Tackling the IS Threat
Now that the threat of terrorist elements of the IS and JMB infiltrating India from Bangladesh in larger numbers is very real, the government of India has belatedly woken up to the reality of our neighbours in the east too being less friendly than hitherto believed to be. There is no denying that New Delhi has only itself to blame. In the first place, it has maintained two norms for guarding its intertiol borders on the west and the east. On the west, India’s border with Pakistan has always been a well guarded one with shoot-at-sight instructions in the event of intrusion by anyone from the other side of the border. By contrast, our border with Bangladesh in the east has been a more or less open boundary with people crossing it every day without much resistance from the Border Security Force. In fact, there was an order issued to the BSF personnel guarding the Indo-Bangladesh border during P.Chidambaram’s brief stint as Union Home Minister that forbade them from using lethal weapons when dealing with infiltrators coming into India across the Indo-Bangladesh border. We have repeatedly questioned the wisdom of India having different norms for protecting its intertiol border in the west and the east and for dealing with infiltrators. We have also repeatedly warned against the danger of the Assam government and the Union government actually encouraging illegal immigration from Bangladesh mainly for the electoral equations (albeit illegal ones) of the ruling party. We have had reasons to fear that illegal migrants from Bangladesh would one day come as invaders rather than as just urmed infiltrators. But nothing stopped the Union government or the State government from even having a separate immigration law for Assam—the Illegal Migrants (Determition by Tribuls) Act—for 22 years to make it almost impossible for the district administration to detect and deport illegal migrants.
Regardless of how friendly neighbouring countries may be, all civilized countries have strict laws for protecting their borders. And before the European Union was constituted, borders were strictly guarded regardless of the religion and language across the border being the same. We had the example of France and Belgium (both French-speaking countries) as well as Austria and Germany (both German-speaking countries). So it will not do to talk about Assam being considered the most vulnerable of the north-eastern States “because of having an intertiol border with Bangladesh and also because of ethnic and linguistic similarities between the people living on both sides of the intertiol border.” This is a universal phenomenon and the intertiol borders between France and Belgium, Austria and Germany, North Korea and South Korea or Cada and the United States separate people with the same language and often with similar ethnicity. To pretend that this is a problem exclusive to Assam would be a serious mistake. As such, at a time when the threat of Assam or any other part of India being invaded by IS or JMB terrorists from Bangladesh is a real one (due to reports from Bangladesh about the possibility of 10 terrorists already having entered Assam), excuses about the difficulty of identifying them due to linguistic or ethnic similarities will not do. These terrorists (whether of the IS or the JMB) have to be identified and dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land. The track record of the Assam Police in the matter of identifying and dealing with terrorists from Bangladesh has been somewhat better than what might have been expected, going by the way terrorists camps of Bangladesh in Assam were busted in 2014 and terrorists apprehended. Even now there is the good news of two terrorists from Bangladesh having been apprehended on Wednesday. While keeping up the good work, it is also important to ensure that no markets are established within a distance of less than eight kilometres from the intertiol border. This rule of safety has often been violated, making illegal infiltration through crowded market areas considerably easier. The record of good work that the Assam Police has established in busting training camps of terrorists and apprehending terrorists must go on. So must the sharing of critical information regarding terrorists with Central and other State agencies.