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Enough is enough!
February 14, 2003
You are bound to bump into someone from Lahore if you stay long enough in Delhi. (Oddly, it is never Multan, or Rawalpindi, or Lyallpur, or any of the other cities in the western Punjab, but always Lahore) And most always wax sentimental about the beloved city they left behind at Partition.
Once, many years ago, I was visiting a friend in Chittaranjan Park. (For those unfamiliar with Delhi, this is our 'Little Bengal,' a place originally named 'East Pakistan Displaced Persons Colony.') His parents happened to be visiting him at the time, and some of their friends had come around to see them. I was curious to know whether any of them were as sentimental about the homes which some of them had (presumably) left behind as their Punjabi counterparts were.
When I put the question to the company at large, I got the distinct impression that only politeness to a guest prevented them from wondering about my own sanity! After a long pause, one old gentleman ventured to suggest that he rather missed his Padma hilsa � a comment that met with general approval!
Today, he would not miss even that since the fish now comes by air to India. Unfortunately, that is not the only thing that Bangladesh exports, and therein lies a major problem for us in India�
There may be as many as two crore (20 million) illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India. We do not want them, and we do not need them. How do we stop the entry of more migrants, and what do we do with those already inside this country? We are already cursed with one horrible neighbour to the west, Pakistan, but believe me the one to our east, Bangladesh, is potentially as much of a headache.
It is not just a case of Bangladesh unloading its unwanted people on us, and then cheerfully denying any responsibility. Dacca is also turning a blind eye to Pakistani, or Pakistani-backed, forces who operate from Bangladeshi territory. The focus right now may be on those illegal migrants trying to cross into West Bengal, but do not forget that the international frontier also touches other Indian states. In some, kidnapping has become a highly profitable cottage industry because criminals know they can always find a refuge across the border, with Bangladeshi officials looking away in exchange for a share of the loot. And let us not even talk about what all those Bangladeshis fleeing their miserable economic basketcase of a country are doing to the demographics of the North-East! Need I remind readers that the decade-long Assam agitation began in response to the increasing number of Bengali-speaking persons?
But the Bangladeshi headache is no longer Assam's or Tripura's problem alone, but one that must concern everyone in India. There are huge concentrations of illegal migrants in the metropolises of Delhi and Mumbai. These become recruiting centers for anti-national or anti-social elements, especially now when an inclement economic climate means that other jobs are that much tougher to find.
Truth be told, the problem of migration from Bangladesh is almost as old as that of infiltration from Pakistan. About 25% of the population of East Pakistan was Hindu, a proportion that fell steadily as non-Muslims found themselves treated as second-class citizens. The trickle of refuges became a flood when the two wings of Pakistan came to loggerheads in 1971; suddenly India was confronted with both Muslim and Hindu refugees on its soil. According to reliable estimates, India, which was struggling to house and feed its own population, had to meet the challenge of doing the same for up to 12 million refugees.
Some blithely assumed most would return once East Pakistan became Bangladesh. They did not; in fact, many more continued to come. I blame Delhi and Calcutta as much as I do Dacca � far too many politicians decided that they could use Bangladeshi votes in exchange for 'protection.' That is why it is only now that Delhi has begun to take the issue seriously.
Islamabad has a simple response to all charges of infiltration: 'Just say No!' � in effect deny any responsibility. Dacca follows suit. But we have had enough of this idiocy. There is no room any longer for sentimental claptrap about 'brotherhood' and the like. The illegal migrants must be identified, segregated, and then pushed back where they came from. India has enough problems of its own without having to take on Bangladesh's burden as well.
T V R Shenoy