Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has turned Assam explosive

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Niti Guest31 Oct 2012

6 immigration from Bangladesh has turned Assam explosive&id=nc

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has turned Assam explosiveThe vote-bank politics practiced by India’s politicians has transformed Assam into a simmering cauldron of communal violence between the indigenous Assamese Bodos and the Bangladeshi Muslims who have immigrated illegally. The violence in Assam has exposed the fault lines, and is capable of exposing and worsening the communal divide in the State. The volatile situation was summed up by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi as “living on a volcano”.


A brief history of the conflict

Assam shares an international border with Bangladesh and has been plagued with the problem of illegal immigration by Bangladeshi Muslims for the past four decades. The Governor of Assam, in a secret communique to the Central Government in 2005, revealed that “upto 6000 Bangladeshis enter Assam every day.” According to conservative estimates, India is host to around ten million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Assam itself is inhabited by around five million illegal immigrants.

Successive Governments in New Delhi have tried to brush aside the problem for the fear of offending and alienating minority interests and alienating the valuable votebank, much to the chagrin of the BJP and its partners like the AGP. Delhi has always adopted a myopic view of the problem, and Assam seems to be paying for Delhi’s mistakes.

In 1947, Pakistan was divided into a Bengali-speaking East Pakistan and an Urdu-speaking West Pakistan by the geographical presence of India. In 1971, it became clear that religion could not bind the two disparate entities into a single nation. The revolt against the linguistic hegemony of West Pakistanis resulted in genocide of the East Pakistanis.

Unable to withstand the brutality of the Pakistani army, millions of Bangladeshis crossed over into the safer climes of India. Indian States like Assam and West Bengal bore the brunt of this influx. Although India provided sanctuary to these refugees, it nonetheless referred to this influx as “bloodless aggression” which could irretrievably impair the “economic and political well being” of the country.

India’s military intervention against the Pakistani army’s genocide of the East Pakistanis led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

However, despite the creation of Bangladesh, India did not get any respite from the influx of Bangladeshi Muslims. The magnitude of this influx can only be assessed from the fact that the period between 1971 and 1991 witnessed the growth of Muslim population in Assam by 77.42 per cent as compared to a Hindu growth of 41.89 per cent. The population explosion has subsequently stabilised but even then, the decadal growth of 1991-2001 at 29.3 per cent for Muslims remained abnormally high as compared to a Hindu growth at 14.9 per cent.

Dhubri, which shares a long riverine border with Bangladesh, is an example of how illegal infiltration into the State continues unabated. As per provisional census details for the period 2001-2011, the decadal population growth for Dhubri at 24.4 per cent was distinctly higher when compared to the population growth of Assam at 16.9 percent for the same period. With the Brahmaputra River providing convenient entry points, the district is being virtually overrun by Bangladeshi infiltrators. Incidentally, Dhubri was one of the flash points during the violence in the State.

Ostrich head in sand approach

The Indian polity, with its penchant for encouraging illegal immigration for the sake of vote-bank politics, prefers the ‘ostrich head in sand’ approach to this issue. This has grievous national implications.

Porous and inadequately defended international borders, coupled with a lack of political will to counter the menace of illegal immigration, have ensured a massive and uncontrolled demographic upheaval in the State. Taking advantage of this demographic shift, illegal immigrants have staked their claims to the resources of the State. This, in turn, has raised the hackles of indigenous populations of the State — now poised to become a minority in their own homeland. While the latter are obviously disgruntled, neither side is in a mood to back down.

Lack of political will to confront illegal immigration manifested itself in the blatantly perverted Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983. The Act was introduced specifically for Assam, replacing the Foreigners Act of 1946 which remains in effect for the rest of India.

The provisions of the IMDT Act ranged from the bizarre (the State can only act against the illegal immigrants on the basis of a complaint and not suo motu); to the tragic (the onus of establishing the foreign origin of the accused lies on the complainant and not the accused).

Such  provisions made it virtually impossible to deport any illegal immigrant from Assam. It did not come as a surprise to many when only 1,481 illegal immigrants had been expelled upto April 30, 2000 based on over three hundred thousand enguiries.

