By Shib Shankar Chatterjee
Axom, the land of hilly and strong current (in reddish colour) Rivers and mountains like high (in bluish colour) Hills, is a captivating country since its birth. There were dense green forest, rivers with heavy current, murmuring brooks mighty falls, blue hills and wild animals. This is why; it is generally known in the outside world a land of Jungles. The mighty river ‘Brahmaputra’, locally called Luit (from Lauhitya meaning Redness) is flowing from Sadia, that is, Manas Sarobar (Tasangpo) to ‘Bay of Bengal’ (Sea), disregarding the international boundary laws through Bangladesh. The topography of Assam being ‘T’ shaped.
India has all sorts of problems at present, such as socio-economic, political, geographical, environmental, archaeological and what not. But, the foreigners’ issue is no mean one. Of late the issue has turned into a major one in the North-Eastern States of the country. In the political scenario of this region, the fundamentalists have intensified their activities through the infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals into the region producing a fear psychosis amongst the indigenous people of losing their self-identity.
‘Migration’ cannot stop by the ‘law’, ‘force’ and ‘protest’. It is a natural process. After the sunrise, hundreds of hundreds Bangladeshi nationals, who have been crowded into the Bangladeshi infested or adjacent Indo-Bangla international bordering towns and semi-towns of the above Northeast Indian States everyday from across the above international border.
In fact, pre-independent India had no infiltration problem worth the name. Whatever foreigners came to India from the middle-ages came either through the western gaps or through the plain patches of the eastern boundary. Most of these intrusions were of the nature of invasion. They came not to settle in India, but to rob India of her treasure. The ‘Mughals’ were the only exception.
In post-independence period, other things remaining the same, the erstwhile East Pakistan that is, East-Bengal, locally called either Purba Bangla or Purba Banga, turned into present ‘Bangladesh’, was curved out as a new International Border with India in the east-south fringe. The plague of foreigners suffered by India today therefore is mostly due to this Bangladesh. Bangladesh was made out of pre-independent East-Bengal plus the Sylhet district of Assam.
So, the Bangladeshi people have a common stock with that of Eastern Indian States, West Bengal and Assam. Both the people have the same anthropological features, linguistic and cultural similarities and also likeness in social customs and manners. Due to these factors, it is often difficult to distinguish a Bangladeshi from an Indian (Assamese or West-Bengali).
Not to speak of the river areas, even on the land portion of the international border, there was no significant demarcation line, except an International Border Pillar (IBP) here and there. People crossed and re-crossed the border at all odd times and at their sweet will. There were no motor-able border roads, as there should have been, and therefore, patrolling by the Border Security Force of India (BSFI) was nominal. The matter was worse in Char, (that is, sandy-shore or river-island) river and forest areas.
In the absence of regular BSFI points and for difficult patrolling conditions, such areas were virtually free zones. In such free-zones temporary settlements was never to establish a permanent settlement in the place, because it was not practically possible as chars are always temporary creations of the rivers, the settlements grew only to carry out part of the middlemen in matters of smuggling and infiltration.
Senior Policemen, bureaucrats and the experts feel and claim, “In Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Morigaon, Ngaon, Karimganj, Hailakandi districts of the Eastern Indian State, Assam, the immigration racket is centered around the numerous Char (that is, River-island)s of the river – Brahmaputra are the ‘traditional immigrant sanctuaries’. Thousands of square kilometres of these islands are passed off in Assam State revenue records as non-cadastral lands – un-surveyed, unaccounted for and un-policed”.
The paramount question in this regard is-why some people brave in to the boundary of a neighboring country even facing the danger of deadly bullets from the security personnel? Nobody likes to leave his native place and country if he can. There must be sufficient and forceful reason, which prompts a man march to a foreign country. This is more applicable to the common men.
The infiltration of foreign nationals in to this region and ever increasing activities of extremists, fundamentalists have been admitted by no other persons than Sri S. B. Chavan, Ex-Home Minister of India and Sri Rajesh Pilot, when he held the portfolios of the Indian State Home Ministry of the Central Government respectively. Infiltrators are being captured by the Indian State Governments every now and then. But it is a matter of astonishment to note that the State Governments (especially, Assam, West-Bengal, Tripura in North-East India) are repeatedly denying the issue. Why? The reason is obvious Bangladeshis are their vote-banks.
“In the sixties, the Congress Governments in the Eastern Indian State, Assam had encouraged the immigration of Bangladeshi national (Specially Muslim)s into the State and allowing them to blend with the populace of the aforesaid state, even, granting them to voting right also, which was a premeditated and narrow exercise in the Indian electoral politics”, astonished the well-known former author-cum-foreign secretary of India, J. N. Dixit.
“Over the years, all over the Eastern part of the India’s Assam State has witnessed endless number of land settlement programmes by the Indian State Government, Assam through various ways or schemes. Specially, during the Congress-Indira periods in the name of ‘vote-bank’ policy to distribute the pattas, to the flood victims minority Muslim peoples, who migrated into this Eastern Indian region from Bangladesh during English period and had been living on the Brahmaputra River islands in the western part of the State, Assam”, stated well-known social entrepreneur-cum-writer R. D. Choudhury of Northeast India.
