National pride, or shame?
06 May 2010 11:18:00 PM IST
An important event”, says the Union home minister P.Chidambaram referring to the proposed National Population Register (NPR). Claiming it is the biggest exercise since humankind came into existence, he said proudly “nowhere in the world has a government tried to count, identify and issue identity cards to more than a billion people”. He is right. But, while the NPR is undoubtedly a huge and proud arithmetical undertaking, if what it conceals is revealed, it may end as a national shame, a grave security risk, why even an anti-national undertaking.
On the face of it, NPR seems a normal, even welcome idea. After all, a nation must have a population register to know the micro details of its people. The NPR will be a population register, not a citizenship register. National population is just a head count of all, nationals and others, residing in India. Now, the issue: Particularly in eastern India, the massive infiltration of Bangladeshis has emerged as our greatest security risk, according to experts. The then defence minister George Fernandes fixed the number of Bangladeshis illegally residing in India in 2003 at some two crore.
The infiltration has hugely distorted the religious demography of many areas in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, and even in far off Mumbai and Delhi. Most border districts of Assam and West Bengal have turned Muslim majority or nearly so, in less than two decades. The illegal Bangladeshis in India almost equal the population of Australia or Sri Lanka. The individual population of 167 countries is less than the number of Bangladeshis in India! The Bangladeshi population in India is more than the total population of some 100 countries taken together! With globally linked Islamic terrorism having roots in Bangladesh on the rise, it needs no seer to say it is a grave national danger to India.
A study on Bangladeshis in India by Sujata Ramachandran (Department of Geography, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada) for the Global Commission on International Migration sees the issue from a totally different perspective. Challenging the stereotype view of it as a case of ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal migrants’ by international migration researchers, Sujata asserts that the Bangladeshi infiltration was ‘migration industry’ at work. She says, “it involves a well-organised network of dalals in Bangladesh and India — ‘manpower’ agencies, recruiters, touts, brokers, ‘travel’ agents, and their employees or contacts in many Bangladeshi villages. Dalals find, or pretend to find, employment for migrants and facilitate movement into and through India for substantial sums of money. In recent times, they also provide potential migrants with official Indian documents like passports and ration cards to minimise the risks of detention. Therefore, it is not surprising that many marginal Bangladeshi families end up in different parts of this country.”
The touts actually cheat the poor Bangladeshi Muslims. Sujata points out that some ‘three lakh Bangladeshi women are in brothels’. Yet viewing the two crore Bangladeshis out of the country as good riddance, the Bangladesh government claims, ‘not a single Bangladeshi immigrant is in India’.
Given the cultural, linguistic and other links between Bengalis on this side and Bangladeshis on the other, the Bangladeshis have just dissipated into India. It is almost impossible to distinguish between illegal Bangladeshis and local Bengalis. Thanks to obliging politicians, corrupt officials the infiltrators also get all proofs needed to say they are residents here, Sujata notes. In the late 1970s, the Assam students revolted against this demographic invasion. They were ultimately cheated into a settlement by the Indira Gandhi government, which passed the Illegal Migrants (Detection by Tribunal) Act (IMDT Act) in the year 1983. That made it worse.
Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving that a person was a Bangladeshi was shifted on to the police, while under the previous Foreigners Act, the onus was on the Bangladeshi to prove that he was an Indian. In 2005, that is, after 22 years, the Supreme Court stuck down the horrific IMDT Act as promoting, not curbing, infiltration. Yet, the UPA-I regime has re-enacted the IMDT Act as a sub-rule under the Foreigners Act. Between January 2001 and September 2006, the Assam government spent Rs 170 crore to identify 9,149 Bangladeshis, but deport only 1,864 to Bangladesh — that is, it took six years to deport 1,864 Bangladeshis, at Rs 1,80,000 per head! At that rate, it will take 64,278 years and cost Rs 36 lakh crore to deport the two crore Bangladeshis!
See now how the NPR ‘solves’ this issue in just 45 days, from April 1 to May 15, 2010, at a cost of just Rs 3,590 crore! The details collected from all residents in India will include their ‘nationality’ ‘as declared’ by them (as per Query No 11 of the NPR enumeration form). Will a Bangladeshi illegally residing in India declare himself/herself as of American or British citizen? Obviously not.
The result, the NPR will list the two crore infiltrators as nationals of India based on their own declaration. And more. After the NPR is built, the infiltrators will get identity cards with Unique Identification Number (UID) from the Unique Identification Authority of India, like you and me.
See what other countries do to those who cross their borders illegally. North Korea sends them to 12 years’ hard labour; Iran detains them indefinitely; in Afghanistan, they are shot; in Saudi Arabia, they are jailed; in China they may never be seen again; Canada jails them for three years and France, for five years; Venezuela brands them as spies and seals their fate; Mexico and Cuba too jail them. Compare that with what India does to the two crore Bangladeshis who have stealthily crossed into India. It gives them ration cards, subsidised food, passports, driving licences, credit cards, voter identity cards, Haj subsidies, reserved jobs as part of quota for Muslims, and now citizenship and in addition, the Unique Identity Card. After this, statistically, there will be no Bangladeshis in India. This will open the floodgates for millions of Bangladeshis to enter India. But no worry, the NPR in 2021 will list them too as citizens by claim.
Sujata has rightly used the sub-title ‘Indifference, Impotence and Intolerance’ in her work referring to India’s approach to the issue. The word to note is ‘impotence’. This aptly captures the UPA government’s acquiescence through the NPR to turn the Bangladeshi infiltrators into Indians. What a grave risk to the future of India and its security? Is anyone listening?.