By Oken Jeet Sandham
The issue of illegal immigrants in Nagaland is not new. This has been there since long time back. The influx of illegal immigrants had been time and again discussed in many fora and this writer himself had attended in many such fora. In all these fora, participants expressed their major fear that this influx of illegal immigrants would destroy their demography one day. And today, the reality is the survival of the very local people is under serious threat and these so-called illegal immigrants started indulging in all sort of heinous crimes. They had scant respect for the married couple even.
Sadly, this dangerous trend started spreading wantonly without much hindrance either from the locals or local administrations. And innocent citizens have been watching helplessly to all these unwanted developments over the years. The civil societies and local administrations were caught napping. Then hurriedly, whenever any heinous crime was committed by these so-called illegal immigrants, we would wake up and rush to the issue without much strategy only to find that most of these people possessed Inner Line Permits (ILPs). Unfortunately, after some time, the heat would fast subside till such time a new heinous crime was committed by these illegal immigrants.
The checking of ILP defaulters in the state may not be that difficult because most of these non-locals staying in Nagaland doing business activities had ILPs issued by the local administrations. We have mainland Indians like Biharis, UPians, Keralites, Marathis, Tamilians, etc. They would definitely have ILPs, and perhaps a very negligible number of them would not have ILPs. But they are not the issue as they didn’t indulge in crimes and their ILP case can be solved.
But the complication came up when we started checking ILP defaulters among the Muslim communities. Many of them were genuine Indian Muslims, while many were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Interestingly, most of them again have possessed ILPs issued by the local administrations. But those of ILP defaulters or so-called illegal immigrants would not be found in towns and cities. They would smartly come to towns and cities to commit crimes and return to outskirts of towns and cities or even interior nearby villages to avoid any police arrest. It is also wondering whether police had really checked about the ILP status of any of such non-locals when they made any arrest of these non-local criminals.
The problem here becomes more compounded as these so-called illegal immigrants possessed domicile certificates issued by the Assam’s local administrations. And when these people of doubtful integrity have produced all the documents required, the local administrations here in Nagaland have absolutely no way to object to their ILP applications. Besides they could easily impersonate as Indian Muslims as they could fluently speak Bangla and Hindis.
Yet, the grey area, which has literally become a threat to the state, is the administration without properly scrutinizing the documents of these people of doubtful integrity simply issued ILPs to them. Worse, they indulged in issuance of Temporary Permits (TP) wantonly to many of such people of doubtful integrity. This writer had come across on many occasions that the Muslims after entering Dimapur from across the border would meet some officials in ADC office, Dimapur (Before ADC was not upgraded to DC status) and under the pretext of meeting with some of their relatives at Kohima or elsewhere would request EACs and SDOs for TP. In almost all the cases, these officials simply issued TPs under their letter heads without checking their identities. So once the officials under their letter heads allowed these non-locals of doubtful integrity to reach Kohima or elsewhere, it became a license for them to do as they liked. And there was no question of detecting these people again, because there was no mechanism to detect them.
Another shocking trend is there are lots of ILP racketeers going on in the State. This has largely added to the already fragile situation in the state.
It will be certainly wrong to say that all the criminal activities are committed by the Muslims but it is largely true that majority of the crimes are committed by the Muslims.
While discussing about the illegal immigrants, we also should not forget that there are thousands of other non-locals of other origins—like Bhutias and Tibetans. These people have largely succeeded in business ventures in the state. At least in Dimapur and Kohima, they have done exceedingly well in business sectors. The good thing of these people is they don’t indulge in crimes.
When we talk of genuine mainland Indian settlers in Nagaland like Biharis, UPians, Keralites, Tamilians—they were also hardly heard of committing any crimes. We don’t hear that a Bihari coolie committed rapes in Nagaland. A coolie will live as a coolie and die as a coolie. That’s it.
One will be surprised to know that even some of the Muslims landed in Andaman and Nicobar Island had in their possession domicile certificates issued by Assam administrations. So also Muslims going to Dubai and elsewhere as job seekers had similar domicile certificates issued by the Assam local administrations. But the fact is if one goes to the Office of the Regional Passport Officer (RPO) at Beltola, Guwahati, during office hours, one will see the majority of the passport applicants are all Muslims who are claiming to have all domicile certificates issued by Assam’s local administrations.