The illegal infiltration, smuggling and anti-Indian activities in surrounding areas of Indo-Bangladesh international border are on the rise at an alarming rate. These anti-national activities are so deep rooted that they are seen controlling the entire politics of the North-East India. What is most unfortunate is that almost all the political parties are keeping silence in this regard for fear of losing their vote-bank in these areas. Politics only for votes – this attitude of the political parties even at the cost of national cause gives rise to doubts in the minds of genuine Indians.
There is hardly any political party, which raises its voice against the touchy subjects like illegal infiltration, smuggling and anti-Indian fanatic activities in the Indo-Bangladesh international border areas, though these three factors have become the common issue of the entire North-East India, specially in Assam and West-Bengal.
At present the smugglers, illegal infiltrators and the anti-Indian activists are using some thousands of kilometres of land and some hundreds of kilometres of water (that is, the portion of the river Brahmaputra) of the Indo-Bangladesh international boundary areas equally to carry on their activities.
As a matter of fact, 20% to 25% of the people residing in the India-Bangladesh international border areas are directly or indirectly encouraging illegal infiltration for their vested interest as they mostly depend on these illegal and anti-national activities for their life and living. In fact the ‘infiltration’ is a kind of trade that occurs in the international border, persons engaged in this trade, carry out it and take the risk in connection with the crossing of the borderline.
The ’Mediator’ or ‘Tout’ (that is, Dalal as they are locally said) are reported to earn hundreds of rupees to get the foreign nationals to pass over Indian side. Moreover, there are some politically backed bigger unseen circles that said to have the guides in this affair. These people having been mingled with the Indians do this nuisance through different river-ghat (bank)s, buses or trains. The money required for the transaction is often been paid in Bangladeshi. This is now an illegal trade and unofficial business of currency exchange is going on in full swing in both side of the Indo-Bangladesh international border.
Apart from this, as per the version of observers, some anti-social elements have crept-up in the Indo-Bangladesh international border areas. These anti-social elements have turned these International Border areas into a land of different types of criminal activities. It is learnt that recently they are lending ‘Xerox Copies’ (that is, Photostat Copies) of National Residential Certificate or National Register of Citizen (NRC), Permanent Residential Certificate or Permanent Register of Citizen (PRC), Electoral Roll or Voter List (that is, Voter Talika), Voter Identity Card (VIC), Passport, Ration Card (RC), Certificates of proof by the numbers of Gaon Panchayet (that is, village-panchayet) et cetera on rent to infiltrators for committing illegal activities related to enlisting names in voter-list.
These anti-social elements use to rent their papers to infiltrators on monthly basis to these, who live on the international border areas (specially, International Border Village [IBV] areas, et cetera) crossing the Indo-Bangladesh international border. The anti-social elements have chosen these activities as the means of their livelihood. Because, peoples (who are residing on the IBWBF share same physiological features, food habits and dialects – though, the intonation may be dissimilar) have relatives on both side of the above international boundary and have own properties in both countries as well. So, when it comes to the cross border illegal activities, whether it is infiltration or smuggling and others, at that time, both side of the international border has a finger in the tart.
The Bangladeshi infiltrators enter, into Assam and West-Bengal (that is, North-East India) through the open ‘land route’ and ‘riverine area’ with the sunrise for earning daily living, says some people living on these international border areas. Some of them retain themselves in India and some of them leave India for their native land, it is impossible to say anything about it correctly.
They have chosen these international border area’s Indian villages, for borrowing the Xerox copy of PRC, NRC, Voter-List et cetera on rent. The mediators hand over or sell these Xerox copies of PRC, NRC, Voter-List et cetera as against (rupees) Rs.100.00 to Rs. 300.00. The infiltrators hide their ‘real names’ after they have received these papers and then produce themselves in new names as are written in NRC, PRC, Voter-List et cetera certificates.
These ‘papers’ are necessary for detection and deportation of the foreign nationals in North-East India. These are of great importance. They are procured from the Deputy Commissioner Offices, Superintendent of Police Offices et cetera (and are also necessary) to prove the identity of the Indian nationals, who live in other provinces. Because, the Bangladeshi people has a common stock with that of Indian (especially, in Assam and West-Bengal). It is impossible to detect a Bangladeshi from an Indian unless the Citizenship Identity Cards (CIC) are introduced, as the physical appearance, behavior pattern, custom, religion, language, culture et cetera of the Bangladeshis are almost cent percent similar to those of a portion of people residing in the Indo-Bangla international border areas.
The most interesting fact is that even, IBV populaces make reasonable earnings by giving ‘shelter’ and ‘food’ with ‘security’ to the ‘new-comer’ (that is, illegal migrant)s also. Once cross the international border, the illegal migratory simply mix up with the local populaces and hide their real names and adopt new ones.
But, the astonishing fact is that in the State, Assam, recently another racket has been active in securing ‘Birth Certificate’ for Bangladeshi infiltrators in the Brahmaputra and Barak-Valley, particularly in Karimganj district in connivance with a section of unscrupulous Government officials as well as a few Police personnel. In this connection, it is also said that in some cases pregnant women from Bangladesh were facilitated to cross over the Indian Land through the porous border in Dhubri and Karimganj districts of Assam and Meghalaya State, so that they could deliver their babies on Indian soil enabling them to become a citizen of this country by birth. It is also alleged by the people of these districts that the birth certificates of these men and women are managed with the help of some corrupt Indian Assam State Police and district administrative officials against a little sum of money. It is informed that one Dr. N. C. Ghosh of Barak valley recently detected some fake birth certificates precede at the behest of the racket for Bangladesh.
