From: southasiaanalysis.org Date: 15.9.08
Bangladeshi Infiltration Reaches New Territories
Guest Column by Dr. Anand Kumar
(The views expressed by the author are his own)
After returning from the 28th India-Bangladesh Border Coordination
Conference in Dhaka, the BSF chief A K Mitra disclosed that nearly 12
lakh Bangladeshis who had entered India on valid papers have
disappeared between 1972 to 2005. He was quoting this figure from the
intelligence reports of the West Bengal government. This is one of the
few official figures about the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants whose
number has been estimated to be around 20 million and growing by the
day. Out of this number nearly 6 million illegal Bangladeshis are
residing in Assam only, where they have turned five of the bordering
districts into migrant majority areas. What is however, most concerning
is that these illegal immigrants are now threatening to swamp tribal
and rural areas of Assam and other parts of the country.
This development has been taking place under the nose of the
authorities some of whom could not act because of the earlier Illegal
Migrants' Determination by Tribunals (IMDT) Act. But even after this
Act became defunct due to the Supreme Court judgment the deportation of
Bangladeshis has not been taking place at a desired pace prompting the
Guwahati High Court to say in a recent judgment on July 23, 2008 that
the Bangladeshi migrants have become the kingmakers. The landmark
judgment of the high court also observed that a strong political will
to free Assam from illegal Bangladeshis was the need of the hour. The
judgment was passed while disposing the petitions of 61 petitioners
after they were pronounced as foreigners by the respective Foreigners'
One of these migrants, Md Kamaluddin was in possession of a Pakistani
passport on which he had travelled to Bangladesh and subsequently
reached Assam where he even filed a nomination during the 1996 Assembly
polls. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi criticised the High Court judge’s
comment. However, the immediate reaction of Gogoi was nothing but an
attempt to push the issue under the carpet. Earlier in 2005 an outgoing
judge of IMDT Tribunal had made similar remarks.
The court remarks have prompted some political organizations like the
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to threaten another Assam Agitation to
take the “oust-Bangladeshi mission.” Their activists along with the
Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chattra Parishad (AJYCP) rounded up hundreds of
people, suspected to be Bangladeshis, from various parts of the state
and later handed them over to the police.
The growing sentiment against illegal immigration has led to social
tension in Assam. This led to a clash in northern Assam’s Udalguri
district during a 12-hour general strike enforced by a minority
students’ group. In these clashes two people were killed and six others
Unfortunately, any move against the illegal immigrants soon takes
communal colour. The Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) led by
Badruddin Ajmal in a statement said that it would not remain quiet if
the religious sentiments of the minorities were hurt on the pretext of
dealing with foreigners.
The AUDF working president Hafiz Rashid Choudhury even suggested that
the government of India should try and persuade Bangladesh government
to sign extradition treaty. The Indian government has been pursuing
this matter with the Bangladeshi government but its effort has not
succeeded. First for the Bangladesh government, the issue of illegal
migration does not exist. Second this treaty would also necessitate
that Bangladesh hands over insurgent leaders staying in that country.
For that the government is not ready.
The problem of illegal migration in worsening by the day. The illegal
migrants are now no longer limited to major cities and their suburbs.
They are now entering into rural and tribal areas. In Assam the problem
of illegal migration now threatens to swamp even the tribal areas.
According to Stelin Ingti, president, Karbi Students’ Union about one
lakh illegal immigrants are staying in the Karbi Anglong district. With
the problem of infiltration of Bangladeshi immigrants now spreading to
tribal belts of Assam, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has joined
hands with two tribal students’ unions - the Karbi Students’ Union
(KSU) and All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU) to fight the problem in an
The increasing pressure on migrants in upper Assam make some of them
move to the five immigrant-dominated districts of Dhubri, Goalpara,
Kokrajhar, Morigaon and Nagoan in Lower Assam. This time a large number
of immigrants trickled into Meghalaya plains. According to the Garo
Students Union (GSU), the plains areas, especially Phulbari, Rajabala,
Mahendraganj and Tikrikilla areas of the Garo hills, are a cause for
concern as the Bangladeshis have made their homes in these border
areas. There are instances when illegal Bangladeshi settlers have
married residents in the border areas to claim rights and privileges
from Meghalaya. To avoid an Assam like situation, the Garo Students
Union (GSU) has threatened to launch an eviction drive against illegal
Assam is now acting as a gateway through which illegal migrants are
trickling in other states of northeast like Manipur, Nagaland and
Meghalaya. Migrants move directly to Tripura because of contiguous
Central government has taken some steps to check the migration. The
most important step has been fencing of the border. This fencing work
is now nearing completion. Though the fencing has not completely
stopped the illegal movement of Bangladeshis it has definitely put
check. In case of Tripura out of 860 km porous border that it shares
with Bangladesh, over 700 km have been fenced and the remaining portion
would be fenced soon. This has also improved law and order situation in
the bordering areas where predators from Bangladesh used to attack
villages on Indian side.
India shares its longest border with Bangladesh. The India-Bangladesh
border runs along 2,979 kilometers (1,851 miles) of land while 1,116
kilometers is riparian. Border patrolling poses real challenge in
riverine area. It has also been found that the earlier scheme of
floating border posts have proved to be a non-starter. Hence in its
place the BSF has decided to use speed boats to patrol. The government
has also decided to raise two India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) and
deploy for riverine policing.
The improved patrolling on the Indo-Bangladesh seems to have shown some
result. The BSF chief recently stated that in 2007 only 807 illegal
immigrants were arrested along the Indo-Bangla border in comparison to
five years ago when thousands of such persons were apprehended by BSF.
However, the difficulty in crossing the land border has not deterred
Bangladeshis from coming to India. Many of them are now taking sea
route. They are now reaching newer states like Orissa through boats. A
large number of Orissa districts are now infested with these migrants.
Lakhs of Bangladeshi infiltrators are staying in Kendrapara,
Nawarangpur, Malkangiri, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Chilika, Ganjam, Balasore,
Keonjhar and several other places.
Bangladeshis are now moving into rural area of several states. In West
Bengal illegal Bangladeshi migrants have trickled into parts of rural
Bengal, including Nandigram, over the years, and settled down as
sharecroppers with the help of local Left leaders. Several districts of
Bihar are also similarly affected.
Our border guards can play their role only on the border, which is
already very difficult because of the porous nature of this border.
Unless, they get help from the civil administration, no effective check
on the problem of illegal immigration can be exercised. In fact, often
the civil administration rather than helping the BSF is found helping
the illegal migrants. In a number of cases, the papers of these
migrants are ready even before they have entered Indian territory.
There are touts operating on the border who are providing all kinds of
services for sums as little as 700 Rupees. Even when the BSF manages to
catch some of these illegal migrants they face legal hassles and
hostile local population as most of these bordering districts in Assam
as well as West Bengal has become Bangladeshi dominant. FIRs are lodged
implicating BSF officers. Bangladeshis are often helped in the effort
by the local politicians.
The problem of of illegal immigration from Bangladesh has already
become a threatening one. In the past, it affected the demography of
several Indian states, but now it is posing serious internal security
threat, as among these migrants a large number of them are Jihadi
elements. They have been found to be involved in many of the recent
bomb-blasts which took place in India. They also act as sleeper cells
of terrorist groups like HUJI and LeT. Intelligence agencies like the
ISI and the DGFI are also implementing their disruptive designs through
them. It’s high time that a coordinated effort is made to check this
(The author can be reached at e-mail