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Illegal immigration from Bangladesh
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Posted in Publishaletter.com By :
Letter to the Editor Sent to :
Times of India, The
Illegal immigration from Bangladesh
Dear Editor: Illegal migration from the neighboring country of Bangladesh that has now become a scourge endangering the very existence of the indigenous Assamese population is an ongoing century-old phenomenon. Initially, this started with purely economic motive but later on as we approached independence, it developed communal and political overtones which now pose a grave threat to our national security. As citizens, it’s very important for us to know the genesis of this phenomenon and how, why & when it all started? The British played a key role in developing the Tea industry in Assam. They brought in labourers from Bihar and other provinces to work in the tea gardens; however that wasn’t enough. The indigenous Assamese population living mostly in upper Assam and cultivating one crop per year was neither interested to work in the tea gardens nor in expanding land cultivation to meet the additional food requirement of the large labour population brought in from outside. This made the British encourage Bengali Muslim peasants from present Bangladesh to move into lower Assam and put virgin and fertile land into cultivation. These Bengali Muslims were hard working peasants who occupied vacant land and put these areas under cultivation. They made a significant contribution to the agricultural economy of Assam without a doubt. As the country started advancing towards democracy, the Muslim league came up with its demand for Partition of India on religious grounds and this provided a completely new twist to this population movement. During Sir Muhammad Sadullah’s Muslim League ministry in Assam before the independence, a concerted effort was made to facilitate migration of Bengali Muslims into Assam for political reasons on the pretext of bringing in more labourers to grow more food. The demand for partition of India by the Muslim League visualized that Pakistan would comprise of Muslim-majority provinces in the west and Bengal & Assam in the east. The grouping of Assam with Bengal was accepted by the Congress and the Muslim League but faced fervent opposition from Gopinath Bordoloi who received much-needed support from the Mahatma. The grouping plan was thwarted and Assam thus saved from becoming a part of Pakistan. With partition, the situation changed drastically as Assam now was separated from East Pakistan by an international border. Population movement from there still continued with rise in number of Bengali Hindus who were fleeing from religious persecution. Muslim infiltration too continued along with the Hindus from time to time. The anti-Bengali riots and the student’s movement in the early 80s eventually arrested the movement of Hindu Bengalis from Bangladesh to Assam but continued in states like Tripura and West Bengal. Failure to merge and include Assam in East Pakistan remained a source of great malice in that country. Prominent political figures like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and even pro-India Sheikh Mujibur Rehman have emphasized in their respective books how strategically and economically important Assam was for the very existence of East Pakistan due to its abundance in forests, mineral resources, coal, petroleum etc. Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country with a density of 969 persons per sq. km. The brisk population growth was suffocating the entire country and presented a nightmarish picture. Many intellectuals, as a result, started advocating the case of “lebensraum”, that seemed the only viable solution to accommodate the burgeoning population. They felt that if their population could ingratiate with the hilly tribes within their borders, they might be welcome in the adjacent land on the other side inhabited by kindred people. Other contributory factors have played their part too. Devastating floods are a regular yearly affair in Bangladesh with one-third of the country getting severely impacted. 80% of its population lives in rural areas that often lack services such as education, health services, proper roads etc. Their per capita income is much lower than that of India. All these factors aided by an extremely porous border with India, lead to an alluring situation/opportunity for these people to migrate to Assam and lead a better life. Some other important factors too need mention. Ethnic, linguistic and religious commonality between the illegal migrants and many people on our side of the border, enables them to find shelter easily and makes their detection difficult. Some political parties have capitalized on this and encouraged massive influx in the last 2-3 decades with a view to build vote banks. These immigrants are extremely hard-working and are prepared to work as cheap labour or domestic help for lower remuneration compared to the natives and this makes them acceptable. Moreover, corruption being all pervasive, government officials willingly collude to offer these migrants forged citizenship certificates and other documents. It can’t get more ironical than the fact that local people (including political parties & government officials) have played a significant role in altering the demography of the state not even thinking once about the dreadful consequences we’re heading towards. This silent and invidious annexation of Assam has resulted in seven districts of the state viz. Barpeta, Dhubri, Goalpara, Nagaon, Hojai, Cachar, Karimganj being already dominated by immigrant Muslims. The risk of a demand for their merger with Bangladesh especially the border districts of Dhubri, Cachar and Karimganj in the future looms large. The growth of international Islamic fundamentalism could proffer this demand. I would sincerely like to appeal to the authorities in power who have the capability to stop this demographic annihilation to open their eyes and take some effective and serious steps in this regard. No misconceived and mistaken notions of secularism should be allowed to come in the way if we are to save Assam.
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