Infiltration time-bomb ticking; what has become of governance in Bharatam?


Excerpts, thanks to H. Balakrishnan, from Arun Shourie's "GOVERNANCE AND THE SCLEROSIS THAT HAS SET IN" (2004), 267 pp. Rupa & Co.   


1.     ARUN SHOURIE writes: " Whatever the set of facts that we take up- infiltration from Bangladesh, the ideology that is being drilled into wards in ' madrasas', the way 'madrasas' along our borders are being used for harming our country- we run into the same sequence: whenever the facts have been brought to the attention of governments, even by high officials of State themselves, governments have just looked the other way."




2.     " Large scale illegal migration from East Pakistan/ Bangladesh over several decades has been altering the demographic complexion of this State. It poses a grave threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to our national security. Successive governments at the center and in the State have not adequately met this challenge- -. I felt it is my bounden duty to the Nation and the State I have sworn to serve, to place before you this report on the dangers arising from the continuing silent demographic invasion." Now that is not some sundry journalist or AASU activist writing. IT IS THE GOVERNOR OF ASSAM- WHO HAPPENS TO HAVE BEEN deputy Chief of STAFF of THE INDIAN ARMY. And it is no ordinary Article in which he begins in this way- IT IS HIS OFFICIAL REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THIS COUNTRY."


3.     " The unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh---, General S.K.Sinha told the President, threatens to reduce the Assamese to a minority in their own State, as happened in Tripura and Sikkim."


4.     " The long-cherished design of Greater East Pakistan/

Bangladesh, making inroads into the strategic land-link of Assam with the rest of the country, he warned, can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North-East- - -- from the rest of the country. This will have disastrous economic and strategic consequences."


5.     " After tracing in detail the way the demographic balance has been overturned in district after district adjacent to Bangladesh, General Sinha concluded : ' This silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of geostrategically vital districts of Lower Assam. The influx of these illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim majority region. IT WILL THEN ONLY BE A MATTER OF TIME WHEN A DEMAND FOR THEIR MERGER WITH BANGLADESH MAY BE MADE. THE RAPID GROWTH OF ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM MAY PROVIDE THE DRIVING FORCE FOR THIS DEMAND. IN THIS CONTEXT IT IS PERTINENT THAT BANGLADESH HAS LONG DISCARDED SECULARISM AND HAS CHOSEN TO BECOME AN ISLAMIC STATE. LOSS OF LOWER ASSAM WILL SEVERE THE ENTIRE LAND MASS OF THE NORTH-EAST FROM THE REST OF INDIA- - -. " ( Lt. General S.K.Sinha (Retd) 'REPORT ON ILLEGAL MIGRATION INTO ASSAM SUBMITTED TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA BY THE GOVERNOR OF ASSAM, 08 NOVEMBER 1998, pp, I, I, 18)


6.     " Two years earlier, having failed to awaken anyone in the government, the former Governor of West Bengal, and one who had been the head of the Intelligence Bureau, T.V. Rajeswar ( MY COMMENT: NOW GOVERNOR OF UTTAR PRADESH), had felt compelled to go public. In a series of Articles in 1996, he had pointed to the long-standing design to create a 'GREATER ISLAMIC BANGLADESH- by annexing Assam, the bordering districts of West Bengal, and parts of Bihar, and to the fact that through this illegal infiltration the design was well on the way to being realized. INDEED, HE STRESSED, THE WAY THIS INFLUX HAD ALREADY CONVERTED VAST, CONTIGUOUS TRACTS INTO MUSLIM, SPECIFICALLY BANGLADESHI MUSLIM DOMINATED AREAS, THE PROSPECT HAD ALREADY ARISEN THAT A THIRD ISLAMIC STATE MEY BE CARVED IN THE SUB-CONTINENT OUT OF INDIA." ( MY COMMENT: I had earlier forwarded the 3 serial Article of Arun Shourie 'expresson , quoting Mr T.V Rajeswar's Articles of 1996 in the HINDUSTAN TIMES.)


