Ever since the Modi government has introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act and the talks of a nationwide NRC have started gaining momentum, the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants living in different parts of India for decades have somehow started to fear being identified and incarcerated in detention centres. This is compelling them to return to Bengal, which they consider to be a ‘safe heaven’ for them, in large numbers with an intent to go back to their country through the porous portions of the Indo-Bangladesh border at the opportune time, according to reports.
“All the talk about a nationwide NRC has put the fear among illegal Bangladeshi immigrants (IBIs) living and working in many states outside Bengal. The news of detection of a few scores of such IBIs in Karnataka and their subsequent deportation has spread like wildfire among them”, said a senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer.
“They (the IBIs) also fear being incarcerated in detention centres and the prevailing sentiment among them now is to migrate to Bengal where they will be safe and await an opportune time to get back to Bangladesh,” the officer added.
The reason they are migrating to Bengal, and not Assam, in large numbers, is because they know they will be safe in Bengal. “They know that the Mamata Banerjee government will not do anything to them and will protect them”.
“But Assam is now hostile to IBIs and so they cannot risk going to Assam, even though it would have been easier to cross over to Bangladesh from Assam due to greater porosity of the many stretches of the border there,” the IB officer explained.
Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has time and again stated that it is a humanitarian obligation to give refuge to migrants and her state West Bengal will take care of anyone seeking shelter. It is notable here that Mamata Banerjee has been vocally critical of the BJP led central government over the CAA and NRC and maintained that she will never let them to be implemented in her state.
West Bengal has been a constant concern for national security agencies for its porous borders. Millions of illegal Bangladesh immigrants, and in recent times Rohingyas from Myanmar have been able to infiltrate into India without check and many have been able to obtain Indian identity documents with the help of local Muslims.
However, now it is being believed that several illegal Bangladeshi immigrants (IBIs) have journeyed to Bengal from Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and some other states in recent weeks. Many of these IBIs are planning to return to Bangladesh and have reportedly got in touch with touts who facilitate the illegal movement of humans across the international border.
Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) have caught hundreds of people, in the last few months, trying to sneak back into Bangladesh from the porous Indo-Bangladesh borders at dead of night.
Bangladesh’s paramilitary force chief confirmed on Thursday that a total of 445 Bangladeshi nationals returned from India in the last two months following the publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) by the Indian government.
According to Senior Border Security Force (BSF) officers in the North and South Bengal frontiers, these illegal immigrants, mainly labourers, have been assembling in many villages and small towns near the border, waiting for an opportune time to cross over to Bangladesh for fear of NRC.
The BSF officials guarding the Indo-Bangladesh border in Bengal say that though all efforts are being made to capture such Bangladeshi Muslims fleeing India at the border, in the dark of night, they are succeeding in crossing the border through jungle etc. According to officials, since large areas of the international border have no fencing and electricity and the area is surrounded by rivers and dense forests, some people secretly succeed in crossing over.
Interestingly, this reverse migration has particularly been on the rise after the Modi Government in a historic decision introduced CAA and NRC in the country.
A highly placed source in the BSF confirmed: “The reverse migration of illegal Bangladeshis has increased in the last few days. We have information that every day, people are crossing over to Bangladesh and they are using the porous border in North 24 Parganas area of Basirhat and Bongaon, and the border in Nadia district to cross over. Some reports are also coming in from Malda in West Bengal.” These people fear that once NRC is implemented they will be identified as living illegally in India for decades and this is compelling them to flee the country.
Bangladeshi border guards have apprehended and handed over 300 people from Maheshpur sub-district to the police last month. Villagers living close to the border claim that a large number of people are fleeing to Bangladesh from India.
People from the border areas of the neighbouring country say that the Rohingya people have already increased our problems. Now if people from India also start coming then we will have a lot of trouble. They claim that 300 to 400 people are entering Bangladesh from India every day.
Moreover, the Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) and Bangladesh Police claim that Indian identity cards are also being recovered from these intruders. The police are investigating by registering cases against these illegal entrants.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh, which is already housing several thousand Rohingya refugees, is not taking this re-migration lightly. Out of concern that there might be a sudden population explosion, Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission had recently suspended the mobile network in a 1 km band along the approximately 4100 kilometre-long border with India.
By switching off mobile telecom services indefinitely, Dhaka hopes to deny the IBIs who are amassing along the border in Bengal the opportunity to contact touts and others in Bangladesh who would facilitate their entry into that country.