EDITORIAL

Facets of Migration

At a time when the illegal migration from Bangladesh to India has at last begun to be seen (very belatedly) as a major issue, it is unfortunate that the government of India and the government of Assam have no clear idea about the number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are already in India, more particularly in Assam. People have woken up to the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh now because the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (due to be made a law very soon) will spell doom for Assam and the Indian citizens living in the State. So far, the government of Assam has been taking an alarmingly lackadaisical stance in respect of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Its sole exercise related to the identification of illegal migrants in Assam has been confined to the ritual of publishing occasional lists of about 20 or 30 illegal migrants from Bangladesh deported to their country, when the illegal migration is in millions. This is, at best, a pathetic record of gross incompetence considering that millions of illegal migrants from Bangladesh are already in India. Assam’s proximity to Bangladesh has made the State far more vulnerable than other States of India to the menace of illegal migration.

One of the reasons why the Centre has felt emboldened to treat Assam as a dumping ground for all kinds of migrants from all over the world is that the bureaucracy in Assam has demonstrated its incompetence in the matter of handling illegal immigration so effectively. As a consequence, the message that has got across to both New Delhi and Bangladesh is that our bureaucrats do not lose any sleep over what happens to their State as far as illegal immigration is concerned. They are quite happy if just 10 or 20 illegal migrants are deported to the country of their origin, and this fact can be played up as a major achievement against the millions of illegal migrants coming in. For decades, they have behaved like people who have no responsibility in respect of ensuring that illegal migrants cannot just walk into the State without any valid travel documents or remain in India well beyond the expiry of their visas in the case of those who have arrived with travel documents but have deliberately lost themselves in Assam since they are aware of the incompetence of our bureaucracy in identifying illegal foreign migrants and deporting them.

Since our own government is incapable even of assessing the number of illegal foreigners in Assam, we are obliged to rely on data provided by Bangladeshi sources. The most significant data in this connection happens to be the percentage of Hindus in Bangladesh/East Pakistan at different times. At the time of partition of the country (1947), the Hindu population of East Pakistan was about 33 per cent of the total population. When Bangladesh was created in 1971, the Hindu population had declined to about 22.5 per cent of the country’s total population. In just 24 years, the Hindu population of Bangladesh had declined by 10.5 per cent. Today, the Hindu population of a theocratic country pretending to be a democracy (just because it holds elections) is just about eight per cent of the population. In other words, the Hindu population of East Pakistan/ Bangladesh declined by about 10.5 per cent in 24 years and by a further 14.5 per cent in 47 years. Since our bureaucrats are so unwilling to talk about the real extent of illegal migration from East Pakistan/Bangladesh, it should not be very difficult to work out the extent of the illegal migration on the basis of the population of East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1947, 1971 and now. And the extent of migration that has already taken place is such that an addition of around 1.5 to 1.7 crore Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh would be enough to totally eliminate Assam and ruin its demographic profile for ever. This is not the kind of treatment from a high-handed Centre that any section of the population in a democracy should be expected to tolerate in the form of senseless unilateral decisions of our own rulers.