Illegal Bangladeshi Migration to India: Impact on Internal Security

Feb 16, 2009
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Illegal Bangladeshi Migration to India: Impact on Internal Security

Stating that that they are around 10-20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India, Dr. Anand Kumar emphasized the need to understand the security aspects of illegal migration. The 9/11 Commission report points out that practically no communication existed between the security system and the immigration department. Unchecked and unregulated migration flows together with high fertility rates could create an explosive situation. While urbanization is prompting migration towards industrialized nations, the author pointed to lax immigration control which allowed terrorism to grow thus weakening the internal security. He pointed out that the main problem inherent with illegal migration was the lack of cooperation of Bangladesh on the issue. He pointed out that sending migrants to other countries is the undeclared objective of the foreign policy of Bangladesh.

Though attempts have been made in India to prevent illegal migration, they have been relatively weak. The author stated that the socio-political movement started by the Assamese people in 1979 to evict illegal Bangladeshis ended in Assam Accord in 1985. In April, 2005 a youth organization, Chiring Chapori Yuva Mancha began a campaign against the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Illegal Bangladeshi Migrants are also threat to language and culture of Assam. ULFA which arose as a protest against Bangladeshis lost credibility only when its leaders took shelter in Bangladesh after the Bhutanese operation against the group in December 2003. Arrest of Bangladeshi national S. M. Alam in January 2008 by Assam Police revealed ISI's plan to turn northeast into a volatile region. The migrants have also spread into other places like Dimapur and Kohima. The illegal migrants are not involved into terrorism in a big way, but involved in gun running, fake currency rackets and drug running.

Growing population pressure in Bangladesh acts as a push factor whereas growing Indian economy, relatively less pressure on land and weak state resistance act as pull factor. Islamic fundamentalist extremist groups are growing in Bangladesh and they are able to expand their activities in West Bengal as well. Some of such organistaions are Jamait-e-Islami-e-Hind, Jamait-Ahle-Hadis, Students Islamic Organization (SIO), Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Tabligh-e-Jamat. Four of them are most active. Meetings have taken place between Jamaat-e-Islami and West Bengal based radical Muslim organizations and it is believed that ISI is behind them. There has been a growth of unauthorized, illegal madrassas all over West Bengal particularly along the Bangladesh border. They are also using Kolkota and Agartala as bases being close to the border and people from both sides speak the same language. There are also groups which are directly involved in subversive activities such as HUJI.

Siliguri town acts as gateway to Guwahati, Gangtok and Kishengunj and also shares the border with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Important highways, railways tracks, vital installations such as the airfields of Bagdogra and Hashimara and oil pipelines are located here. Increase in Muslim population in Siliguri and adjoining areas has grown at an astonishing 150% in the past seven years. There are villages in and around Siliguri which have curious population mix and often act as heaven for ISI operatives. The villages have some 2,000 Pashto and Baloch settlers from Afghanistan along with 6,000 Iraninas. The increased activity of the ISI has endangered the security of the Siliguri corridor. ISI attempted sabotage in 1999 following a bomb blast at New Jalpaiguri Station.

Options for India:
1.Diplomatic Effort – India has to make diplomatic effort to get Bangladesh to cooperate as illegal migration cannot be solved in an effective manner unless sending country cooperates. Sharing of digital database of its citizens will make it easier.
2.Financial Incentives: India should think of offering illegal migrants financial incentives in the form of liberal trade regime, an infusion of aid and investment.
3.Coercive Diplomacy- The action of security forces should clearly convey to the illegal migrants that they would face greater danger if they try to cross the border.
4.Better Border Management- Fencing, construction of border roads and proper management of border will make a difference
5.Use better Indo-Bangladesh relations- Both the countries have better relations and both side should demarcate remaining 6.5 km of the border and the areas in adverse possession should be negotiated and form well defined border
6.Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme – Compilation of data is likely to reduce the comfort level of fresh illegal migrants.
7.Bar from Voting rights- Bangladeshi who are already in could be allowed to work but should not be allowed to vote and this will diminish their ability to influence government decisions by being a political force.
The author concluded by pointing out that the illegal Bangladeshi migration was not the core focus of the government but it has been forced to take a close look at the problem as the terror incidents grew in intensity and frequency. He emphasized that India must go for better border management and effective record keeping of its nationals so that outsiders are easily identified and discouraged from infiltrating.

Migration started from partition. Delhi had policy to monitor Bangladeshis to be settled down in Assam. Most of the Pakistani terrorists present in Kashmir enter via Bangladesh and Nepal. Government should do a lot to solve this problem seriously.
It's a complex situation; BSF alone cannot solve the problem. It has socioeconomic and religious dimensions. Density of troops at the border is also lacking so government should provide more troops. For the economically deprived, criminality is the way of life. The UID card shares only few details that make it difficult to recognize them. Even readmission agreement will not work but better border management is required.
The theoretical and international context of migration should be shortened. Terrorists have used the route but illegal Bangladeshi migrants are not charged of terrorist activities. Out of 7 terrorist organizations, only SIMI is banned. Others continue to have fraternal links with organizations in Bangladesh and West Bengal.
The concept should differentiate legal and illegal aspects of migration. The paper needs to have hypotheses.
The issue is economic. Illegal migrants act as cheap labour. As Bangladesh cannott expand its space for the huge population, the expansion is through the illegal migration. Work permit for them is the partial answer, the problem also have political context.
Report Prepared by Mr Pramod Jaiswal, Research Assistant, IDSA


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
How to Fix Illegal Bangladeshi Migration

October 12, 2010
"Probably the most important event in (Assam) during the last 25 years -- an event, moreover, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole future of Assam and the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization -- has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry Bengali immigrants, mostly Muslims, from the districts of (Bangladesh)…" You might think I am quoting a contemporary BJP leader. These are, in fact, words of C S Mullan, census commissioner under the British Raj. He made these comments in 1931. If you thought that the issue of "illegal immigrants from Bangladesh" is a recent one, then think again.

