Bangladeshis in India

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Bangladeshis in India are members of the Bangladeshi diaspora who currently reside in India. The mass migration into India since Bangladesh independence has led to the creation of anti-foreigner movements, instances of mass violence and political tension between Bangladesh and India, but it has also created measurable economic benefits for both nations.[1]

Estimates of the number of Bangladeshis in India vary widely. A census carried out in 2001 by the Indian government estimated there were 3.1 million Bangladeshis residing in India, based on place of birth and place of last residence.[2] A different 2009 estimate claimed that there were 15 million Bangladeshis who had taken residence in the country.[3] In 2012 Mullappally Ramachandran, the minister of state for home claimed that nearly 1.4 Million Bangladeshi migrants entered India in the last decade alone.[4] In 2007 the Indian government stated that there were up to 20 million Bangladeshis living in India illegally,[1] though Samir Guha Roy of the Indian Statistical Institute called these estimates "motivatedly exaggerated". After examining the population growth and demographic statistics, Roy instead states that many of the presumed illegal Bangladeshis are actually Indian citizens migrating from neighbouring states.[5]

Pre partition – 1970s[edit]

Before the Partition of India internal migration was commonplace between the region which is now Bangladesh and the regions of Assam and West Bengal. While under colonial rule Assam was sparsely populated and the British, who wanted to exploit the resources from the region wished to see it settled. Through internal migration labour was brought from the northern regions of India, West Bengal and the region which now comprises Bangladesh.[6]

During the Bangladesh liberation war it is estimated that up to 10 million people fled from East Pakistan to India so as to escape the genocidal actions being carried out by the West Pakistan armed forces.[7] There were outbreaks of cholera throughout the refugee camps, the World health organisation estimated 51,000 cases and it is estimated that 3000 people died from the disease.[8]

Reasons for illegal immigration[edit]

According to a commentator, the trip to India from Bangladesh is one of the cheapest in the world, costing around Rs. 2000 (around $30 US), which includes the fee for the "Tour Operator". As Bangladeshis are culturally similar to the Bengali people in India, they are able to pass off as Indian citizens and settle down in any part of India to establish a future,[4] for a very small price. This false identity, bolstered with false documentation available for as little as Rs. 200 ($3 US), can even make them part of the vote bank.[5]

Anti-immigrant reaction[edit]

In 1978, observers noticed the names of an estimated 45,000 Bengali illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls in Assam. This led to a popular movement against undocumented immigrants known as the Assam Movement,[9] which insisted on striking the names of illegal immigrants from the electoral register and advocated for their deportation from the state. The movement demanded that anyone who had entered the state illegally since 1951 be deported, though the central government insisted on a cutoff date of 1971. There was widespread support for the movement, though it tapered off between 1981 and 1982.[10]

Toward the end of 1982 the central government called elections, and the Assam Movement called for people to boycott them.[10] This resulted in the 1983 Nellie massacre, described by Antara Datta, as one of the largest and most severe pogroms since the Second World War. Previously, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) had emphasised economic reasons for the protests and had employed only nonviolent methods. The Nellie massacre, a result of a buildup of resentment over immigration,[11] claimed the lives of at least 2,191 people, though unofficial figures run to more than 5,000.[12][13] No investigation of the incident has ever been launched.[14] The AASU denied any involvement in the massacre, and since then there have been no instances of communal violence in Upper Assam.[15]

On 26 April 2015 at a rally in Guwahati BJP National president Amit Shah said that BJP government will give citizenship to all Hindu immigrants who had to flee from Bangladesh due to religious persecution.[16]

False documentation[edit]

Samir Guha Roy of the Indian Statistical Institute called the government estimates of illegal Bangladeshis "motivatedly exaggerated". After examining the population growth and demographic statistics, Roy instead states that a significant numbers of internal migration is sometimes falsely thought to be illegal immigrants. An analysis of the numbers by Roy revealed that on average around 91000 Bangladeshi nationals might have crossed over to India every year during the years 1981–1991 but how many of them where identified and pushed back is not known. It is possible that a large portion of these immigrants returned on their own to their place of origin. Most of the Bengali speaking people deported from Maharashtra as illegal immigrants are originally Indian citizens from West Bengal.[5] According to Bonojit Hussain, 'illegal Bangladeshi' is a racist shorthand for the Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam.[17]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gupta, Charu; Mukul Sharma (2007). Contested Coastlines: Fisherfolk, Nations and Borders in South Asia. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 978-0415449052. 
  2. ^ Chhabra, Amit Pal Singh; Amit Pal Singh Chhabra; Nicholas Harkiolakis; Sylva Caracatsanis (2011). Daphne Halkias; Paul Thurman; Nicholas Harkiolakis; Sylva Caracatsanis, eds. Female Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The Economic and Social Impact of a Global Phenomenon. Gower. p. 25. ISBN 978-0566089138. 
  3. ^ Rudnick, Anja (2009). Working Gendered Boundaries: Temporary Migration Experiences of Bangladeshi Women in the Malaysian Export Industry from a Multi-Sited Perspective. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 49–51. ISBN 978-9056295608. 
  4. ^ a b "India's 'Mexican' Problem: Illegal Immigration from Bangladesh". International Business Times. 6 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Hans Günter Brauch; John Grin; Úrsula Oswald (2009). Facing Global Environmental Change: Environmental, Human, Energy, Food, Health and Water Security Concepts. Springer. p. 304. ISBN 3540684883. 
  6. ^ Sadiq, Irvine Kamal (2010). Paper Citizens: How Illegal Immigrants Acquire Citizenship in Developing Countries (Reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0199764631. 
  7. ^ Mitra, Subrata K. (2010). Politics in India: Structure, Process and Policy. Routledge. p. 191. ISBN 978-0415585880. 
  8. ^ Scully, Mary-Louise (2007). George C. Kohn, ed. Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence: From Ancient Times to the Present (3rd Revised ed.). Facts on File. p. 170. ISBN 978-0816069354. 
  9. ^ Rudolph, Christopher (2010). Rogers M. Smith, ed. Citizenship, Borders, and Human Needs. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0812242836. About forty-five thousand Bengali illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls. By voting and behaving as full citizens, these illegal immigrants had clearly breached the conceptual wall separating immigrants and citizens. Further, because they had obtained the "proper" documentation no-one questioned their claim to citizenship and thus these "documentary citizens" were able to access the national franchise. Without naturalisation and authentication from the state, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants had gained Indian citizenship 
  10. ^ a b Chatterji, Joya (2013). Meghna Guhathakurta; Willem van Schende, eds. The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. p. 418. ISBN 978-0822353188. 
  11. ^ Datta, Antara (2012). Refugees and Borders in South Asia: The Great Exodus of 1971. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 978-0415524728. 
  12. ^ Ghosh, Partha S. (2004). Ranabir Samaddar, ed. Peace Studies: An Introduction To the Concept, Scope, and Themes. SAGE. p. 312. ISBN 978-0761996606. 
  13. ^ Hussain, Monirul (1 February 2009). Sibaji Pratim Basu, ed. The Fleeing People of South Asia: Selections from Refugee Watch. Anthem. p. 261. ISBN 978-8190583572. 
  14. ^ Saikia, Yasmin (2011). Women, War, and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971. Duke University Press. pp. 263–264. ISBN 978-0822350385. 
  15. ^ Saikia, Yasmin (2005). Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom in India. Duke University Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0822333739. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Hussain, Bonojit. "Isn't 'Illegal Bangladeshi' Racist Shorthand For Bengali Speaking Muslims in Assam". Retrieved 28 May 2015.