“This is not only the means to add population to this country, but also there is another way to do so. It is often found in the hospital of Basirhat of North-24-Parganas district of the Northeast Indian State, West-Bengal that some Bangladeshi women come and get admitted into the hospital with a view to giving birth their children and then leave the hospital silently, while doing this they give wrong identity and address.
It is a matter of astonishment that though Basirhat is a small town yet it has a good number of Pharmacies or ‘Medical Shops’, which seem grater in than that of its population. The stock of medicines of that shops are also huge quantity for the major portion of it is supplied to Bangladesh as because most of these medicines are not available in their country”, reported Mr. Tapan Kumar Paul, of Basirhat College.
Thus, the illegal infiltrators have been establishing their inhabitants in hills, reserved and unreserved forest areas, semi towns, towns, cities and its adjoining areas as Basti or Jhopar Patti (that is, slum areas) et cetera. They are often helped by some political and non-political persons and their parties and organization in order to make their vote-bank sound, say the observers.
These illegal infiltrators pass their lives either as Rickshaw-Pullers, Handbarrow-Pullers, Daily-wage-earners, Rag-pickers, Zari-workers, Vegetables-sellers, Egg-sellers, Fish-sellers, Daily-labours or by some other illegal means (smuggling, prostitution et cetera) in North-Eastern States, especially in Assam and West-Bengal. Added to this, they create problems like begging, stealing and damaging national properties and so on.
That there is unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh to the North-Eastern Indian States can be seen from the Census Report of 1951 to 2001. Due to strong opposition from the students of the Assam State, census of population (of Assam State) could not be done in 1981.
If anybody looks at the rate of increase in population from 1901 to 1951, that is, during increase of population was the pre-independence period it finds that in every decade, the average increase of population was about 20% which is generally accepted as the normal growth of population in every decade in India. This is method of ‘birth-control’.
In this case, one more factor is to be taken into account. As a result of the wave of birth control started in the seventies, the normal rate of increase in population should go down a few points by the end of eighties. Therefore, under such circumstances 53% increase in population cannot be held as a normal growth. There must be other explanation for such abnormal growth.
Heavy influx of foreign people from nearby foreign countries is the only plausible explanation in this case. During his visit to the State of Assam in 1992, the Ex-Prime Minister of India, P. V. Narashima Rao not only admitted large-scale infiltration of foreign nationals into Assam State but also threatened that stern measures would be taken against such foreign nationals and to do so the Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunal) Act- [IM (DT) Act] would be revised if necessary.
It is also interesting to note that the Ex-Chief Minister of the Eastern Indian, State, Assam (Late Sri Hiteshwar Saikia) declared on 10th April, 1992 on the floor of the House of the Assam State Assembly, Budget Session that 03 million (that is, 30 lakhs) of Bangladeshi nationals, who had illegally infiltrated into the Eastern Indian, State, Assam (and the others parts of the India, including the capital, New Delhi) in the year 1987. He also spoke of the 10 out of 13 numbers of districts (presently, 23 numbers of districts) of Assam State, where the infiltration of Bangladeshi citizens had contributed to the significant increase in population. He must have based his remarks on the ‘Provisional Population Totals’ of the Census of India, 1991 (Paper 01 of 1991). Enraged by such admission of the Chief Minister (CM), whose ministry was always on the mercy of the ‘Muslim votes’ and ‘Minority MLA’ (Member of Legislative Assembly)s, the convener of the ‘Muslim Forum’, Abdul Aziz gave an ultimatum to the CM on May 24th, 1992 that his ministry would be dislodged within 05 minutes if the CM did not take back his statement about ‘Bangladeshi infiltration’. The CM and the State of Assam had to pay dearly for that ‘slip of tongue’ of the CM on the floor of the Northeast India’s Assam State Assembly, just after two weeks later as ‘clarification’. Not only that even, “There are no illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam”, claimed the aforesaid former CM of Assam State in his address to the All Assam Minority Organizations’ Coordination Committee at Juria in Central Assam’s Nagaon district on 07th June, 1992. The CM of the State, Assam, Hiteshwar Saikia further told that his statement in Assam Assembly on 10th April, 1992 had been based on intelligence reports from the Union Home Ministry. In that report, the population figure of Assam was shown as 02.52 crore.
But, according to the normal growth rate, the population of Assam should be around 02.22 crore. On that basis the Assam’s CM announced on the floor of the Assembly that there were around 30 lakhs illegal migrants from Bangladesh in the State. Al though, the Census Report of 1991 of the Government of India had also revealed that the population figure of Assam was 02.22 crore, he added. The CM not only took back his ‘folly’ (?) but had also to tour the minority infested areas in an attempt to appease them declaring, wherever he went that he was wrongly informed by the Home Ministry of the Central Government in that regard. Moreover, to satisfy the minorities, the CM had to offer several packages of help to them in the name of development, which otherwise would never have been thought of by the Government.
Similarly, thing had come out on 20th April, 2002, when the vice president of the Muslim dominated party Jamiat Ulema, Maulana Abdul Jalil Ragivi had demanded to the Chief Minister of Eastern Indian State, Assam, Tarun Gogoi and had warned the Congress (Indira), shortly say Congress (I)-led Indian Assam State Government, “If the above government doesn’t appoint a minority Muslim leader as a Deputy Chief Minister in the State during ministry expansion, they will pull down the said government from the seat of power.
