Bangladeshi Infiltration into West Bengal

  • Article includes how infiltration into West Bengal started and impact of infiltration.

This article is extract from the essay ‘All you wanted to know about Bangladeshi Infiltration into India’. Part one covered why Bengali Muslims migrate to Assam. Part two covers West Bengal.

 

Here is brief history of infiltration in West Bengal.

 

The politician who started it was Congress leader and former Union Minister ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury, who was king of Malda for over three decades till his death in 2006. No one could ever defeat him in any election, and to be fair, he worked wonders for his constituency and was loved by all. CPI (M) took the cue from him and continued his strategy in other border areas. 

 

According to this 2011 India Today article, “"There is a virtual East Bengal in West Bengal. Immigrants, both Hindus and Muslims, have come from across the border and settled in districts which share borders with Bangladesh and have slowly penetrated into other districts," says historian Amalendu De. The national growth rate of population during 1951-61 was 21.6 per cent, but in West Bengal it was 32.8 per cent. "The higher increase in population in the border districts of West Bengal reflects the magnitude of cross-border migration from Bangladesh. Districts such as Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas show a population growth rate that is higher than the overall population growth rate of the state," writes Jyoti Parimal Sarkar in her study Bangladeshi Migration to West Bengal: A Cause for Concern.” (5) 

 

Hindus migrated to escape persecution and Muslims for livelihood and reasons explained later. Table 4 has the trend of Hindu Muslim population percentages in West Bengal.

 

Table 4 - West Bengal % of population Indian Religions vs Muslims

 

1971

1981

1991

2001

2011

Indian Religions

78.98

77.90

75.8

72.92

70.98

Muslims

20.45

21.5

23.61

25.25

27.01

 

We can see that the percentage of Muslims in West Bengal has steadily grown from 20.4% in 1971 to 27.01%. Table 5 has community-wise growth rates.

Table 5 - Community wise % Growth rate in West Bengal

 

Indian Religions %

Muslims %

State Growth in Population %

National Growth%

1951-1961

32

36.47

32.8

21.6

1961-1971

26.17

29.76

26.9

24.7

1971-1981

21.50

29.55

23.17

24.60

1981-1991

21.40

36.90

24.72

23.85

1991-2001

15.11

25.90

17.77

21.55

2001-2011

9.03

21.80

13.84

17.67

A common thread from the above table is that the percentage increase in the population of Muslims, starting 1951, was higher than the national, state and Indian religions growth rates. Infiltration is a strong contender for such an increase. The 2001 Census Report states that there are more than 30 lakh immigrants in West Bengal, of which 98 per cent are from Bangladesh. (5)

 

A comparison of population numbers with voters list might throw up interesting insights for e.g. are Bangladeshis in Gurgaon registered as voters in Haryana or West Bengal.

 

The long-time Gurgaon resident and Bengali told this author, “I am 90% sure they are all registered as voters in West Bengal. When the Aadhaar people came to our condo to collect data for cards, all the people that I saw had West Bengal papers. From what I’ve seen in 15 years in Gurgaon, it works like this: For the first five years after they’ve got their papers, they take leave during elections and go home to vote—not much for Lok Sabha, the electorate is too large for the parties to count if all of them have returned to vote or not, but certainly for panchayat and municipal elections, because it is these lower-level politicians who have facilitated their getting papers. After five years, they stop going, because they feel safe and know they can’t be thrown out. But it could be that, in the 2021 assembly elections, if Mamata Banerjee feels really threatened, they may be asked to come down and vote.” Let us now review Muslim population in border districts of West Bengal. 

 

Table 6: Percentage of Muslim Population in border districts.                               

Population

Birbhum

Malda

Murshidabad

24 Parganas

West Dinajpur

1971

29.19

43.12

56.34

44.03

35.89

1981

30.97

45.27

58.65

55.38

35.79

1991

33.06

47.49

61.39

63.59

36.75

2001

35.08

49.72

63.67

NA*

38.47

2011

37.00

51.27

66.27

NA*

49.92

Note: * 24 Parganas was divided into North and South 24-Parganas, hence the figures are not comparable.

 

If there were no Bangladeshis in West Bengal why would the Trinamul Congress engage Bangladeshi actor Ferdous to campaign for its Lok Sabha candidate from Raiganj in North Dinajpur district in April 2019. 

 

With such a large percentage of Muslims in border towns it might be difficult to ascertain whether one is in West Bengal or Bangladesh. This facilitates cow smuggling, which according to this 2012 report in The Daily Star Dacca report is worth $ 500 million per annum. Those who oppose could be killed for e.g. a BSF man near border according to this September 2017 Times of India report dated Barista and another BSF in 2011 per this report in the Telegraph.

 

Do other countries accept illegal Bangladeshi migrants?

Koenraad Elst wrote in Pragyata, “One factor which makes India the prime target of Bangladesh's demographic dumping policy, apart from its geographical contiguity, is the tough policy of other countries vis--vis illegal or even legal immigrants:baseline'> baseline'>"At the end of last year, there were still more than 100,000 illegal immigrant workers from Bangladesh in Malaysia. As of early February 1997 they are massively expelled by the Malay Government. (...) Bangladesh has some experience with such disasters: last year already, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar expelled some 50,000 illegal Bangladeshis. (...) Three years ago, the Malaysian Government signed an agreement with the Government in Dhaka agreeing to take in 50,000 new guest workers from Bangladesh. But when more and more Bangladeshis entered the countries secretly and started to work without work permit, Malaysia cancelled the agreement unilaterally." De Wereld Morgen (Brussels), April 1997, p.17. 

 

Was not the problem arising from infiltration highlighted earlier and what is impact? 

 

It has been highlighted for decades but vote bank politics and secularism overruled national interests. 

 

Upadhyay wrote, B. K. Nehru, the Governor of Assam between 1968 and 1973, condemned the infiltration as vote bank politics by the Congress’ (Pioneer, 15 September, 2005).”

 

As mentioned earlier, former Governor of Assam, Lt Gen S K Sinha, sent a report on illegal migration into Assam to the President of India in 1998. 

 

Writing in the Indian Express Arun Shourie said, “As early as in 1996, the present Governor of Uttar Pradesh, T V Rajeswar had forecast the rise of a ''third Islamic State'' in the sub-continent. Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants into parts of Assam and North Bengal, he wrote, pose a grave danger to national as well as regional security.” 

 

In 2005 Mamata Banerjee had said in the Lok Sabha that, “infiltration into Bengal has become a disaster” and Bangladesh nationals were on the voting list.”

 

Part three covers impact of infiltration on law and order and how do Bangladeshis enter India.

 

References

1. Bodo-Muslim conflict in Assam – Historical roots

2. Demographic invasion of India from the north-east by Brig Amrit Kapur

3. Lt Gen S K Sinha 1998 Report on illegal migration into Assam.

4. Kaushik Deka in DailyO.

5. 2011 Census Assam

6. Religious Demography of India 2001 Revision by Joshi, Bajaj and Srinivas.

7. PhD Thesis of Shri Ratan Sharda.

8. Religious Demography of India by Joshi, Bajaj and Srinivas.

Utmost care has been taken in presenting Census Numbers. Errors if any are advertent.

First published in Swarajyamag.com and here 

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