Dialogue October-December, 2008 , Volume 10 No. 2
Infiltration from Bangladesh: A critical analysis
It is fair to affirm that the vast demographic changes in the Eastern and North-Eastern states of India are undeniable. Yet there is ample scope for an analysis of facts and factors behind such demographic changes. Moreover, the nature, the pattern and even the motives are to be brought into proper focus, if one is to understand the totality of phenomenal demographic changes that have occurred.
Following the Independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Eastern on North-Eastern region of India faced a novel political and social challenge. At one time, critics and analysts complacently characterized it to be a migration flow. But later on, a series of political events proved that this was nothing but a kind of infiltration flow. As a corollary, it is equally imperative to understand the changing responses of the political parties and their leaders in the great drama of incessant demographic change, creating a menace to social harmony, internal security and national integration of the country.
A new politics, a new economics and a new culture taken together, started unraveling itself in India as a result of secularism, which aggravated the confusion of the exuberant and extravagant politics of secularism of the erstwhile radical nationalist and the radical left in India. Gradually, for the first time, the Hindu refugees were being treated at par with the Muslim infiltrators. This twin flow at the same time had introduced a new opportunity to show perversely that Bangladesh was as much secular as India. Politicians, who placed immediate electoral gain above national interest, could successfully equate Muslim infiltration with the Hindu refugee flow under the grand title of infinite and indefinite migration of Bangladeshis with nondescript faces through all conceivable manholes in the border region.
A new era has started. Leading Bangladeshi strategic analysts and intelligentsia introduced the theory of lebensraum in the 1980’s. They claim that their right to settle in India’s Eastern and North-Eastern states is to be considered as the natural course of overriding, what is to them, an unacceptable political demarcation of the border. Growing population pressure and crippling poverty and pauperization of the marginal rural masses in Bangladesh encouraged, if not forced, them to put this agenda of migration as a life and death question, which no lock can resist.
Planned Hindu eviction from Bangladesh through Enemy / Vested property Acts:
According to the 2001 Bangladesh population Census, the total size of the Hindu population in Bangladesh was 11.4 million. Assuming the 1961 population share of the Hindu population (18.4%), the absolute size of the Hindu population in 2001 would have been 22.8 million instead of 11.4 million as reported in the Censes, i.e. the actual current (2001) size is half (50%) of the expected size. Mass out-migration of Hindu population (mostly to India) during mid-1960s and onward is a reality beyond doubt. Among the various factors responsible for such out-migration of the Hindu population, the effects of the enemy/ vested property Act were important ones. Vested property Act has been a major source of violence and oppression on the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.
Such violence and oppressions include extortion, looting / plundering of property, obstruction in harvesting of crops, business outlet, intimidation at workplace, destruction of property, physical assault, theft, dacoity/robbery, verbal abuse, eve-teasing, threats, harassment, obstruction of religious and cultural practices like using sinder, shankha, shank, uludhani, vhojan, puja and most importantly obstruction to casting votes in parliamentary elections and local Government elections, and last but not least rape and murder.
Minority land grabbing by Muslims and their political affiliations during 1965 and 2006:
The beneficiaries and grabbers of Hindu-owned property vested
under EPA / VPA represent or are/ were associated with various political parties. The pattern of their affiliation to a political party is not static, rather depicts a dynamic-changing scenario depending upon the
changes in the political party in power and other associated political changes. An estimated 536950 grabber/ beneficiaries throughout the country have been occupying a total of 2.6 million acres of vested land which lawfully belongs to 1.2 million Hindu households (with 6
million EPA /VPA affected Hindu population). Out of 2.6 million acres of vested land, in 2006, a total of 1749800 acres (67 % of vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with BNP, 361400 acres (14% of the vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with Awami League, 226,200 acres(9% of Vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with Jamat-e-Islami, 182,000 acres (7% of vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with Jatiyo Party, 10,000 acres (0.4% of vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with other parties. 1820 acres (0.07% of vested land) are occupied by those affiliated with Muslim league, and 67,000 acres are occupied by those whose political affiliation could not be ascertained.