It is sad to say that majority of the so-called illegal Bangladeshis staying in Nagaland have domicile certificates issued by the Assam’s local administrations. As such, it is largely impossible for the administration in Nagaland to say that these people are illegal immigrants. So the administration has no option but to issue ILPs to these so-called illegal immigrants if they applied for.
Most of the illegal immigrants in Nagaland are not mostly from mainland India. 95% of them in Nagaland are coming from Assam claiming to be the banafide citizens of that State (Assam). If the size of the population of these illegal immigrants in Nagaland is from Assam and not from mainland India, then the matter is questionable. How can Assam have such a huge population of illegal immigrants spilling over into other parts of the region unless they had infiltrated from across the international border?
The long stretch of Assam forest bordering Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh has over the years disappeared and been systematically occupied by the illegal immigrants. The trouble is most of these illegal settlers are well equipped with valid land holding documents issued by the Assam administrations. Sources say most of the State’s reserved forest in the border areas have vanished and its occupied by the illegal immigrants and not by the real Assamese people. The Nagaland Government often alleges that these illegal immigrants have even occupied the Disputed Area Belt (DAB) that led to frequent border skirmishes.
Various intelligence agencies had been warning of serious consequences if immediate attention was not paid. Unfortunately, these illegal migrants have been given legal protection with resident certificates, pattas, etc. for narrow political mileage. As a result, the real Assamese people have been reduced to minority in most of the border districts and they are now voiceless.
In spite of these developments, there could be still thousands of illegal immigrants in Nagaland who might not have any documents. And to screen these people would not be that problem but they would not come out as and when any drives of detecting illegal immigrants took place. One drawback is such drive is momentary and it only happens when heinous crimes are committed by these so-called illegal immigrants. And logically speaking that those whose intention was to settle in Nagaland or elsewhere for long term plan would hardly indulge in any crime.
Another serious drawback is once these so-called illegal immigrants are detected, where to deport them in the absence of any pact for deportation with any country. Plus this is not the state subject either. So we could only push them if detected at the most to Assam border.
It may be mentioned that the powerful All Assam students Union (AASU) had launched a bloody campaign to push Bangladeshis back to their land. Indigenous people feared they could be reduced to minority in their own land massacred thousands of Bangladeshis, including women and children, across the state (Assam).
The Government and the students’ union signed a pact in 1985. Interestingly the Clauses on the deportation of foreigners have still not been implemented.
There is no shadow of doubt that the unabated influx of illegal Bangladeshis in Assam has not only affected the demography of the state but also the entire region, becoming a serious threat to the survival of the region’s people and country’s internal security as well.
We should also know that region’s economic underdevelopment coupled with Center’s prolonged negligence and the continuous insurgency and the chasm that existed between the people of the region and the mainland people are some of the reasons giving room to the illegal immigrants and outside elements to exploit to their maximum advantages.
There is certainly genuine mainland Muslims in the region like Tamils, Keralites, Bengalis, Punjabis, Marwaris, etc. But the mainland Muslims will have least interest to come and settle in the region and their influx is out of question.
Even if the local NGOs or for that matter student bodies tried to check these non-local people, the mission was tough because most of them would have been well-equipped with lot of documents including ILPs. And once they were found with these documents, they were not only allowed to stay in the state but also shown as Indian citizens legally. So knowingly, we are reduced to helpless creatures. Yet, to identify the illegal Bangladeshis will not be very difficult once the citizens are properly educated about their natures. Assam has larger role to play in solving illegal immigrant issue and the actions taken there will have maximum impact on other parts of the region. If Assam fails, there is no point for other States in the region to think of. Because most of these supposed to be illegal immigrants who are going to other States of the region are well equipped with domicile certificates issued by Assam administrations.
And in Nagaland, when the NGOs were trying their best to check the menace, the administration would start challenging them that it was not their job to check illegal immigrants in the state. We hardly heard that administrations launched any drive to check illegal immigrants or ILP defaulters. But of late very unusual development occurred that pre-paid mobile numbers in Nagaland would be banned saying that 90% of the crimes were committed by pre-paid mobile issuers. I certainly believe that these illegal immigrants who have been committing all these crimes must be pre-paid mobile users and if the 90% pre-paid mobile users were indulging in committing crimes in Nagaland, then certainly, the population of these illegal immigrants in the State must have reached a dangerous point.