint of creating a majority in the States of North-East India.

India has 04, 096.70 kilometres (including 2217.70 kilometres with West Bengal State, 856 kilometres with Tripura State, 443 kilometres with Meghalaya State, 318 kilometres with Mizoram and 262 kilometres with Assam) international border with Bangladesh, while 01,116 kilometres are International Riverine Border. Of all the activities carried on along the international border areas, seven distinct types can be categorized separately. They are (a) Infiltration for Food, Cloth, Shelter, Cheap-Labour and Job, (b) Illegal Trade, (c) Anti Indian Activities (d) Religious Fundamental Activities, (e) Human Trafficking (mostly women and children, (f) Arms and Drugs smuggling and (g) Theft and Robbery.

The first one, namely 'Infiltration' has certain causes amongst, which prominent ones are infiltration for livelihood, infiltration for political purposes, infiltration for religious fundamentalism and infiltration for 'cheap-labour'. Among them infiltration made for political and religious purposes is both large in quantity and dangerous for Indians well as South Asian countries. The infiltrations made for political purposes are mainly for creation of vote-bank. Except a section of non-political and political parties of Eastern Indian States Assam, Tripura and West-Bengal are more or less responsible for this folly, as per the version given by the common people and the observers. The infiltration made for religious expansionism, on the other hand, has a long history and a deep link with some international fundamentalist group. For such men religion is above the states and hence they are alike everywhere. As the infiltrations made by such persons are well organized, it is very difficult to detect such persons because they remain under the protective cover of their religious masters. So, if such persons are not checked at the time of crossing the boundary, they cannot be detected later on. At present, the smugglers, illegal infiltrators and the anti-Indian activists are using some thousands of kilometres of land and some hundreds of kilometres of water (that is, the portion of Brahmaputra and Kusianra rivers of the state, Assam, Ichhamati, Ganga and others small rivers of West Bengal State and Gumati, Muhuri, Feny, Dhlai and Khowai rivers of the state, Tripura) of the Indo-Bangladesh international boundary areas equally to carry on their activities.

The infiltration of foreign nationals into this region and ever increasing activities of extremists, fundamentalists have been admitted by none than Sri S. B. Chavan, Ex-Home Minister of India and Sri Rajesh Pilot, when he held the portfolios of the State Home Ministry of the Central Government respectively. While on the other hand, on 06th May, 1997, Indian Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta (Member of Parliament of Communist Party of India, shortly sayCPI) had also disclosed to the floor of Indian Parliament that there are upwards of 01 crore illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators, who have made India their quintessential home. Over and above, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are being captured by the Indian most of the state governments every now and then. But, it is a matter of astonishment to note that the State Governments (specially Assam, Meghalaya, West-Bengal, Tripura in North-East India) as well as the India Central Government are repeatedly denying the issue. Why? The reason is obvious Bangladeshis are their vote-bank.

The illegal infiltration, smuggling and anti-Indian activities in surrounding areas of Indo-Bangladesh international border are on the rise at an alarming rate. These anti-national activities are so deep rooted that they are seen controlling the entire politics of the North-East India. What is most unfortunate is that almost all the political parties are keeping silence in this regard for fear of losing their vote-bank in these areas. Politics only for votes - this attitude of the political parties even at the cost of national cause gives rise to doubts in the minds of genuine Indians. There is hardly any political party, which raises its voice against the touchy subjects like illegal infiltration, smuggling and anti-Indian fanatic activities in the Indo-Bangladesh international border areas, though these three factors have become the common issue of the entire North-East India, specially in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West-Bengal, even the entire country and the other South Asian countries are concern. But, it is fact that at present, in India, the trump card for wining any election in 20 to 25 numbers of Parliamentary Constituency (PC)s and in 120 to 125 numbers of Assembly Constituency (AC)s of the various component States, such as : Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and even, Delhi lie in the hands of the illegal Bangladeshi foreigners. If this situation continues for another 10 years, at least, the candidates of 50 numbers of PCs and 250 numbers of ACs will have to depend of the blessings of these so-called illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators.