All the governments and policy-makers of Pakistan and Bangladesh between 1948 and 2007 were in favour of EPA/VPA Acts and its amendments aiming at squeezing of Hindu properties and wealth. They never treated Hindus as bona-fide citizens of the country. Their objective was always to reduce Hindu population in the country by ousting them to India. It is easy to understand from the .evolution of EPA/VPA in appendix II.
Missing Hindu population from Bangladesh:
It is estimated that had there been no out migration the Hindu population in 1971 would have been 11.4 million instead of 9.6 million as reported in the official documents. The Hindu population would have been 14.3 million in 1981 instead of 10.6 million, 16.5 million in 1991 instead of 11.2 million and 19.5 million in 2001 instead of 11.4 million. Therefore, there were some 1.8 million missing Hindu population during 1964-1971, a total of 1.9 million missing Hindu population during 1971-1981, a total of 1.6 million missing during 1981-1991, and 2.8 million missing during 1991-2001. Thus the estimated total missing Hindu population was 8.1 million during 1964-2001, i.e., 218919 Hindu missing each year. The approximate size of the missing Hindu population was as high as 705 persons per day during 1964-1971, 521 persons per day during 1971-1981, 438 persons per day during 1981-1991 and 767 persons per day during 1991-2001. For decline of Hindu population during 1951—2001 at a glance, see Chart No.1 in appendix I. It is interesting to note that, highest number of Hindu population 767 missing per day from Bangladesh during the tenure of two elected democratic governments under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia and Shaikh Hasina from 1991-2001, it was far less(438) during the tenure of military dictator General Ershad (1982-1990). Naturally, this missing population must have crossed over to India and settled there. Actually, Hindu eviction does not depend on democracy or military rule. It is a problem of greater Muslim society and their communal attitude towards religious minorities since the days of Pakistan. Their greed and desire of Hindu land, property and women encourage them in committing social crime under patronization the state machineries and major political parties, (which had exactly what happened during Begam Khaleda Zia’s tenure from 2001 to 2006 ). One can ask, is it possible to survive democratic system of government in an Islamic (Muslim) country like Bangladesh? Our experience is in Pakistan and Bangladesh, democracy was not viable since the days of independence (last six decades). Marshal-law, dictatorship and one party regime in the name of democracy always denied minority rights. What are the lessons of history of this subcontinent since 1947 regarding communal relation and minority rights, particularly, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh? I think time has come for India to ponder seriously on these questions. Division-wise percentage of religious population in Bangladesh, as given in table 1 below, shows a severe decline of Hindu population and an extraordinary upswing of Muslim population in each division during 1951-2001. Table 1 Decline of Hindu population in Bangladesh
Division 1951 2001
% Muslim % Hindu % Muslim %
Barisal 19.67 79.56 9.98 89.48 Chittagong 21.32 75.75 7.79 88.80 Dhaka 20.46 78.97 6.97 92.58
Khulna 33.22 66.56 14.0 85.64
Rajshahi 20.47 79.38 9.57 89.60
Sylhet - - 15.48 84.17
Religious population scenario in West Bengal :
The emerging picture is quite disturbing. Consequent upon the internal demographic changes in various districts of West Bengal during 1951-2001shows the contrast between a decline of Hindu population and an extra-ordinary upswing in Muslim population visible in every district of the state. In a number of districts, the rate of growth of Muslim population is double or more than double of the Hindu population. Growth rates of Hindus and Muslims are 198.54% and 310.93%. respectively during 1951-2001. Population share of Hindus and Muslims in 1951 was 78.45% and 19.85% respectively, but during the last fifty years, the share of Hindus in West Bengal has come down to 72.47% a decrease by 6% where-as the share of Muslims has increased to 25.25% an increase of 5.40%. See Chart No. 2 in appendix I to gauge the religious population trend in West Bengal, 1951—2001. Another important aspect of growth of population as per 2001 population census is in the population of age group of 0-6 years. The Growth rate of Hindus and Muslims in the group stood at 12.69% and 18.7% respectively and the share of this group (0—6) of Muslims among all religions in West Bengal is 33.17%, though population share of Muslims is in the state is only 25.25% . On the other hand, the share of Hindus in the same population group (0-6) is only 64.61% in spite of their population share of 72.47%. This excessive increase of 0-6 group of population in the Muslim society in West Bengal tends towards a serious consequence. District-wise population growth in West Bengal during 1951-2001, given in Table 2, shows a revealing truth of Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh to West Bengal. Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia, Twenty four Parganas (North & South), Howrah, Medinipur and Kolkata are the maximum infiltration-prone districts changing their religious population pattern badly.