7.     " He recalled what the then Muslim League Premier of Bengal, Nazimuddin had told the Governor of the Province, R.G.Casey- Casey had set it out to the Viceroy, Lord Wavell: ' Nazimuddin tells me that they calculated that the combined area would give them a majority of 58% of Muslims in place of 51% if only all Bengal and all Assam were to be included. He tells me that the Muslims bred faster than the Hindus and that 58% would reach 60% and more within a relatively few years. He went on to say that they believed that once this North Eastern Pakistan was established, there would be no one more keen about it than the Hindus within its borders and that he believed it possible that the Burdwan division might come into North Eastern Pakistan in due course."


8.     " Rajeswar cited Kissinger's dire warning- should that be 'wish'? ' The inevitable emergence of Bangladesh-which we postulated- presented India with fierce long-term problems. For Bangladesh was in effect East Bengal, separated only by religion FROM INDIA'S MOST FRACTIOUS AND MOST SEPARATIST STATE, WEST BENGAL. They share language, tradition, culture, and above all, A VOLATILE NATIONAL CHARACTER. Whether it turned nationalist or radical, Bangladesh would over time accentuate India's centrifugal tendencies. It might set a precedent for the creation of other Moslem States, carved this time out of India. Once it was independent, its Moslem heritage might eventually lead to rapprochement with Pakistan."


9.     " And Rajeswar drew attention to what had already come to pass: ' Muslims in India accounted for 9.9% (of India's population) in 1951, 10.8% in 1971 and 11.3% in 1981, and presumably about 12.1% in 1991. The present population ratio of Muslims is calculated to be 28% in Assam and 25% in West Bengal. In 1991 the Muslim population in the border districts of West Bengal accounted for 56% in South and North Parganas, 48% in Naida, 52% in Murshidabad, 54% in Malda and about 60% in Islampur sub-division of West Dinajpur . A study of the border belts of West Bengal yields some telling statistics: 20-40% villages in the border districts are said to be predominantly Muslim. There are indications that the concentration of minority community, including the Bangladesh immigrants, in the villages has resulted in the majority community moving to urban centers. Several towns in the border districts are now predominantly inhabited by the majority community but surrounded by villages mostly dominated by the minority community. Lin Piao's theory of occupying the villages before overwhelming the cities comes to mind, though the context is different. HOWEVER, THE BASIC FACTOR OF SECURITY THREAT IN BOTH THE CASES IS THE SAME."


10.      " - - - Figures have been given showing the concentration of Muslim population in the districts of West Bengal bordering Bangladesh starting from 24 Parganas and going up to Islampur of West Dinajpur district and their population being well over 50% of the population. The Kishanganj district (of Bihar) which was part of Purnea district earlier, which is contiguous to the West Bengal area, also has a majority Muslim population. The total population of the districts of South and North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Nadia, Malda, and West Dinajpur adds up to 27,337,362. If we add the population of Kishanganj district of Bihar of 986,672, the total comes to 28,324,034. (All figures based on the 1991 census.) This mass of land with a population of nearly 2.8 crores has a Muslim majority. The total population of West Bengal in 1991 was 67.9 million and of these, 28.32 million are concentrated in the border districts, with about 16-17 million population of the minority community being concentrated in this area. This crucial tract of land in West Bengal and Bihar, lying along the Ganges/Hughly and West Bangladesh with a population of over 28 million, with Muslims constituting a 'majority', SHOULD GIVE CAUSE FOR ANXIETY FOR ANY THINKING INDIAN."


