Bangladeshis in India
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2016: 2 crore illegal Bangladeshis in India
The government told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that there were around 2 crore Bangladeshi immigrants staying illegally in India. Their population in India, now almost equal to the population of Australia (2.4 crore), shows a rise of around 67% over the 1.2 crore estimate given out by the UPA government in 2004 but withdrawn soon after.
“There are reports of Bangladeshi nationals having entered the country without valid travel documents. Since the entry of such Bangladeshi nationals is clandestine...it is not possible to have accurate data...As per available inputs, there are around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in India,“ Union MoS for home Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to MP Jharna Das Baidya. The 20 million estimate far surpasses the figure of 12 million cited in the same House in 2004 by then minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal.He had, in reply to a question dated July 15, 2004, said that 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were residing in 17 states and Union territories as on December 31, 2001.
He also said Assam alone accounted for 50 lakh Bangladeshi squatters, while their number was estimated to be the highest in West Bengal, at 57 lakh.
The BJP, which was then the main opposition party , demanded that the 12 lakh illegal Bangladeshi immigrants be identified and deported. As a political storm brewed in states like Assam, Jaiswal withdrew his reply, dismissing the 12-million figure as one based on “unreliable reports“ and “hearsay“.
However, a Union minister said on Tuesday that it was a conscious decision by the Modi government to highlight the 20-million estimate of illegal Bangladeshi migrants residing in India. “Unlike UPA, we won't be cowed down by pressure to deny the figure as `hearsay',“ said the minister.
Incidentally , Rijiju's reply does not dwell on a definite strategy of the government to identify and deport the 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants. “Deportation of illegally staying foreign nationals is continuous process. The powers of identification, detention and deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Bangladeshi nationals have been delegated to the state governments and Union territories under Section 3(2)(c) of the Foreigners Act, 1946,“ he stated.
BJP is in power in Assam, which with West Bengal shows the highest incidence of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had, after coming to power in May 2016, declared his intent to update the national register of citizens (NRC) in Assam and seal the Indo-Bangladesh border in the state in two years.
West Bengal, however, may be at odds with the Centre's assessment of number of Bangladeshi immigrants staying illegally within its jurisdiction.
2014-19: 10k infiltrators held along border
As many as 10,746 infiltrators were apprehended along the India-Bangladesh border since 2014, the government informed Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Of these 9,702 were intercepted in the border regions of West Bengal alone.
Junior home minister Nityanand Rai, in his written reply to a question in LS, said border guarding forces had apprehended 369 infiltrators from the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal till June 30 this year, against 900 in 2018; 992 in 2017; 1,875 in 2016; 3,296 in 2015 and 2,260 in 2014. In comparison, 65 infiltrators were caught along Assam’s border with Bangladesh between January 2014 and June 2019. This was less than the 677 infiltrators apprehended along the international border with Tripura and 281 on the Meghalaya border. Mizoram saw the least infiltrators (21) apprehended in the corresponding period.
Rai said even though border guarding forces conducted regular patrolling and undertook anti-tunnelling exercise to stop illegal infiltration from Bangladesh, some illegal migrants were able to enter surreptitiously, taking advantage of the difficult riverine terrain in parts of the international border that are not amenable to fencing.