- Practitioners of cynical politics and preachers of tolerance have convinced us illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a myth. It’s a grim reality.
Yet, the indisputable fact is that Assam and the other States in India’s North-East, as also West Bengal and Bihar, continue to face a relentless tide of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. This ‘silent invasion’ by millions of people over the years has been encouraged by the Congress and the CPI(M), apart from their ‘natural’ allies, who swear by virtuous secularism and high falutin constitutionalism only to violate it in practice. Illegal immigrants are not only encouraged by these parties to enter India they are also provided with ‘documents’ to help them settle on land that belongs to others. Their names are entered on voters lists, thus creating a vast vote-bank of aliens who legally have no right to vote in India. This fraud has been perpetrated over the decades and the Congress has been its beneficiary in Assam while in West Bengal the Left has used Bangladeshis to inflate its vote-share significantly. Elsewhere, others have been similarly tempted.
After the Assam Accord of 1985, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act — popularly known as the IMDT Act — was passed with the explicit purpose of detecting and deporting Bangladeshis from Assam. However, the IMDT Act failed to serve its stated purpose due to several inherent flaws, among them placing the burden of proving a person’s nationality on the state instead of the individual. In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down the IMDT Act as unconstitutional, while observing, “There can be no manner of doubt that the State of Assam is facing external aggression and internal disturbance on account of large-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals and it becomes the duty of the Union of India to take all measures for protection of the State of Assam because it poses a threat to the integrity and security of the North-Eastern region.”
The Supreme Court directed the Government to deal with all cases of illegal immigration in accordance with the Foreigners Act as well as the procedure prescribed by the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order of 1964. And what did the UPA Government do? A year later, in 2006, it slyly amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order of 1964 so that the Foreigners Act would not apply to Assam. In other words, illegal immigrants would remain undetected and undeported. Not to be deterred by this sleight of hand by the Congress-led regime in New Delhi in collusion with the party’s Government in Dispur, the Supreme Court ruled in December 2006 that “the amendment by the 2006 order has been issued just as a cover-up for non-implementation of the earlier direction of this court... We have to lament once again that there is a lack of will in the matter of ensuring that illegal immigrants are sent out of the country”. The Supreme Court quashed the 2006 order and once again directed the Union Government and the Government of Assam to “forthwith implement” its 2005 direction to detect and deport illegal immigrants under the Foreigners Act.
There may not be sufficient political will to detect and deport foreigners from Indian soil, but there’s tremendous will to protect illegal immigrants. In Assam, street violence was manufactured by the Congress to halt detection of Bangladeshis under the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order of 1964. Faced by a mob baying for the blood of officials, the police fired to disperse the rioters. The next day Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi ordered a halt to the process. And thereby hangs a tale of subversion. In West Bengal, the situation is no better. The CPI(M) has not even bothered to generate violence to stop the detection and deportation of Bangladeshis; it has simply instructed its cadre to facilitate their settlement as ‘Indian nationals’, often at the expense of genuine citizens: Bengali farmers have woken up in the morning to find Bangladeshis squatting on their land; shops and small businesses have changed hands through distress sale engineered by the party faithful; homesteads left vacant for a day have been grabbed.
The demographic change caused by illegal immigration is irrefutable. Census reports between 1971 and 2001 reflect significant imbalance in the growth of Hindu and Muslim populations in Assam and West Bengal compared to the national average. This abnormal trend confirms that illegal immigration is both unrestricted and unabated. The demographic change caused by illegal immigration has had serious security, political, social and economic consequences. Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants live in ghettos and are prone to religious extremism, and are thus easy recruits for terrorist organisations aided and abetted by Pakistan. Those immigrants who move on to other States across India carry with them radical views and many serve as scouts and foot soldiers for ISI-backed terrorist outfits like HuJI and LeT.
The demographic disbalance that has resulted from illegal immigration has begun influencing the outcome of elections in a large number of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies. With immigrants voting en bloc for their political patrons, the chances of other contestants are automatically reduced and even wiped out. This has created an uneven playing field and gives an unfair advantage to the Congress and the Communists. A set of statistics from Assam will demonstrate this point. In 1991 there were 1.18 crore voters in Assam. By 2001, this had increased to 1.44 crore voters; in 2010, the State had 1.79 crore voters. An increase of 61 lakh voters in two decades is by no means accounted for by natural growth of the State’s population.
This phenomenon is not limited to the North-East, West Bengal and the border districts of Bihar. In cities like Delhi, Mumbai and even Jaipur, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have begun to make their presence felt at election time.
The social impact of this silent invasion is two-fold. First, there is subterranean rage against illegal immigrants and the demographic change caused by them which, in turn, often leads to conflict and violence. The rioting at Deganga in West Bengal on the eve of Durga Puja last year illustrates this trend. Second, both majority and minority communities develop a siege mentality which feeds on fear and insecurity. This is least desirable. Linked to this is the economic aspect of illegal immigration. Local wages, especially in the unskilled sector, are being undercut; farmland is being encroached upon; and urban slums are coming up at an alarming rate. In many ways, Bangladesh is turning into India’s Mexico. Tragically, the Government chooses to ignore the reality; the media pretends the reality does not exist. Such are the wages of ‘tolerance’.
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