Demographic change in the erstwhile Assam province in the first half of the twentieth century was at the heart of the Muslim League's demand, in the 1940s, that the territory be given to Pakistan. So those who argue that large-scale immigration from Bangladesh is one of the biggest long-term threats to India's national security are right.

As much as the migration is driven by economic factors -- ordinary folks moving in search of a better livelihood -- it is inextricably linked with the politics of vote-banks. So we have allowed the problem to grow, by denying its existence, by underplaying its extent, by exploiting it politically and yes, by enjoying its benefits. You know that the lady who mops your floor is not quite from "Calcutta" as she claims. You know that the workers in farms as far south as Tamil Nadu are not all from "Bihar". You don't care because not only do they do the job, they are often the only ones who will. Forget Congress leaders in Assam: South Delhi housewives and rural Tamil landlords are unlikely to get too excited about taking action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

In fact, the blunt, impractical and half-heartedly implemented measures we have used to address the problem have only worsened it. Attempts to force them to go back have created an illicit political protection racket that has undermined national security. Fencing is in progress, but it is impossible to erect an impenetrable barrier along the entire India-Bangladesh border. Over the years, many border officials and security personnel have become mixed up in organised networks smuggling everything from cough syrup to human beings. Indian and Bangladeshi border guards sometimes even exchange fire, indicating policy failure at so many levels. Amid all this, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants make their way into India each year.

We need a new approach. India should consider establishing a system of work permits to allow Bangladeshis to work in India, legally.

It is practically impossible to fight demographic pressure, not least given the geography of India's North East. It is, however, possible to ensure that the flow of immigrants does not concentrate in Assam or other states adjoining Bangladesh. The real political problem is not so much the inflow, but the accumulation of illegal immigrants in one state. If work permits are subject to state-wise quotas, then it is possible to distribute the flow across Indian states. This will allow migrant workers to work in states that need them, and prevent them from crowding in certain states.

Work permits with state-wise quotas can thus address Assam's genuine and longstanding concerns -- the state can cap the number of Bangladeshi migrants it will accept. India's national security concerns become more manageable by bringing the migration out into the open. Obviously, Bangladesh stands to benefit too, not least the immigrant who need not live a often fearful life in the twilight zone.

The time for work permits has come. You might be surprised to know that as many as 85 million Bangladeshis have biometric National ID Cards (NIDs) which were issued ahead of the 2008 elections. These cards are now required for opening bank accounts, applying for passports and accessing public services. Indian work permits could therefore be issued to valid Bangladeshi NID holders with a greater degree of confidence. There are challenges in getting the Bangladeshi authorities to co-operate, especially in terms of validating IDs, but these are not insurmountable.

That's half the solution. The other half involves the ability to positively identity an Indian citizen. This is where Aadhaar, the Indian UID, launched last month, becomes necessary. It will be a few years before most Indians have one. We do not have to wait, though, for Aadhaar to be ubiquitous throughout the country. The work permit scheme can be extended to only those states where Aadhaar implementation is complete.

We have the building blocks of what it takes to address a hundred-year-old problem. Now work permits are not the perfect solution. There will be people who will violate the quotas, there will be people who will slip into India for nefarious purposes, there will be attempts to form vote banks. Even so, it will still be a great deal better than the current situation of relentless, unmonitored, unchecked, unmanaged and irreversible flows of migrants into India.

What about the politics, you ask? There is something in the idea for either side of the political spectrum. The Congress party's fortunes in Assam will brighten once the illegal migration issue is settled. It can claim to have protected the rights of Bengali-speaking Indian Muslims who no longer face the risk of harassment. The BJP, for its part, can credibly call for the repatriation of all illegal immigrants.

Work permits for Bangladeshis offers absolute gains for most political parties. Their own calculations, however, are on the basis of relative gains -- "does it benefit our party more than the other party." Both great leaders and good politicians would smell a political opportunity here. We do have some of the latter.


The Chairman
Apr 17, 2009
Like it or not the illegals will enter because the apparatus turns a blind eye for their own ulterior motives.

Where will you get cheap labour and moneybags will embrace them with open arms and the moneybags also controls the politics of the country.

The only way is give work permits. That way, they will still come, but a check will be there and when they finish the contract, they return to their homeland.


Sikkimese Saber
Senior Member
Aug 20, 2010
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This has to be dealt with with sheer force. GOI must stop votebank appeasement through inviting radical Bangla Muslims into India for votes and start kicking out ALL Bangladeshi immigrants. A stern government to government dialogue is the only way. If this is not done, insurgents dissatisfied from GOI and based on regionalist intentions will start mushrooming.


Senior Member
Dec 1, 2009
There is nothing that India can do about evicting all the illegal Bangladeshi staying here for years. Its highly sensitive issue as we dont want to evict our own people.

Probably the intelligence community can do something about it. But first seal the porous borders before cleaning.

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