Will illegal migrants outnumber northeast indigenous people in 30 years?

2004

By Oken Jeet Sandham

A decade ago, then Assam Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Ajay Singh made a startling revelation that about 6000 illegal Bangladeshis were entering into Assam daily. If his statement was correct, then the fate of the northeast people is terribly at stake. Now after 10 years, one can simply imagine what will be the current rate of daily illegal infiltration into Assam from across the International border. Now, it may be anything around 10000 illegal infiltrations into Assam on daily basis.

Say, if 6000 illegal Bangladeshis infiltrate into Assam daily, it will be 1,80,000 Bangladeshis in a month and 21,90,000 annually. The State will have 2,40,90,000 illegal Bangladeshis by 2025, outnumbering the entire indigenous population of the region excluding Assam and the whole northeast indigenous people will be reduced to a minority in 30 years’ time.

The complexity involved here is that this country has over 100 million genuine Indian Muslims. It is about one-fifth of the whole population, besides the Government has earlier estimated that 20 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were in India.

Though there are no official figures of actual numbers of Bangladeshis in Assam, locals say their population could be 6 million of the State’s 30 million people. That means one-fifth of the State’s population is Bangladeshi immigrants. And the State alone produces over one-third Bangladeshi immigrants in the country.

Although Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi rejected his then Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Ajay Singh’s seemingly inflated claim, the fact is the unabated illegal immigrants from across the international border have been infiltrating into his State over the years. He, while talking to press in Guwahati at that point of time, however, admitted that infiltration from Bangladesh had not stopped.

“Effective steps have been taken to check infiltration,” he said. “Anybody found crossing the border is pushed back and those entered after March 25, 1971, as per the Assam Accord would be detected and deported.”

It may be mentioned that the powerful All Assam Students Union (ASSU) had launched a bloody campaign to push Bangladeshis back to their land. Indigenous people who feared they would be reduced to a minority in their own land massacred thousands of Bangladeshis, including women and children, across the State.

The Government and the Students’ Union signed a pact in 1985, but clauses on the deportation of foreigners have still not been implemented.

Though there are genuine Assamese Muslims and mainland Muslims, the present influx of illegal Bangladeshis in the State has not only affected the demography of that State but also the entire region, leading to serious threat to the survival of the region’s indigenous people and the country’s internal security as well.

Tripura is a gone case and Nagaland is the next target because large number of these illegal immigrants from across the International border has been swarming the State. In the last few years, there is a dramatic change in the socio-economic feature of the State. The locals’ almost lack of work culture, easy money and easy life style, etc. is the main cause that these illegal immigrants mostly coming from Assam have taken opportunities to stay in Nagaland. All the manual works, construction works, taxi driving, rickshaw pulling, cultivation works, mechanical jobs, etc. are mostly done by these immigrants of doubtful identities today. They also run large number of business establishments in Dimapur, the biggest commercial hub of the State and the capital, Kohima.

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 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 has vanished and its now occupied by the illegal immigrants and not by the real Assamese people.

The Nagaland Government often alleges that these illegal immigrants occupying the Disputed Area Belt (DAB) are the main causes leading to frequent border skirmishes. The latest border violence between Assam and Nagaland shows crystal clear that the people of the two states have to do a lot of exercises. And we should rather hasten the process for the fact that the nature of issue we have seen from the latest incidents has clearly shown that we have been sitting on a place waiting to explode. In fact, various intelligent agencies had, in the past, warned of serious consequences if immediate attention to the illegal immigrant issue in the region was not tackled.

Some years back, the exodus of Bangladeshi suspects seen from upper Assam following threats through SMS and leaflets by some unidentified people are evident of the illegal Bangladeshis’ presence.

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 that have given room to the illegal immigrants and outside elements to exploit them.

There is certainly genuine mainland Muslims in the region but their interest to settle in the region is slim. So their influx is out of question.

Whether the former Assam Governor’s statement on the infiltration of illegal Bangladeshis into Assam was exaggerated or not, the Chief Minister had also admitted that there was still infiltration of illegal Bangladeshis into his State.

The illegal Bangladeshi infiltration into Assam and elsewhere in the region has changed its (region) demography and now it has become a serious threat to the future survival of the region’s indigenous people and also the internal security problem for the nation as well.
To identify the illegal Bangladeshis will not be very difficult once the citizens are properly educated. Assam has larger role to solve the illegal immigrant issues and the actions taken there will have maximum impact on other parts of the region.

So long, illegal immigrant issue of Assam remains unresolved; there is no point for other States in the region to think of. Because most of these supposed to be illegal immigrants who are coming to other States of the region are well equipped with domicile certificates allegedly issued by Assam administrations.

At the same time, New Delhi also should be held equally responsible of the influx of illegal immigrants from across the International border because of their abject failure to fence the long porous border with Bangladesh. It may take years to complete because of the long stretch of border but if we have the political will; we can even finish construction of border fencing in few years’ time. If we believe that the dreaded illegal immigrant issues can essentially be solved by constructing border fencing, then we must push for it. Today, the country has already celebrated 68 years of her Independence. Are we going to take another 68 years to construct border fencing? By the time, northeast indigenous people will be refugees in their own soil.

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