11.   " From these figures he gave two warnings: FIRST. THERE IS A DISTINCT DANGER OF ANOTHER MUSLIM COUNTRY, SPEAKING PREDOMINANTLY BENGALI, EMERGING IN THE EASTERN PART OF INDIA IN THE FUTURE, AT A TIME WHEN INDIA MIGHT FIND HERSELF WEAKENED POLITICALLY AND MILITARILY. The second Part of the warning is relevant even if that continuous tract does not separate into a full-fledged country: ' Let us look at the map of India- starting from the North 24 Parganas district, proceeding through Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and West Dinajpur before entering the narrow neck of land lying through the Raiganj and Dalkola of Isalmpur sub-division before passing through the Kishanganj district of East Bihar to enter Siliguri. Proceed further and take a look at the North Bengal districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar before entering Assam, and its districts of Dhubri, Goalpara, Bonaigaon, Kokrajhar and Barpeta. A MORE SENSITIVE REGION IN ASIA IS DIFFICULT TO LOCATE- --."


12.  " Nepal is way out of hand. In the North Bengal districts unrest has already erupted- the GNLF in the Darjeeling Hills, the Kamtapur Liberation Front in the Northern districts of the State. And on the other side of that ' CHICKEN'S NECK' CORRIDOR, we have the Bodo Groups, and further down ULFA."


13.  " Go over to the border districts of Assam, and you find the same phenomenon. In his report to the President, General Sinha drew attention to the differential decadal growth of population of the Hindus and Muslims in Assam- 33.7% and 38.3% in 1951-61 respectively; 37.2% and 31% respectively in 1961-71; and an estimated 41.9% and 77.4% respectively in 1981-91- and observed: ' Muslim population of Assam has shown a rise of 77.42% in 1991 from what it was in 1971. The Hindu population has risen by nearly 41.89% in this period. Muslim population (as a %age of the total population) in Assam has risen from 24.68% in 1951 to 28.42% in 1991. As per the 1991 census, four districts (Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Hailakandi) have become Muslim majority districts. Two more districts (Nowgaon and Karimganj) should have become so by 1998 and one more district (Morgaon) is fast approaching this position. THE GROWTH OF MUSLIM POPULATION HAS BEEN EMPHASIZED TO INDICATE THE EXTENT OF ILLEGAL MIGRATION FROM BANGLADESH TO ASSAM BECAUSE- - - THE ILLEGAL MIGRANTS COMING TO INDIA AFTER 1971 HAVE BEEN ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY MUSLIMS- -."


14.    " Assam and Tripura are the States that have been most heavily infested by infiltrators. But over the last few years, infiltrators have been moving from these States to other States, in particular the Hill Areas."




15. " General Sinha kept drawing the attention of the high-ups in Delhi to the inundation. All that happened was that his warnings became the occasion for the 'SECULARISTS' to denounce him as a ' COMMUNALIST' who must be removed from his post."


16.   "What was the response to your Articles? I asked T.V.Rajeswar. None, as far as the official machinery was concerned, he said.But the Articles were just the most recent thing he had written on the subject, he said. He recalled that after he had been appointed Governor of West Bengal he had occasion to study the question in considerable detail, and that he had sent communications and reports about the danger to New Delhi. After retirement, he wrote an account of what happened to his reports on the impact that illegal immigration was having and the dire consequences that were building up. The account he wrote typifies the sequence: ' After I assumed office as Governor of West Bengal in March 1989, I went into the matter (the continuing demographic invasion from Bangladesh) in great detail and I found that the problem was far more serious than I had perceived earlier. I had written to the President, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister regularly during my stay in Calcutta on this. In my very first monthly report for March, 1989 sent to the President on 06 April with copies to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister I referred to the problem of Bangladesh immigrants. In my report for the month of May 1989 I had referred to this matter in fuller detail after having visited the North Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and West Dinajpur. I also wrote a detailed letter to Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on 05 June 1989 suggesting that a census should be held in all the districts of West Bengal to asses and identify the Bangladesh immigrants, and thereafter identity cards to those residing in the border districts of West Bengal should be issued."


