During the last three decades, the problem of continuous infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and almost all north-eastern states has assumed a weird shape. The alien infiltrators are now swarming all over the country and their massive presence is writ large across dozens of cities including Delhi, Mumbai and even far away in Coimbatore, Chennai and in Tamil Nadu. They have spread out even to many small towns of states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. For the last five decades the successive central governments have remained focussed solely on the Jammu & Kashmir imbroglio, and in the process wilfully ignored our eastern flank. Unfortunately, throughout the last three decades India'spolitical leadership has failed to realise that much more than Kashmir, the Bangladeshi influx has the potential to tear the socio-political fabric of India. The north-eastern region will be the first victim of this ?tectonic tsunami? the reverberations of which are now being felt all over the country.
Gigantic dimensions of illegal infiltration
On a conservative estimate, the total number of Bangladeshi infiltrators and their progeny presently living in India could be anything close to five crore. At a national convention on demography held in New Delhi in April 2005, quite a few participants held the view that by now the total number of Bangladeshi infiltrators and their progeny could be as high as five crore. And if we include their fast multiplying progeny, too, the figure may be still higher! The mind-boggling dimensions of the problem were lucidly presented by Bibhuti Bhusan Nandy (a retired R&AW officer) in a research study titled ?Space Invaders? published in The Hindustan Times of February 14, 2003. In his well researched article Nandy highlighted the fact that an analysis of Bangladesh's1991 census data undertaken by Sarifa Begum (a demographer of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Dhaka) revealed that the 1991 census figure of 104.7 million population of Bangladesh disclosed a clear shortfall of nearly 10 million people.
The actual headcount during census 1991 was at enormous variance with the estimate of 116-117 million for the decade projected by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) disclosing a huge shortfall of 13 million people. It was found to be lower than even Bangladesh government'sown moderate estimate of 112-113 million population for 1991 census. After a detailed study, Sarifa Begum, a well known economist, attributed the ?missing millions? to the unregistered ?outmigration?. Through her well researched analysis of the 1991 census data of Bangladesh, Sarifa Begum established that between 1981-1991 nearly 14 to 15 million Bangladeshis had entered India. In another context she had further estimated that nearly 3.5 million people had ?disappeared? from East Pakistan between 1951 and 1961, while another 1.5 million had possibly entered India between 1961 and 1971.
Thus as per Sarifa Begum'sestimate the total number of outmigrated or missing Bangladeshis till 1991 comes to 19 million to which must be added another two million Bangladeshi citizens, mostly residents of the districts bordering India, whose names were removed from that country'selectoral rolls between 1995 and 1996. Obviously those two million Bangladeshis whose names were struck off the electoral rolls could not have migrated to China or Australia. They just stealthily entered India. That makes a grand total of 21 million people who had managed to infiltrate into India by the year 1996. And since then the infiltration has continued unabated. During the last 12 years millions more must have infiltrated into India. These figures based on analytical studies conducted by Sarifa Begum, highlight the magnitude of the diabolical dimensions of illegal infiltration. According to a sealed affidavit filed in High Court by Delhi Police the national capital alone was reported to have 13 million Bangladeshi infiltrators by September 2002. Their numbers in Kolkata and Mumbai are massively higher.
The Government of Bangladesh is fully aware that millions of its citizens are outmigrating into India. As highlighted by Baljit Rai in his book, Demographic Aggression Against India, the banner headline of Morning Sun, a Dacca based newspaper, on August 4, 1991, was ?One Crore People Missing?. The write-up discussed the mystery of missing millions, as revealed by 1991 census of Bangladesh. Could there be a more convincing and incontrovertible proof about the massive infiltration of Bangladeshis into India?
Additionally, Bibhuti Bhusan Nandy has provided irrefutable statistical evidence about the scale of illegal infiltration. Almost all Indian districts along Indo-Bangladesh border have recorded abnormally higher population growth, while the corresponding Bangladesh districts have witnessed equally abnormal low population growth rates. The data cited by Nandy tellingly illustrates the point: Greater Jessore and Greater Khulna districts in Bangladesh showed 1.97 and 1.58 per cent growth as against the stupendous growth rate of 3.16 in the adjoining North 24 Parganas. Similarly, Greater Mymensingh in Bangladesh recorded 1.89 per cent population growth as against 3.16 per cent growth in the adjacent district of Garo Hills in Meghalaya. Almost all border districts are going through the same pattern. Many semi-urban areas of West Bengal located close to Bangladesh have experienced a virtual population explosion?Gobardanga (8.64 per cent growth), Khardah (9.5 per cent), Raiganj (13.93 per cent), Ashoknagar (7.45 per cent) and Tufanganj (22.45).
Nandy'sresearch-based conclusions are further strengthened by the fact that in the decade 1981-1991 there was very low population growth in Hindu-concentrated districts of West Bengal.
Interestingly the average growth rate of urban and semi-urban population for West Bengal during the decade 1981-1991 was barely 2.45 per cent.
