After the recent statement by Army Chief Bipin Rawat about illegal Bangladeshi immigration that poses a National Security threat to India, the Liberal Media (to the surprise of no one) has found its latest issue to outrage. The army chief has received flakes for making the issue political and even communalizing the issue of illegal immigration. Conveniently, the facts and data have been put aside by the left-liberal brigade for a chance to malign Indian Army and to ridicule its legitimate concerns towards National Security.
Looking at political realities, it becomes quite clear that the Army Chief’s concern over the influx of illegal Bangladeshis holds water. Although, it’s hard to come up with a number due to lack of demographic studies, one credible estimate posits that as many as 50 Bangladeshis are crossing the border illegally every day. A slew of arrests made by Intelligence Agencies in 2017 of Bangladeshi immigrants in connection with a terror plot in conjunction with ISI as well as arrests of Bangladeshis in connection with Burdwan blasts are proof that the General’s concerns are not unfounded.
Historically, the first great influx of illegal immigration from Bangladesh started during the freedom struggle of East Pakistan resulting from the systematic oppression of Hindus living in erstwhile East-Pakistan by the Pakistani authorities. By the end of the war of 1971, the number of East-Bengali immigrant had reached to 10 million by some estimates. However, even after the independence of Bangladesh the influx did not stop and continued unabated. Most of the early influx was concentrated in West-Bengal. By mid 1970s other Indian states sharing border with Bangladesh had also become hot-zones for these illegals.
The situation had become so dire that a movement against immigration was started in Assam which came to be known as Assam agitation. In some places, it even turned violent. The agitation was led by All Assam Students Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (later, the leaders formed the political party ‘Assam Gana Parishad’ which came to power in 1985). The movement resulted in the signing of Assam Accords in 1985 under which the Union Government promised to identify and deport illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. However, the leaders of the movement have repeatedly blamed the Central Government to not upholding its promise and not implementing the accords in letter and spirit.
In the run-up to the general elections of 2014, Prime Minister Modi had taken a tough stand against the threat of Bangladeshi illegals and had promised to implement policies to deter the influx. The Land-swap agreement with Bangladesh was seen by many as an attempt by Modi government to fortify India’s borders in order to stop the influx. However, West-Bengal government’s minority appeasement policies have resulted in the illegals becoming a concentrated voter-base.
In fact, Ms Banerjee had repeatedly asserted her commitment to grant citizenship to the illegals. The demographic changes brought out by the illegals have altered the political dynamic of many districts in West-Bengal resulting in even more policies being implemented by the Trinmul government to appease this voter base at the cost of interests of other communities. In contrast, keeping up with their promise of tough stand against illegal immigration, the BJP government of Assam had begun the process of identifying and deporting the illegal immigrants through National Registry of Citizens that came out in December 2017.
The illegal Bangladeshi immigration not only changes the delicate demography of border areas but also puts a huge restrain on the already-stretched welfare budgets of the North-Eastern States. As has been seen in West-Bengal, these illegals can form a formidable voter base resulting in political parties pandering to their demands to the detriment of natives. Additionally, as has been pointed out by the Army Chief, since the majority of these immigrants are from Bangladesh which has seen the emergence of fundamental Islamist movement in recent years, the prospects for radicalization of these youths cannot be ruled out.
By raising concern of a threat against nation, the Army Chief has done his job. It is now up to policy-makers to take steps to address this problem before North-East becomes another West-Bengal.