However, in this context, we would like to remind our CM of Assam that the present Congress (I) government has 13-numbers of Muslim Congress Legislators in the Indian Assam State Assembly (IASA). Even, the Government has bound to give the more than 50% (per cent) tickets or seats to the religious minority community candidates in the Indian Assam State Village Panchayet Election (IASVPE), 2001, in the our state”.
“The most astonishing fact is that a few sections of the Muslim Minority senior leaders of the Congress (Indira) party have openly supported the Maulana Abdul Jalil Ragivi’s statement and it is also fact that in this IASVPE, the illegal Bangladeshis are not only representing but also participating actively to proof their identity or nationality as Indian citizen”, asserted the Political Observers of the above state.
It has become true, when the ‘top-secret reports’ of the Indian (Read : Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya) State intelligence and the Central Intelligence Departments including Research Analysis Wing (RAW) claimed, “Incessant Bangladeshi illegal infiltrators are slowly tuning the India-Bangladesh International Bordering Districts of the Indian States like Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya into Muslim predominantly areas. Specially, in Eastern Indian State like Assam, it is fact that every member of this state’s minority community would be considered as a Bangladeshi.
One day, the majority will become the minority in this part of the nation, unless the Assam State Government takes some strong initiatives to check it soon, the unabated illegal infiltration from Bangladesh would break the balance of the race of this entire Northeast Indian region. Not only that it will be not a surprising thing if, the Northeast Indian States will be converting into the land of ‘Greater Bangladesh’, what with illegal influx from the Bangladesh going to on incessant over the years. The most unfortunate thing is that the State and Central Government of India by its reluctance to act against this dangerous phenomenon is giving away the region into the hands of Bangladesh”.
In this connection, another incident may by cited and noted from the leading Assamese dailies and weeklies (The Assam Tribune, Danik Asom, Ajir Batori, Ajir Asom, The Sentinel, Samoy Prabaha and others et cetera, on 31st March, 1995) to know the evil design of this category of people, is growing leaps and bounds in Assam under the Congress (I) (that is, Congress-Indira Gandhi) leniency and that it knows no party ideology was manifest on March 30th, 1995 on the floor of the Assam Assembly, when a number of MLAs and Ministers belonging to several parties created an unprecedented scene in the annals of the Assam Legislature by trying to manhandle Sri Parimal Shukla Baidya, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from the Barak-Valley, who happened to ask a simple question, whether the unauthorized occupies of reserve lands in Lalpani area under Lakhipur sub-division were Bangladeshi Muslims or not? The legislators, who raised their voices in unison, belong to Cong (I), Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI (M). It is a matter of surprise, how these legislators irrespective of their party affiliations, can join hands together disregarding even the direction of the speaker of the Assembly.
Besides aforesaid serious demographic change in the aforesaid region, particularly, the activities of the religious extremists as well as the fundamentalists are being too pushed through the open Indo-Bangla international boundary into India regularly, by the intelligence agencies of Bangladesh and Pakistan, named – Director General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to distabilise the Northeast Indian province and the entire Indian sub-continent as well as South-Asian region. Because, this excessive illegal infiltration without any hindrance over the years had already endangered the whole Northeastern Indian region, while national security was threatened, sovereignty and integration too were jeopardised.
These activities are both anti-national and anti-social in nature as they intend to keep the Government busy with the terrorist activities and communal disturbances, which often take place in the aforesaid Indian States. The other motive of these activities is to carry on a silent invasion far deep into the State, by dint of creating a majority in the State of North-East India. The chief design of these anti-national activities is nothing but to create a “Greater Islamic Country” in North-East India as per the version given by eminent observers of both political and social ladders.
“Indian State of Assam, particularly, has been fighting long to preserve its own culture and tradition since 1978. It is a long and unending fight, where she lost thousands of patriots and crores of wealth. Though, the political parties like – Indian National Congress (Congress [I]), Communist Party of India – CPI and Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) and the others showed their sympathy to the martyrdoms is nothing but an eye wash, but, their real aim was to make the vote-banks permanently”, bemoans renowned social entrepreneur-cum-teacher of the Eastern India, M. K. Chatterjee.
In a recent visit to the entire Indo-Bangladesh international border, both overland and reverine, it was found that the actual picture of the much talked about International Border (IB), International Border Road (IBR) and International Border Fencing (IBF) exist there. But to speak the truth, it is only in pen and paper that erecting of the barbed wire fencing along the international border has effectively checked infiltration. The fencing is there, but it is not an unbroken one. The riverine areas are left unfenced because fencing cannot be ‘easily’ raised there. Even, on the stretch of the overland areas there are a number of bridges along the IBR and all the bridges are kept unfenced beneath, which even a vehicle can pass through. Illegal traders, anti-Indian activists and infiltrators conveniently use these gaps as known from the local people.
Between the international borderline and the fence, there is a stretch of land mostly 150-metres (that is, 138-yards) in breadth, which is called the ‘Zero area’. These are mostly patta-lands of local people and hence they are allowed to cultivate and raise crop on their respective plots. To facilitate their cultivation, gates are constructed here and there and these gates are manned during the daytime. But none or most of them remain unmanned during the night. So, it is not difficult to trespass through these gates during the nighttime. In this connection, it can be mentioned here that the other side (Bangladesh) of the border has no barrier whatsoever.