Simultaneously the border areas recorded explosive population growth. In fact, Nandy hoisted a red alert in January 2005 through his article published in The Statesman, New Delhi, that Hindus were moving out ?in droves? from border areas after selling their lands and property at throw away prices. Citing one specific instance of the outlying areas of Nadia district he pointed out that five years ago Hindus owned 60 per cent of agricultural land in that area, but now their share has dwindled to less than 40 per cent. By now large agricultural tracts of Nadia and 24 Parganas districts have been overrun and usurped by Bangladeshi Muslims. Yet no one in the central government cared to take notice of his grim warning.
A deliberately ignored problem
The problem of illegal Bangla immigration has been ignored for decades by our minority-centric and selfish political dispension seeking votes of Muslim minority. It has a long history. Nearly 10 years ago, the former Governor of J&K, Lt. General S.K. Sinha, during his tenure as Governor of Assam, had sent a 42-page report to the President about the menacing proportions of the problem. He drew pointed attention to the fact that this demographic invasion was creating widespread socio-economic unrest endangering maintenance of public order, apart from constituting a grave danger to the security of the nation. The report drew specific attention to the following facts:
i. The population of Muslims had recorded an abnormal increase of 77.42 per cent since 1971 due to illegal influx. No census could be held in Assam in 1981 due to disturbed conditions;
ii. Four districts of Assam (i.e., Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Hailakandi had acquired Muslim majority status. Now their number is seven;
iii. Between 1991 and 1997 in 57 of Assam's126 constituencies the number of voters had increased by more than 20 per cent, as against the all India average of nearabout 7.4 per cent.
iv. On a conservative estimate the number of illegal Bangladeshis at that time was estimated at 13.2 million including 5.4 million in West Bengal and four million in Assam. Now the all India figure is five crore infiltrators?even more!
Unfortunately at that time the ruling political dispensation did not pay any heed to the serious problem for reasons best known to itself. And now the chickens have come home to roost in the shape of repetitive jihadi attacks and bomb blasts across the country.
The situation in Assam is much worse today than it was 20 years ago. Two years ago, the present Governor of Assam, Lt. General Ajai Singh, had sent a detailed report to the central government highlighting that on an average 6,000 Bangladeshis were entering Assam every day. In other words, nearly 22 lakh illegal immigrants are entering that state every year. It means that nearly two crore infiltrators might have entered our country during the last 10 years. Interestingly if Sarifa Begum'sfigure of 13-14 million Bangladeshis (missing from that country'scensus 1991) is juxtaposed with the estimate given by the present Governor of Assam it looks quite logical that by now there could be more than five crore illegal infiltrators in India?a figure mentioned by more than one participant in the April 2005 seminar in Delhi.
In another detailed report, packed with facts and figures, submitted eight years ago, in August 2000, by the Working Group on Border Management chaired by Madhav Godbole it was clearly stated that the number of illegal Bangladeshis was around 1.5 crore at that time and that at least three lakh infiltrators were entering India every year. That adds up to a total of 1.7 crore illegal immigrants by now, i.e., year 2005. Incidentally Madhav Godbole was a former Union Home Secretary having impeccable credentials which was reflected in his courage of conviction to fault Narasimha Rao regime for failure to use force, including firing, to prevent demolition of the Babri structure in 1992.
It is true that no exact figure about the Bangladeshi influx can be given because of the failure of the central government and concerned state governments. This does not mean that the massive problem does not exist. It is very much there, writ large across the country'seastern horizon and visible all over the country even in several metropolitan cities and mofussil towns.
A grossly belated development is the candid admission of the gravity of situation by the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, on June 23, 2005 during a BSF seminar confessing helplessly that illegal immigrants were spreading ?the message of Islamic fundamentalism? and that there was a ?serious problem with some of our neighbours. He lamented that while ?Bangladesh claims that there were no Bangladeshis in India whereas the entire demography of certain parts of the country and West Bengal is being changed due to infiltration. In many places there are more Bangladeshi settlers than Indians.? Earlier the Marxist had always denied that Bangla influx was a genuine problem. Even the UPA appointed Governor of West Bengal, Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, proclaimed that relentless infiltration was ?a time bomb??which indeed it is.
Census 2001 revealed many far reaching and worrisome population changes, not only in the north-eastern region and the Marxist-ruled state of West Bengal, but even in the Hindi heartland state of Bihar. For instance, in the geographically crucial state of Assam, the Muslims have already attained the majority status in six districts, i.e., Dhubri (Muslims: 12,16,455, Hindus 4,05,065), Goalpara (Muslims 4,41,516; Hindus 3,14,157), Barpeta (Muslims 9,77,943; Hindus 6,62,066), Nagaon (Muslims 11,80,267: Hindus 11,06,354), Karimganj (Muslims 5,27,214; Hindus 4,70,708) and Hailakandi (Muslims 3,12,844; Hindus 2,23,191). As nearly four years have elapsed since the census enumeration took place in 2001, by now another district, Marigaon, is believed to have become a Muslim majority district, thereby taking the tally to seven districts.
(To be concluded)
(The writer is former Inspector General of Police who served in North-East.)