The term is not of much concern to the people living in the states of central India and in coastal regions. But for an inhabitant of a state which shares its boundary with a country, this is the prime social issue affecting them day in day out. An illegal immigrant is a person residing in the country without an official permission as prescribed by the relevant Indian law. Care must be taken that those who are explicitly granted refugee status do not fall under this category and shouldn’t be generalized.
This issue became more visible after the 1991 census when patterns of abnormally high growth rate of Muslims were observed in Assam which was found to be much higher than the growth rates of the local Hindu population even after adjusting for the usual higher growth rate of Muslims observed throughout the country. Being a resident of lower Assam which shares a porous boundary with Bangladesh, I have directly or indirectly been affected by it, be it while queuing for a train ticket, visiting a doctor or buying from a vegetable vendor. The impact of the aggression represented by large-scale illegal migrants from Bangladesh had made the life of the people of Assam wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby had created fear psychosis.
There were many agitations and demonstrations in the state as well as at national level which started as early as 1979, led by All Assam students Union and due to their determined effort the Indian Government signed the Assam accord with the leaders of the agitation in 1985 to stop the issue. As per the accord India started building a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border which is now almost complete but the ground reality is just the opposite. Many places reports of Bangladeshis being able to secure Indian ration and voter identity cards have come out. There have been many such instances even in my neighborhood where the citizens couldn’t exercise their rights, received less share of rations from the cooperative centers due to increasing number of migrants who are able to produce ration and voter cards on demand. This implies that immigration is itself supported at some level and the primary reason for this support is Vote Bank Politics.
It is time for the centre to intervene and come up with some measures or form a committee to check on the practices going on in Assam. Some sections of people are supporting this social issue for the sole purpose of remaining in power for five years and in the long run degrading the integrity and demography of the nation. The recent communal violence between the indigenous Assamese Bodos and the Bangladeshi Muslims is one of the consequences of vote-bank politics which transformed Assam into a simmering cauldron. The violence in Assam has exposed the fault lines, and is capable of exposing and worsening the communal divide in the State.
Apart from immigrants a large numbers smugglers regularly cross the porous border which mainly engage in smuggling goods and livestock from India into Bangladesh to avoid high tariff imposed on some Indian goods by Bangladesh government. Bangladeshi women and girls are also trafficked to India and via India to Middle East for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
This is a major social issue of the nation and needs immediate attention before things get out of hand.
Tanmay MBA(ITBM) SCIT – 2013-2015
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