Of all the activities carried on along the international border areas, five distinct types can be categorized separately. They are (a) Theft & Robbery, (b) Illegal Trade, (c) Anti Indian Activities, (d) Illegal Migration for Food, Cloth, Shelter and Job and (e) Infiltration Religious Fundamental activities.
The last two, namely ‘Illegal Migration and Infiltration’ have certain causes amongst which prominent ones are infiltration for livelihood, infiltration for political purposes, infiltration for religious fundamentalism and infiltration for ‘cheap-labour’. Among them infiltration made for political and religious purposes is both large in quantity and dangerous for India. The infiltrations made for political purposes are mainly for creation of vote-bank. Except a section of non-political and political parties of Assam and West-Bengal are more or less responsible for this folly, as per the version given by the common people and the observers.
The infiltration made for religious expansionism, on the other hand, has a long history and a deep link with some international fundamentalist group. For such men religion is above the State and hence they are alike everywhere. As the infiltrations made by such persons are well organized, it is very difficult to detect such persons because they remain under the protective cover of their religious masters. So if such persons are not checked at the time of crossing the boundary, they cannot detect later on.
The existing barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh international border in the Assam sector proved to be a farce so long other stretches of the international border remain open. Even, 49.70 kilometres Brahmaputra riverine areas are also unfenced and not well-guarded. Because, the said riverine areas of Indo-Bangla international boundary has not been still demarcated due to practical complexities. The intricacy stems from the riverine character of the above international border : the rivers and its tributaries and rivulets, which have been shifting their courses constantly.
Supporting the fact, the officials of the Geological Survey of India, Government of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India revealed, “Indeed, due to frequent engorging and the soil erosion by the Brahmaputra rivers and its tributaries and the others small rivers, it is extremely impossible for our soldiers to find out the permanent ‘structure’ (especially, International Border Pillar, shortly say – IBP)s as well as International Border Out Post (IBOP)s of the above international boundary, which are belong to India”.
“There is no doubt that the river Brahamaputra is full of surprises, at times it’s benevolent and on the other hand destructive. Islands emerge like the phoenix and disappear equally mythically every year. As a result of this, the largest international border guarding force in the world, which is assisted by high-end gadgetry, sleek battlefield domination devices, sometimes travel from one point to another on speedboats, medium size Engine Fit Country Boat (EFCB)s and Dingie (that is, small boat)s on this highly dynamic landscape (!), which is one of the most stunning and geomorphologic ally the most active.
Even so, statistically, there are 22-numbers of International Floating Border Out Post (IFBOP)s, means – a ‘Large Motorized Country-Boat’, several check points and land BOPs in this International Riverine Border (IRB) sector, where the BSFI soldiers eat, sleep and cook on the river and are on patrol 24-hours on the river, Brahmaputra. Even, these jawans stay for 06-months at a stretch on the said boats and then fresh hands are called on deck”, claimed the BSFI the officials.
Of the total International Riverine Border (IRB) of the Northeast Indian State, Assam with Bangladesh is 48-kilometres in Dhubri district, while 27-kilometres in Karimganj district respectively. But, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has demanded that building permanent IBOPs along the abovementioned riverine boundary of the said state with Bangladesh.
This is why, to overcome the situation, from June, 2001, BSFI had started painting the ‘Indian national (Tri-colour) flag’ and issued ‘serial number’ on all over boats, which ply across and close to the 49.70 kilometres long international riverine boundary of world’s one of the longest river, ‘Brahmaputra’ in the sector of Dhubri district of the Eastern Indian State, Assam.
It is fact that, during the rainy season it often becomes hard for our soldiers to detect the Bangladeshi boats, which often creep into the Indian terrain, which often uses for carry the illegal Bangladeshi nationals and the smuggling goods. So, the abovementioned detection has become easier for the aforesaid Indian frontier guards once the national flag is painted on the Indian boats.
Traveling through the entire stretch of these international border areas, meeting the local people and talking to the BSFI and Police personnel there, it may only conclude that the present. States of border sealing is mere eyewash of the Government misleading the people in general. That there is no effective check of infiltration is a fact, even there is no diminishing of the illegal trader. The party in power, to speak frankly, does not want total stoppage of either the illegal trades or the infiltration. The people of North-East are at the danger of losing their indigenous identity due to over-influx of Bangladeshi.
It will be wrong to believe that when the common man about the affairs going on unchecked along the international borderline knows so much, the Indian Government is unaware of them. The Government must indeed be informed time and again by intelligence agencies and other informers. But check measures are seldom seen to be taken. It is easily understood to whose advantage these activities are allowed to be carried on surreptitiously by the persons in power. So long they can accrue the benefits to themselves and to their party; they are unlikely to care much about the national interest or the interest of their own community. This is one of the greatest drawbacks of a democratic setup. The high officials of BSFI raise complain that the people, who are easily crossing the un-walled border and carrying on various anti-Indian activities like smuggling et cetera are being given Ration Card, Certificates of proof by the village-panchayet of the surrounding areas of Indo-Bangla international border.
