Illegal immigration in India
An illegal immigrant in India is a person residing in the country without an official permission as prescribed by relevant Indian law. Those who are explicitly granted refugee status do not fall under this category.
No reliable numbers on illegal immigrants are currently available.
2001 India Census Gives information about Migrants but not exclusively Illegal Immigrants. Per 2001 Census Bangladeshi form the largest group of migrants in India followed by Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan.
As per 2001 census there are 3,084,826 people in India who came from Bangladesh No reliable numbers on illegal immigrants are currently available. Extrapolating the census data for the state of Assam alone gives a figure of 2 million. Figures as high as 20 million are also reported in the government and media. 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 a significant numbers of internal migration is sometimes falsely thought to be immigrants. An analysis of the numbers by Roy revealed that on average around 91000 Bangladeshis nationals might have crossed over to India every year during the years 1981-1991 but how many of them were 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.
According to one commentator, the trip to India from Bangladesh is one of the cheapest in the world, with a trip costing around Rs.2000 (around $30 US), which includes the fee for the "Tour Operator". As Bangladeshi are cultural 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., for a very small price. This false identity can be bolstered with false documentation available for as little as Rs.200 ($3 US) can even make them part of the vote bank.
Most of the Bengali speaking people deported from Maharashtra as illegal immigrants are originally Indian citizens from West Bengal. Police would demand 2000-2500 from each of the detained Bengali speaking people for their release. If they fail to pay that amount, they are kept behind the bar for 10–15 days following which they would be taken to border and pushed into Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Liberation War and continued political and economic turmoil in Bangladesh in the following decades forced some Bangladeshis to seek refuge in India. During the Bangladesh Liberation War at least 10 million Bangladeshis crossed into India illegal to seek refuge from widespread rape and genocide. Most of them migrated to the border states, particularly West Bengal and Assam. This issue became more visible after the 1991 census when patterns of abnormally high growth rate of Muslims were observed in the border states Assam and West Bengal. In 1991 census Muslim population growth rates in these states were 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. See the following tables for detail.
|Period||% Growth during 1971-1991||% Growth during 1991-2001|
|Period||% Growth during 1981-1991||% Growth during 1991-2001|
Political concerns over Bangladeshi illegal immigrants
In Assam, agitation against immigrants started as early as 1979, led by All Assam Students Union. Their demand was to put a stop on the influx of immigrants and deportation of those who have already settled. It gradually took violent form and ethnic violence started between Assamese and Bengalis, mostly Muslim. It eventually led to the infamous Nellie massacre in 1983 due to a controversy over the 1983 election. In 1985 Indian Government signed the Assam accord with the leaders of the agitation to stop the issue. As per the accord India started building a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border which is now almost complete. However, Assam also has a large number of genuine Indian Muslim Bengalis. It is difficult to distinguish between illegal Bangladeshis and local Bengali speakers. In some cases, genuine Indian citizens have been discriminated Allegations exist that nationalist parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Indian National Congress have discriminated against Bengali-speaking Muslims. On the other hand, in some places reports of Bangladeshis being able to secure Indian ration and voter identity cards have come out.
After 1991 census the changing demographic patterns in border districts became more visible. It created anxiety and tension in India throughout the nineties. Both conservatives as well as moderates expressed concern on this issue. The first BJP government came into power in 1998 and subsequently ordered the construction of the Indo-Bangladesh barrier to stop migrants and illegal trade along the border. It was planned to enhance the already existing barrier in Assam and to encircle West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram as well.
The other Indian state affected by this problem, West Bengal, remained mostly calm during this period. However Indian newspapers reported that "the state government has reports that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have trickled into parts of rural Bengal, including Nandigram, over the years, and settled down as sharecroppers with the help of local Left leaders. Though a majority of these immigrants became tillers, they lacked documents to prove the ownership of land."
After 2001 census the anxiety somewhat reduced when the growth rates were found to have returned to near normal level, particularly in West Bengal, thus negating the fear that there was an unabated influx of migrants. Although some concern remains.
Lately, Bangladeshi illegal migrants have been moving to Kerala owing to the high wages for unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, and also the presence of sizable Muslim population in the state. The Kerala police are reportedly finding it difficult to check the influx of these Bangladeshi illegal migrants. Kerala State Intelligence officials said they found that a large section of Migrant labourers in Kerala claiming to be from West Bengal were actually from Bangladesh.
Higher judiciary's concerns over Bangaladeshi illegal immigrants
In 2005, a Supreme Court bench ruled Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT) as unconstitutional while, with reference to the Sinha Report, maintaining that 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" and other north-eastern States. In August 2008, the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by a Bangladeshi national against her deportation. The High Court ruled that the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants "pose a danger to India's internal security".
Apart from immigrants a large numbers smugglers regularly cross the porous border along West Bengal into India. They 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. The Centre for Women and Children Studies estimated in 1998 that 27,000 Bangladeshis have been forced into prostitution in India. According to CEDAW report, 1% of foreign prostitutes in India and 2.7% of prostitutes in Kolkata are from Bangladesh.
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