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The illegal immigration threat India is facing

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Lakshmi Prasad Jonnalagadda
Lakshmi Prasad Jonnalagadda
Deeply passionate about India. Blogs at

Is India oblivious to Middle Eastern crisis? Has India become highly self centered? What is our own migrant crisis story? Do we have any moral responsibility towards any migrants like the Western powers that created the ME crisis?

Pakistani stars like Adnan Sami can become Indian citizens. It is easier for Hindu refugees from Pakistan to become Indian citizens as the Govt. has slashed the fee from 15,000 to 100. This makes me wonder if we should afford the same opportunity to the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants too. But there are concerns.

In the case of Pakistanis (Hindus and Muslims) seeking Indian citizenship, they are actually seeking asylum in India or have found their home in here.

Can we assume the same in the case of Bangladeshi immigrants? My personal experience with Bangladeshi immigrants in Bangalore has been good. They are like any other Bengali household. In Assam and Bengal, but in South, one finds them engaging in manual labour, house hold service, small businesses like scrap dealing etc. However, unlike in Western countries where migrants’ labour and service is highly competitive, in India they do not offer any such advantage. That’s because, the local labour pool itself is very large, poor lacks any bargaining power whatsoever. On culture front too, they don’t add much as they are hardly different from our own Bengali Muslims.

But, in places where they are a significant majority, they have a mischievous track record. The recent Rakine backlash on Rohingyas is symptomatic of the inherent propensity to call for Islamic statehood in areas where Bangladeshis are in majority. Our own experience in Assam and Malda is not very encouraging.

Given the porous border, granting citizenship will only encourage even more waves of immigration into India. Their number stands at 3 million as of 2001 census. Although, there are no census numbers after 2001, the fact that we find a thriving community of illegal Bangladeshis deep South gives us an idea of their further growth and proliferation in the last 15 years. Also, our censuses will never capture the true number as most illegal immigrants apply for voter ids and Aadhar cards with the help of our own politicians and become Indian citizens.

Extrapolating the 2001 census, Assam alone gives us a figure of 2 million. Some estimate the pan India figure at 20 million. A crude simple average puts the figure at 11.5 million marginally ahead of USA which is officially the country with highest number of illegal immigrants. All this, after sealing the border at Assam with a fence. Such a full length fence is not possible at the WB border due to the unique nature of the terrain that includes the mouths of Ganges and the Sunderbans.

Illegal Bangladeshi immigration has already created backlash from locals not just in Assam and Bengal but in places like Mumbai where they settled in significant numbers via Bengal, Bihar and UP. Since immigration has political consequences, the parties are polarized on this issue. This long standing issue was debated in the Parliament resulting in the enacting of Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 and rules. However, this Act was severely criticised on the grounds that the Government was creating vote banks in the name of giving protection to minorities.

In 2005, the Supreme Court in Sarbananda vs. Union of India case observed that the Act “has created the biggest hurdle and is the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants” and had struck the Act down.

In addition to Bangladeshis, there are Pakistanis (infested in Kashmir), Burmese, Rohingyas, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Afghanis and a few other nationals who live illegally in India and are unaccounted for. India is a country with the lowest per capita GDP that has the highest number of illegal immigrants. All this for absolutely no fault of ours. Unlike the West that created the crisis in ME, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya etc., we did not create Pakistan, yet we suffer everyday.

India absorbed Syrian Christians, the Israeli Jews, the Parsis, the Ahl Bayt Arabs and many other ethnicities. But we were a prosperous and bountiful country then. By the end of British rule, we were so impoverished that even the British, who left England in search of our riches, did not want to stay back.

Yet we stood our moral ground on Syria. Unlike the West, we did not support destabilization of the region in any manner. We can certainly commit more funds for the rehabilitation of the Syrian immigrants. At the same time we must ensure resettlement of the 7,00,000 internally displaced Kashmiri pandits.

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Lakshmi Prasad Jonnalagadda
Lakshmi Prasad Jonnalagadda
Deeply passionate about India. Blogs at
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