The India-Bangladesh International Border kisses the above out of four Indian states (Assam, Tripura, West Bengal and Mizoram) of which three states are densely populated, and as a result of this, cross border illegal migration from Bangladesh has increased and most of the areas of the above Indian states (particularly Assam, Tripura and West Bengal) have gone over flooded with these people.
Added to this, there is adversity in the climatic condition of these areas. As a result of these, the numbers of ‘cause’ and ‘condition’ the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators can easily enter India and lend India a ground of easy prey of different anti-social activities such as : smuggling, looting, plundering, pan-Islamic activities et cetera.
Though, in general, the boundary has no hindrances, but, to guard the 04,096.70-odd kilometers porous international border with Bangladesh is not an easy task. In this connection, the BSFI upon which the responsibility of guarding and protecting of Indo-Bangla International Border has been offered has divided the entire zone under three categories. Firstly : Plain (which comprises the sector of eastern Indian States – Assam, including Barak Valley, Tripura and West Bengal), Secondly : Forest and Hill (which comprises the sector of another Eastern Indian State, Meghalaya) and Thirdly : Riverine (which comprises the aforesaid state WB, which bears around hundrds of hundreds kilometres; the Assam State that covers about 50-kilometres; the State, Tripura, who covers 40-kilometres and the Mizoram State, few kilometres, respectively.
Over and above, the aforesaid environments of the aforementioned international boundary design or situation or structure has given an easy chance to the illegal Bangladeshi nationals (including smuggler, anti-Indian and pan-Islamic activists and extremists) to cross and re-cross the international boundary and enter into the Indian soil smoothly also.
Apart from this, the key problems of the India-Bangladesh International Border are as follows :
- First : Open ‘Border’ system,
- Second : Problems for detecting Bangladeshi nationals,
- Third : Non-co-operative attitude of IBV people,
- Fourth : Eruption of population by doubtful citizens in international border village, town, sub-division and district areas,
- Fifth : Problems of expatriation of illegal Bangladeshi nationals,
- Sixth : Erecting of International Barbed Wire Border Fencing (IBWBF),
- Seventh : Damage done by natural calamities and human activities of IBWBF and International Border Pillar (IBP)s,
- Eighth : Nexus activities of the criminals and a section of administrative personnel and officials of Indian Police Force (IPF) and Border Security Force of India (BSFI),
- Ninth : Demographic and geographic change of international boundary areas (like Villages, Semi-owns, Towns, Sub-Divisions, Districts and States),
- Tenth : Scarcity of food, cloth, shelter, security (religion and social) and job (cheap labour or worker) in the neighbouring countries,
- Eleven : Unscientific demarcation of international boundary,
- Twelve : Establishment of socio-cultural relations across the border,
- Thirteen : Bindings and limitations of Laws,
- Fourteen : Similar cultivation process of both sides of the international border (that lies on including disputed lands or zones or areas),
- Fifteen : Problems of disputed lands or zones or areas or Adverse Possessions,
- Sixteen : Erosion of lands of River Islands and changing of river course vehemently, which lie on the international border,
- Seventeen : Unnecessary provoking for push-back (of illegal infiltrators and extremists) and firing across the international boundary,
- Eighteen : Religious establishment of the no-man’s land of the international border,
- Nineteen : Loopholes of the Acts or Agreements,
- Twenty : Lack of infrastructure of the international border areas (Villages, Semi-towns, Towns, Sub-Divisions, Districts and States).
But, unless and until, the Government of India tackles the said international boundary in a proper way immediately, India will have to face dire consequences in near future from this eastern frontier. Then what is the way out? The only solutions are at present –
First : Even, a portion of foreign nationals enters the Indian territory in search of livelihood. A class of people called Tout, living near the international border, helps them. These people provided them a ‘Xerox-copy’ of PRC, NRC, and Voter’s List for hire in exchange of some money or against monetary considerations. After possessing such a document, the Bangladeshis disperse in the entire North-Eastern Region of India. The fact is also known to the high ups in the State Administration. But most of them are helpless because they are also under pressure to pay a deaf ear to it. It is also seen that some times, these anti-social and anti-national elements are getting indulgence from the local Indian State Police Force (ISPF) Departments. These points to the existence of an unholy alliance between the anti-nationals and the ISPF. Even, some political parties are defending these notorious anti-socials and anti-nationals on certain occasions. The BSFI can never or hardly identify these infiltrators, smugglers and anti-Indian activists without the help and assistance of the local Indians. The high officials of BSFI also express his hope that they will certainly be caught either by Police or the BSFI janwan’s if the local people refuse to give them shelter.
Second : The intelligence branch of the BSFI of India also disclosed that the Indian touts had secret relation with their Bangladeshi counterpart and both get together to arrange for supplying ‘cheap labour’ from Bangladesh to Indian contractors. This supply of cheap labour from Bangladesh adversely affect the employment problem since most 04th grade appointment avenues in the State and the developmental projects of Central Government are being captured by these foreign nationals depriving the local persons. So, it should this immediately.