Table 2 District-wise population share change by Hindus and Muslims between 1951-2001 and their growth in West Bengal.
District 1951 2001 Growth rate % 1951-2001
Hindu %Muslim%Hindu % Muslim %Hindu %Muslim%
Darjeeling 81.71 1.14 76.92 5.31 240.18 1235.49
Jalpaiguri 84.18 9.74 83.30 10.85 268.01 314.36
Koch Bihar 70.90 28.94 75.50 24.24 293.39 209.40
Uttar Dinajpur 69.30 29.94 51.72 47.36 - -
Dakshin Dinajpur 69.30 29.94 74.01 24.02 - -
Maldah 62.92 36.97 49.28 49.72 174.87 372.0
Murshidabad 44.60 55.24 35.92 63.67 175.41 294.10
Birbhum 72.60 26.86 64.49 35.08 151.07 269.21
Bardhaman 83.73 15.60 78.89 19.78 196.44 299.01
Nadia 77.03 22.36 73.75 25.41 285.06 357.11
24 Parganas (N) 73.90 25.35 75.23 24.22 - -
24 Parganas(S) 73.90 25.35 65.86 33.24 - -
Hoogly 86.52 13.27 83.63 15.14 213.56 270.20
Bankura 91.16 4.40 84.35 7.51 123.92 312.50
Purulia 93.13 (1961) 5.99 (1961) 83.42 7.12 67.07 121.05
Medinipur 91.78 7.17 85.58 11.33 166.79 351.97
Howrah 83.45 16.22 74.98 24.44 138.29 299.51
Kolkata 83.41 12.0 77.68 20.27 67.09 202.93
We have gone into some details in this study of salient aspects of the demographic changes and their implications in the selected districts of West Bengal so as to gauge the local situation, particularly during 1981-1991 decade, when a massive jump in the growth rate of Muslims was observed in almost all the districts of West Bengal. Our micro level analysis on 24 Parganas (North & South), Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda, Birbhum, Uttar/Dakshin Dinajpur, Kolkata and Howrah has revealed an interesting picture. If we go through the Block level religious composition data of the above districts during 1981-1991, the share of Muslim population in some Blocks within a decade has risen abruptly to a staggering figure. Moreover, in most of the Blocks, the share of Muslim population has risen significantly. It is a sorry state of affairs that Block level religious data of 1991-2001 have not yet been published by the government of West Bengal. It may be a political reason, but already this has posed an immeasurably serious threat to India’s internal security. A long term plan of forcing out Hindus from the border region of West Bengal in evidently in operation. The Growth of Islamic fundamentalist forces under the umbrella of major political organizations, the easy access of terrorist outfits to sensitive locations assured by India’s secular-democratic culture, and the perennial influx of Bangladeshi Muslims into West Bengal’s border belt, have obviously facilitated the systematic eviction of Hindus from this border belt. Now both sides of the Indo-Bangladesh border region are inhabited by a population which is ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously identical. Already it has taken the shape of a demographic invasion.