Similarly, with the geometric rise of the population of the Minority community, leaders from that community have become powerful and important in the Eastern Indian state, Assam. Because, out of 27 numbers of districts in the State, 07 numbers of districts (Barpeta, Goalpara, Dhubri, Morigaon, Nagaon, Karimganj and Hailakandi) are Minority population majority, where illegal Bangladeshis are lived.

As a result, by 2010 to 2015, out of 126 numbers of ACs, about 54 numbers of ACs of the State, Assam would be dominated by Bangladeshi Voters that would one day not only pose a serious threat to socio-cultural identity and stability but also may be in a position to form their Government and they will make their own Chief Minister (CM) of the State, while according to the Indian Home Ministry estimates, as many as 40 to 46 out of 126 numbers of Acs in the State, Assam are assessed to be dominated by Illegal Bangladeshi nationals. On the other hand, due to the unabated illegal Bangladeshi nationals have also growing by leaps and bound of another North East Indian State, West Bengal, which will be the principal factor within next five to ten years. As a result of this, the people of the said state will soon loss their majority and ethnicity. Already, out of 294 numbers of ACs of the said state, Bangladeshi intruders or voters are in a position to decisively influence over 52 numbers of ACs, which play a crucial role in 100 numbers of others seats also. Even, the number of Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) seats in the said WB state has increased (like Murshidabad District, who had earlier 19 numbers of MLA seats, presently, 22 numbers of MLA seats) in the constituency delimitation exercise. Because, the illegal movement of Bangladeshi infiltrators into the above Indian State has already created the socio-political dimension.

Therefore, most causing anxiety is that no party or leader in the country (that is, in the above noted states as well as central) can now dream of coming to power without the support of the illegal Bangladeshi population.

In the economic sphere too, the Bangladeshis grab, whatever avocation come by them and thereby enhancing the already deplorable un-employment problem in these states. Moreover, by managing to enter their names in the electoral-rolls in their zeal to remain within this country, the Bangladeshis have already turned the tide in their favour, at least in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and to some extent now-a-days in Meghalaya states of eastern India.

The demographic consequences of illegal immigration from Bangladesh to India has led to a distinct communal polarisation and resulted in what may be termed as an emerging conflict that has the potential of plunging the region into a bloody battlefield. The conflict, fueled by the anxieties of the people of the receiving state that they will lose their land and their jobs to people, who are prepared to work at lower wages, is most intense in the West Bengal, Meghalaya and Assam borderlands.

The emerging conflict is further internalised and gradually deepened by the discourse on lebensraum, or living space, a concept that originated in Bangladesh but was accepted on the Indian side to justify fears of a demographic invasion. The concept of living space for the growing Bangladeshi population found expression within a few months of Bangladesh's liberation in 1971. At that time, one of the minister in the Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman (the father of Nation of Bangladesh) cabinet, speaking to a British writer, said: "The problem is that Bangladesh is a small country, so we need to expand eastwards to gain more living space for our people."

Although, "the high levels of border violence are an everyday fact of life". Violent confrontations between the international border guards of India and Bangladesh, for a variety of unresolved issues, including illegal cross-border movements of people and goods, between border guards and civilians and between civilians and civilians, is a common feature along the length of the Indo-Bangla international boundary. Smugglers, criminals, insurgents and political refugees seeking to flee for the safety of a neighbouring state and migrants seeking international cross-border shelter and employment not only fall victims to the coercive methods restrictive measures employed by the international border guards. Often times, they themselves contribute to the violence and the conflict.

As a result, it is fact that, today the situations in India (specially in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Tripura) are turning from bad to worse. The existence of huge number of illegal migrants and the continued influx of aliens have already instilled a sense of insecurity in the minds of the indigenous people. So, it is the prior time that the Government of India should take the matter sincerely and especially rescue the entire India as well as the sub-continent region from the grasp of this menacing evil, before it is go out of hand.

(Former BBC, The Statesman, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Asia Times, AP & AFP Contributor-cum-Photographer of Northeast India/The writer specialises in South Asia Affairs)


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