Third : The existence of the provisions of 144 CrPC during daytime, curfew from dusk to dawn, shoot at sight order et cetera besides patrolling either by vehicle or on foot, are in force in this area. There are even some hundreds of International Border Watch Tower (IBWT)s and International Border Watch Post (IBWP)s every after one and half kilometres to guard the land portion of Indo-Bangla international border. But, in the Brahmaputra and its tributaries especially (in the month of December-January to April-May of every year) spring season, the work of patrolling by speedboats becomes impossible and a challenging task for the troops of the BSFI as hundreds of Char (that is, river-island) areas come up in the Brahmaputra. The people engaged in various illegal activities make these river-islands as their hideouts and from there they often change their course of destination if necessary by boats, speedboats et cetera. Sometimes, they themselves sink their own boats making the work of the BSF harder.
Fourth : The BSFI were not getting anything to do with the smugglers and the Bangladeshis as in most cases they were taking the advantage of the dilly-dally process of the IM(DT) Act, 1983. But, thanks to honourable Supreme Court of India [SCI] (in this matter that took it seriously). On the 12th July, 2005, the aforesaid infamous IM(DT) Act, 1983 has been scrapped by the SCI.
Moreover, as per the versions of the High Officials (including intelligence) of the BSFI and the Indian Army, the rise of Islamic fundamental organizations in the North-East India (recently) put an socio-political bar on the work of ‘detection’ and ‘deportation’ of illegal foreign nationals totally. The officials have advocated undertaking a special census in the sensitive international border areas by detecting the foreign nationals and in addition, to keep records of their various documents. Moreover, the State Governments of the North-Eastern provinces are requested to desist from issuing Ration-Cards, PRC and NRC et cetera to the illegal Bangladeshi nationals, immediately.
Fifth : Though, BSFI is armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons and force multipliers in their task of this particular international border guarding. Despite that, immediately, the numbers of BSFI jawans, sophisticated weapons, vehicles and other necessary things or articles should be increased more to guard or to cover specially of the abovementioned land and the riverine border areas of the Indo-Bangla international boundary regions of the eastern Indian States, Assam and West-Bengal, which are not adequate.
Sixth : Though stealing, robbery, driving away of cattle, illegal infiltration et cetera have reduced to an extent as a result of barbed-wire fencing in the Indo-Bangla international border areas, but many things are yet to be done to cure these evils. What are immediately required are 12 feet to 15 feet high electrified fencing, arrangement of Floodlight at night and other necessary instruments in the Indo-Bangladesh international border areas, which will be on after sunset and off after the sunrise.
Seventh : It is also said that, it had a mind to illuminate the entire India (especially in the States of Assam and West-Bengal) – Bangladesh international border fencing like India (Punjab State sector)-Pakistan international border. But, due to the most erratic power supply by the State Electricity Board of aforesaid two states (Read : Assam and West-Bengal), it could not be done. The BSFI further admitted that the Indo-Bangladesh international border fencing was defective for the fencing was more a psychological barrier than a physical one.
Eighth : It is known from the BSFI source that people living in and around ‘zero line’ always takes advantage of the land lying in between India and Bangladesh international borders for carrying out their agricultural activities. These people belong to the villages near the zero line. But the most astonishing fact is that many unidentified extremists enter this country in disguise of the farmers and create unwanted incidents now and then. Therefore, to resist this, the BSF or the Governments have made an arrangement of providing Identity Card (IC) to the inhabitants residing on the international border between Assam (India) and Bangladesh. It has been done with a view to resisting infiltration as well as militancy.
Ninth : The BSFI also lamented that indifferent attitude and non-co-operation of local people and the political parties and their leaders in detection, detention and deportation of Bangladeshi infiltrators.
Tenth : The most of the India-Bangladesh international border areas are fully open and these spots of the international boundary is significant as all types of illegal activities that are being carried on here without fear by the foreign nationals. Therefore, the incessant influx of people first from Undivided Bengal, later from erstwhile East-Pakistan and now from Bangladesh has still continued and assumed serious proportions lately, jeopardizing the language and culture of the indigenous people and upsetting the demographic character of the aforesaid Indian states. Now, the problem has been so serious that it has even threatened the existence and identity of the indigenous tribal and ethnic groups of these adjoining strategic international Border States.
Eleventh : In certain India-Bangladesh International Border areas the borderline (which comprises, the International Border Pillar [IBP], where both the name of the nations are engraved and their numbers are visible clearly], International Barbed Wire Border Fence [IBWBF], International Border Gate [IBG]) has not only separated the two nations but also segregated villages and their populaces. Indian Central Government as well as Indian State Governments (Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Mizoram) should provide either Photo Identity Card (PIC) or give Citizenship Identity Card (CIC) to the said International Border Village (IBV) people living up to 05-kilometres to 10-kilometres from the actual international boundary to detect the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators.
Twelfth : Government of India shouldn’t grant ‘Work Permit’ with ‘validity’ (that is, short-term) to the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators as individual instead of a groups, which shouldn’t even, a maximum numbers 15 to 25 in either bordering Indian States – Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, WB and Mizoram or any other place of India.
Thirteenth : Government of India shouldn’t give the right to the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators, who has Work Permit to participate of any kind of ‘Political Right’, like to cast vote and to work out political power or to exercise constitutional power.
Fourteenth : Constitutional safeguards should be worked out for ethnic communities so that local communities persist to hold socio-political power, despite the existence of emigrants, apart from those people, who get ‘Refugee’ status.
Fifteenth : Except ‘refugee’, Government of India shouldn’t entitle to the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators to enlisting their names in the Indian Electoral Roll.