Micro-level observations :
A micro-level observation based on a number of incidents is that a major political force including Islamic fundamentalists operating in Bangladesh as well as in India are encouraging Muslim infiltration to reduce pressure of population on Bangladesh, and to expand Islamic influence in the border region so that the Hindu population living in this area is forced to leave the region out of fear, particularly, all the Muslim dominated Subdivisions and Blocks of the entire Indo-Bangladesh border. Hindus are selling their hearth and home at a throw away prices to the Muslims. Over and above, the anti-social elements of this border region, hand in glove with Bangladeshi Muslims, are creating a fear psychosis among the Hindu community. Theft, robbery, rape and murder of the Hindus are routinely performed. The administrative machinery of the Left Front government is politically motivated and remains a silent spectator in this regard. Consequently, internal security and social harmony are in peril. The mosques, madrassas have become the centre of militants and activities of anti-Indian ethos. The police administration has become a stooge to the ruling party, and seldom acts. Hindus are afraid that they may become homeless even in their own land. In most of the cases, the BSF and the custom official have become puppets to the smugglers. The criminals are roaming freely in these areas with counterfeit currency and illegal arms. These criminals also played great role in helping local leaders to capture the panchayats in elections. The direct fallout of this situation is that the party in power dose not dare to disturb them for fear of losing power. Usually large-scale Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh actually started from 1980 onwards. Most of them have come into India counting upon the help of their relatives or other local support. They have acquired ration cards, enlisted their names in voter list, and even managed to get citizenship or international passport through local patrons. A large number of local youths in this border region have established family ties with the Bangladeshi people by marrying Bangladeshi women; these marital or family relations are often used to serve many purposes. A permanent support base and shelter has been created in either side of the border for cross-border movements. Smuggling has been taken up as a major employment source by a large number of people in the border region. Since most of the adjoining areas of Indian border with Bangladesh are predominated by the Muslims. A huge and continuous influx of illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh has turned the socio-economic scenario against the Hindus. Gradually, and ominously, this can foster the evolution of a pattern of social living alien to the Indian ethos nurtured through centuries of foreign rule and also the decades following 1947.
The above facts and the attendant analyses make it quite clear that, on account of ceaseless infiltration from Bangladesh and East Pakistan, and the tremendously high rate of growth of Muslim population, West Bengal, with 904 persons per square kilometer, has emerged as the State having the highest density of population in the whole of India. West Bengal occupies 2.77% of India’s land area and accommodates more than eight percent of its population. Population control is universally recognized today as a key contributor to economic upliftment. A pertinent query is whether the excessively high rate of growth of Muslim population in all the districts of West Bengal is solely due to infiltration by Bangladeshis, alternatively, one can ask whether it is permissible to affirm that Muslims in West Bengal are far less concerned about birth control, and far more backward in family planning than Hindus in West Bengal. If we consider the family planning scenario in the State, we can conclude that both the factors have been responsible for this abnormally high growth rate of Muslims in West Bengal. There is another side of this story, which is no less disturbing and no less dangerous. This ceaseless increase of population through infiltration and other means assumes a new dimension when it slowly and steadily takes the shape of demographic invasion. The consequent socio-political disturbances can possibly destabilize the entire Eastern and North-Eastern region of India. Even if this is treated as ‘distress infiltration’ or ‘economic immigration’, it finally turns out to be volcanic enough to bring about the disintegration of the country. Added to it, incessant cross-border immigration from Bangladesh deep into the regions bordering the Indian side, along with large-scale cross-border smuggling have created a political climate highly favorable to the growth of an anti-Indian psyche. This is inevitable, following a tremendous transformation of the demographic composition of the society from Koch Bihar to the southern tip of South 24-Parganas. Consequently, the prevailing practice and conditions of living of the people on the Indian side are becoming uncertain. The political and administrative security arrangements of the border region are so hopelessly threatened as to become ineffectual. It has thus become easy for the insurgent outfits to wage a proxy war at a low level. The costs and risks of this war are low, and yet it destabilizes the internal security not only of eastern and north-eastern region but also other states of the heartland of India
Reference books :
1. Endangered Demography—Nature and impact of demographic changes in West Bengal 1951—2001, Bimal Pramanik, Kolkata, 2005.
2. Paschimbange Ashanisanket ( a study on the demographic imbalance in West Bengal ), Bimal Pramanik, Kolkata, 2008.
3. Deprivation of Hindu minority in Bangladesh—living with vested property, Abul Barkat et.al, Pusthak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2008.
4. Can we get alone?—An account of communal relationship in Bangladesh, Mohammad Rafi, Panjeree Publications Ltd, Dhaka, 2008
Appendix II :
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