India and Bangladesh has finally settled the border issue by operationalising the contentious Land Boundary Agreement. The culmination of original Indira-Mujib deal signed in 1974 has paved the way for exchange of enclaves of land that both countries had within each other’s territory. Another strange anomaly of partition and subsequent irony is thus addressed. This land swap pact, with rare consensus between the neighbours and their domestic constituents, has settled the dichotomy of land and human control for the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura. Now with borders marked, it is time to address the issues pertaining to illegal migration.
When Bengal was partitioned by the British in 1905, it was Rabindranath Thakur, who gave a rallying call for Amar Shonar Bangla in 1906, which became the national anthem of Bangladesh in 1972. Unfortunately, the cultural spirit that separated Bangladesh from Pakistan has been dying with the growing influence of radical Islam. The Hindus are slowly and surely vanishing from Bangladesh. As per the 2011 census of Bangladesh, the percentage of Hindus has gone down to 8.5 per cent from 30 per cent in 1951. Due to legal, political and social contours within Bangladesh, Hindus are being either forcefully migrated or shamefully persecuted. Unfortunately, no Human Rights or international organisation is taking up the cause of Hindu plight.
While Hindus are migrating in large numbers as refugees, Muslims are entering the neighbouring states as illegal migrants. This has been a bone of contention in Assam, to some extent in Meghalaya and largely in Paschim Banga. Since the communists took the baton of ‘secular’ politics in Bengal, they systematically nurtured their constituency on communal lines. Ms Mamata Banerjee, in 2011 assembly elections gave a blow to the more than three decade old communist monopoly in the state and rekindled some hope for peace in Bengal. However, Hindus continue to face violence and atrocities in almost all the bordering districts of the state. The incidents of blasts like Burdwan have serious security implications, with clear cross border connections. The illegal migration and subsequent changes in demography have resulted in vote bank considerations surpassing national security concerns.
The recent Nadia violence where the procession on the occasion of Buddha Purnima was attacked by Muslim miscreants is just one such incidents where Hindus are targeted. In the four years of TMC rule, there have been more than 300 incidents of communal violence and rioting in Bengal. The lethargic response by the state district administration is more alarming. All the secular voices in politics, academics and media go deaf and dumb on such incidents or try to give it a caste or class colour. Time has come to call spade a spade. Whether to curb radicalisation or go the Pakistani way are the options Bangladesh has to explore but India definitely should not bear repercussions of radicalised Bangladesh on Indian soil.
Last year, Indian Government had successfully deported more than 5,000 Bangladeshis who had overstayed in India. External Affairs Ministry had also raised its concerns about the issue with the Bangladeshi counterparts in recent interactions. There are estimated 1.5 crore illegal Bangladeshis in India. Identifying and deporting them will require a gigantic coordinated effort by the Centre and states. Till then, hopefully the land swapping deal will stop further infiltration. The obstacles in border management have to be ameliorated effectively. In 2007, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad had prepared a survey based report on India-Bangladesh border, recommendations of which can be useed in curbing infiltration. Effective fencing and empowerment of BSF are some of the measures which can be taken up immediately. The landmark deal should be followed up with the illegal migration issue; otherwise, in future we will have to deal with another Jammu-Kashmir like imbroglio on the eastern border.