The Supreme Court of India struck down the IMDT Act in 2005 as ultra vires to the Constitution of India. The Court referred to the Act as the “main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal mmigrants.” The Court also compared illegal immigration with “external aggression,” which had made the life of the people of Assam “wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby had created fear psychosis.”

In a revealing observation, the Supreme Court called upon the Government of India to protect “Assam from such external aggression and internal disturbance.” Ironically, it was this very “bloodless aggression” which India had used as a pretext to go to war with Pakistan in 1971.

The Congress which has been the dominant political force, both at the Central level and in Assam post independence, has often been accused of tacitly encouraging this infiltration for political gains. So far, Gogoi and his friends seem to be in no hurry to dispel this accusation.

Illegal migrants are mobilised to vote en masse for Congress candidates as quid pro quo to unhindered access to every national resource. In catering to myopic political returns, the party and the Government have turned a blind eye to the destabilising impact of the socio-economic volatility arising out of this influx. In a statement which is telling  of the party’s abetment of illegal migration, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was quick to rescind his initial statement of Assam “living on a volcano,” with a “There are no Bangladeshis in the clash but Indian citizens.”

Evidently, the vote-bank cannot be disturbed and therefore national interests are being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. It is disturbing to know that the political class (by their actions) believe that the two are mutually exclusive.

Encouraged by the pusillanimous approach of the Governments, fundamentalists have started manipulating illegal migrants for their own gains. Fundamentalist Muslim leaders in Assam have already issued calls for ‘jihad’ if the indigenous Bodos involved in retaliation during the violence were not arrested.

Even attempts by the Government of India to prepare a National Register of Citizens based on the 1971 rolls in the State for an authentic documentation of the population have failed to make any headway in the face of strong opposition from these Muslim groups.

Fundamentalist groups are apprehensive about political power slipping away from their hands, once the process of identification of the illegal migrants is initiated in earnest. That the effort to prepare the NRC is abandoned at the slightest resistance, exemplifies the connivance of the politicians with this illicit immigration.

What the future may hold

Political shortsightedness has resulted in a situation where most Indian cities are getting burdened with these illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The immigrants who have started shifting to greener urban pastures, which offer greater economic opportunities. However, it is in Assam that the conflict between the Indians and illegal Bangladeshi Muslims is growing. Emotions have been running high ever since the migrants started obtaining squatters rights on the lands which they were initially employed to till.

With the demography being dramatically altered by their steady influx, illegal immigrants have started wielding enormous political power in Assam. Muslims have become the majority in 11 out 27 districts in the State and the dominant factor in determining electoral fortunes in 54 out of 126 constituencies in the local Assembly. A stage has been reached where no party can expect to attain political dominance without support from the Bangladeshi Muslims.

It is this conversion of the illegal migrants into a political force, that has made the indigenous population apprehensive of losing its identity and culture.

This unfettered illegal migration has ominous implications for national security and socio-economic stability. Intelligence inputs indicate that the Inter Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan is utilising these migrants as conduits to ferry in terrorists and arms into India. Counterfeit Indian currency with its origins in Bangladesh has flooded border areas, crippling the economy in these parts.

It is often said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Kashmir is a case in point. Gogoi and his friends should brush up on their history.

First published in the Fair Observer.

(c) NiTi Digital. Reproduction and/or reposting of this content is strictly prohibited under copyright laws.

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  • black cat

    Mr. Singh I am sorry to say this but you have written a very nice propaganda article. Those who have no idea about the issue will believe it closing their eyes. But thanks to this digital age people have access to all the information.

    You said that 5 million illegal Bangladeshi are living in Assam. Are you quoting the remark by Advani of 1997 that he later denied? Which Mr. Shriprakash Jaiswal said as heresy propagated by interested group in your own parliament.

    Total number of muslim now in Assam is 8.3 million out of which 2.5 million ethnic Assamese. So, now you are saying that almost all the Bengali speaking muslims are illegal migrants. If we consider 1997 remark then 5 million was the total number of Bengali muslims at that time which some radical hindu group like BJP termed as illegal.

    But it is a historical fact that Bengali muslims are living in Assam since 1200 AD. Then British had brought them in big number for cultivation of land. The high number of Bengali muslim was also reflected during census carried out by British officers in 1920s and 1930s. During 1947 5 district of Assam had muslim majority and wanted to join East Pakistan which is present day Bangladesh.