Sixteenth : Government of India shouldn’t allow to the illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators either to purchase land or to settle permanently in India, apart from refugee.
Seventeenth : Government of India should immediate set up a ‘National Immigration Commission’ (NIC), which will observe the matters and analysis the existing acts like National Migration Law & Refugee Law and Citizenship Act, Foreigners’ Act et cetera.
Eighteenth : The Government of India should give equal importance to – sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh international boundary and to update the NRC, PRC and the Voter’s List; on the basis of the years, 1951 and 1971 (but, after 25th March) respectively. And certainly to give importance or look for the ‘Constitutional Safeguards’ for ethnic populaces, the Government of India should issue immediate National Identity Card (NIC)s and Voter Identity Card (VIC)s with picture in the aforesaid Indian states.
Nineteenth : The distance between two aforesaid International Border Out Post (IBOP)s should also be diminished/reduced so that the IBOPs become visible to the next ones, while presently the normal distance between two IBOPs is around 05/06-kilometres to 07/08-kilometres, which is high by international standards.
Twentieth : If the BSFI failure to arrest the situation, then handover the aforesaid international border to the Indian Army and both India and Bangladesh start joint patrolling to understand and solve each other’s problems or difficulties.
Twenty-one : There’re hundreds of hundreds Chars are visible in the India (around 350 numbers to 400 numbers of registered islands in the Indian Assam State sector, while about 02,089 numbers of registered char in the another Indian state, West Bengal) Bangladesh International Riverine Border (IRB) sector, where indeed, kilometers of kilometers lands are not only detected as flood prone area but also have marked as low-level plains and water-logging vicinity. Even, most of the islands vehemently, either move forward or backward across the above international riverine border, which has become enormously arduous for a soldier of the said international border force to guard evry inch simultaneously in this incredible stretch of lands and the above porous international riverine boundary at-a-time.
Even, most of the existing IBPs along the Indian Bangladesh International Border in the sector of the Eastern Indian States, Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Tripura are been either washed away or have gone damaged by the overflowing rivers during the rainy seasons every year. As a result of this, Government of Bangladesh (led by Director General of Land Records & Surveys, Mahfuzur Rahaman) and the Government of India (led by Deputy Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs, Asheem Mahajan) have decided to undertake the repair work of the IBPs that both sides can demarcate the international boundary properly. In this context, the Government of India has taken the matter seriously and says both side frontier guards would look after the maintenance of the IBPs. Considering the proposal of Bangladesh to set up around 20-feet high ‘All Weather Pole’ or ‘All Weather Pillar’ (AWP), along the aforesaid international boundary by the Government of Bangladesh, Government of India welcomes it, during the talks between the two nations on September, 2008.
Twenty-two : “Conceding that the illegal migrants from the Indian neighbouring country, Bangladesh has assumed serious dimension in the Northeastern Indian States. Though, the IBWBF is the bone of contention of the illegal infiltrators of the Bangladesh, but the illegal Bangladeshi nationals are somehow managed to cross the above porous international boundary, enter into Indian territory through the eastern Indian states, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal and mingled with the Indian local people in various ways. As a result of this, the demographic changes in particular districts of the Northeastern Indian States of Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
In this context, the BSFI has detected some most vulnerable and dangerous ‘illegal migrant corridor’ in the abovementioned Indian states. However, declares that it is not physically possible to guard each and every inch of the said thousands long international boundary with similar ‘intensity’.
BSFI has taken over the maintenance of IBPs following a request by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India has found that some IBP have going to be poor shape (broken, destroyed and uprooted). Even, the International Border Pillar Number Plate (IBPNP)s have gone missing in some international border sectors of the above boundary. BSFI would henceforward look after the odd number IBPs, while the counterpart of the above Indian frontier force, Bangladesh Defence Rifles or Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) of Bangladesh would maintain the number pillars. Earlier, the Indian District Magistrate or Deputy Magistrate (DM) or District Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the concerned districts were look after the same”, said the Director General of BSFI, Ashim Kumar Mitra.
On the other hand, Indian Union Home Ministry said, “The BSFI, which is considered as one of the world’s largest international border patrolling forces, has strength of about 157 numbers of battalions. Out of around 802 numbers of International Border Out Post (IBOP)s on India Bangladesh International Border in Northeast India, another 383 numbers of new IBOPs would be raised. As a result, altogether 1185 numbers of IBOPs will run to look after the go-wild situation like illegal infiltration, human trafficking, smuggling, pan-Islamic religious fundamental activities and insurgency on the said international boundary.
IUHM also wants to diminish the distance between two IBOPs ideally up to 03.50 kilometres to 02.88 kilometres and so the new IBOPs are being raised in the state Assam and in the state Meghalaya, the distance will be reduce between two IBOPs from 04.10 kilometres to 03.50 kilometres.
Presently, in the Assam State sector 85 numbers of IBOPs are existed, while in the State, Meghalaya – 108 numbers of IBOPs along the long border, which the above states share with Bangladesh.
Even, to run the above international border security system smoothly, besides, 29 numbers of additional battalions, 09 numbers of DIG offices and 03 new frontiers headquarters would be raised between the years, (2009 to 2013)”.
(Author is former BBC, The Statesman, The Times of India & Hindustan Times & The Telegraph, AP, AFP & PTI Contributor-cum-Photographer of Northeast India/The writer specialises in Northeast Affairs)