    Then you have brought growth rate of the muslim to prove illegal migration. But did you consider higher birth rate of the muslims?? All the islamophobes in India always blame muslims for higher birth rate but while making accusation of illegal migration they just discard it as if it can not have any role for higher birth rate. On top of that 1980s many hindu left Assam due to communal unrest which also have an affect on the growth rate of the hindus. In between 1991-2011 growth rate of Assam is lower then India so there is no chance of illegal migration. Even if we look from 1971-1972 population growth rate is quite normal in Assam as number of muslim increased from 3.6 million in 1972 to present 8.3 million. As during the same time number of people in India also became more then double from 550 million to more then 1.2 billion the increase of the muslim population is quite normal. Bihar and West Bengal have higher growth rate and it is common in the region.

    You then have brought a mythical number estimated 10 million illegal Bangladeshi are in India. But obviously it is just a made up number by radical extremist groups like BJP, RSS etc. which does not have any touch with reality. If 10 million Bangladeshi have gone to India can you show us where is the decline in the number of population??? 10 million is almost 7% of the total population of Bangladesh. If 10 million people would have gone to India you would find people from almost family have gone to India. Now around 7-8 million people lives abroad in Bangladesh. Even with this number you can find almost all family have someone living abroad. I can challenge you to show the same for India as it should be more.

    Regarding migration to Assam and other neighboring states why should Bangladeshis do it when the living standard is far below in Assam?? When you guys say they are just house maid, rikshaw wala or hawkers and they are poorest of the poor. Why should any one go to a place which has a living standard below then his home country to lead a far more poor life there???

    Lastly you have brought the recent Assam violence issue and attributed it to illegal migrants. Just wondering have you done it without knowledge or intentionally??? It is well known what has happened there. Bodos earlier killed 2 muslims. Then when the 4 bodo youth came to the muslim area for raiding those who are member of banned Bodo liberation army which want to create a new independent state bodo land out of India they got killed. It created killing and counter killing. What illegal migration have to do here?

    So if you guys want a better future for Assam try to give the Bengali muslims its due share instead of creating propaganda to malign them as illegal migrants. So far Bengali muslims are hard working people and have no link with separatist group where as there are 80 separatist group in North East India alone and fighting for independence but it may not take much time for the Bengali muslims to join the separatist group if they are suppressed more. What it is appearing some radical extremist hindu groups those who have no support or seat at Asssam are wanting it desperately to create fear and to get some vote of the right and if possible some seat as well.

    • Mallika

      @ Black cat,

      Nice threat, of Bengali Muslims becoming terrorists if Assamese do not indulge them.

      Assam belongs to Assamese, NOT Bengali Muslims. So, Assam will have a better future if all these Bengali Muslims are sent back to Bangladesh where they belong.

      It is time India apply Foreigners Act of 1946 to Assam.

  • E.Raveendra

    Wonder which is the propaganda piece? The one which says there is complete peace in Assam, as there is no illegal migration by Bangladeshi Muslims or the one which states that the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act was enacted by the Govt. of India? Why was it enacted, if there was no problem?

    The fact is that the Supreme Court of India called upon the Government of India to protect “Assam from such external aggression and internal disturbance.”

    The fact is that the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi made a statement of Assam “living on a volcano,”.

    The fact is that more than one Governor of Assam has filed reports of the action required to be taken by the Centre to check illegal immigration by Bangladeshi Muslims.

    The fact is that right from Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, every Muslim leader in Assam has encouraged illegal immigration by Bangladeshi Muslims so as to takeover Assam.

    Disputing the numbers and raising the bogey of ‘RSS/BJP’ is an old trick to undermine Indian or Hindu interests and people have seen through it.
    Remember, the Indian Govt. that enacted the IMDT Act, the Supreme Court of India, Tarun Gogoi, the Governors of Assam don’t belong to the RSS/BJP.







  • hasanalmehdi

    A detailed Research and Analysis on the Myth of Illegal Immigration of Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh into Assam and Massacre of Innocent Muslims in Bodoland.

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