17.   "After the Janata Dal Government assumed office at the Centre, I wrote in January 1990 to Shri I.K.Gujral, Minister for External Affairs, with copies to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, suggesting that a detailed study might be carried out by a committee consisting of senior officers from the ministries of External Affairs and Home, as well as from the State Governments of West Bengal and Bihar, followed by a thorough census, along with the national census of 1991, to ascertain the dimensions of the problem of illegal immigrants into India. THERE WAS NO RESPONSE FROM ANY OF THEM TILL I LEFT CALCUTTA ON FEBRUARY 6, 1990. ALL THESE REPORTS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE WITH THE HOME MINISTRY--."


18.  " A detailed study was indeed completed by officials of the I.B and the Home Ministry in 1992: it estimated that even by then the number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh was anywhere between ONE AND HALF TO TWO CRORE. The only action that was taken as a consequence as that the Government ordered that the report be kept 'secret'. I published the entire text (and later included it in 'A SECULAR AGENDA', ASA, NEW DELHI, 1993, pp 269-93). All I heard was some minatory murmurs that I might be proceeded against under the Official Secrets Act!"


19.  " In April 1992 Hiteshwar Saikia, then Chief Minister of Assam, said on the floor of the State Assembly that there were about 3 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the State. The Muslim United Front leaders declared that he must withdraw his statement within 48 hours- or they would bring his government DOWN. Saikia withdrew his statement!"


20.   " In August 1993, members of Parliament asked the Home Minister about the numbers who had infiltrated from Bangladesh. Three ministers got to contribute to the answer. We are ' NOT ABLE TO SORT OF COUNT THEM' they confessed- even as they did everything they could by convolutions to minimize the problem. And that was the end of the matter. (ibid, pp 251-60.)"


21.  " In May 1997, Indrajit Gupta, long time General Secretary of the C.P.I., then the country's Home Minister was a trifle more forthcoming. He told Parliament that there were about 10 million illegal migrants in India. But as for doing something about them, HIS STATEMENT WAS THE END OF THE MATTER. ' At least he has acknowledged the problem', all who could make him do nothing about it said as a consolation."


22.   The one political party at the national level that had been talking vigorously about the urgent need to stanch this invasion was the BJP. In its manifesto for the 1996 elections it stated,




"We believe that illegal immigration from our neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh, has a direct impact on our Nation's security and has an unsettling effect on our demography. Given the sheer dimension of numbers- there are as many as 1.7 crore illegal immigrants, the bulk of them Bangladeshis, living in various parts of the country- illegal immigration is not only transforming the geography, but the sociology, the economy, indeed even the politics of the country. India is facing an explosive issue. If our demographic balance is allowed to be disturbed by inept policies and political considerations, various demographic entities are bound to come in conflict, thus adversely affecting our security environment. The invasion of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has led to an alarming growth in a section of the population in our North-East, in Assam, in West Bengal, parts of Bihar and Delhi. In certain areas, A SECTION OF THE POPULATION HAS GROWN BY ALMOST 100%."



(A)   Complete barbed wire fencing along the India-Bangladesh border, beginning with the plains, to prevent infiltration.

(B)    Detect illegal immigrants, delete their names from the voters' list and arrange for their deportation without any further delay

(C)   Declare all property deals between INDIANS AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AS NULL AND VOID.

(D)    Amend the immigration rules and other laws to impose stringent checks on illegal entry into India

(E)Expedite the issuance of identity cards to all citizens of the country."

   " The party reiterated its pledges in this regard in its manifesto for the 1999 elections. It declared: " The Congress and United Front Governments for their own narrow and selfish reasons have been deliberately negligent of this problem. The total number of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh is officially ascertained at over 1.7 crore. The adverse impact of this on our economy and social and political order poses problems of grave magnitude. This cannot be allowed to continue. Our government will:

(A)    Take more stringent measures to intercept illegal infiltrators and turn them back. Fencing of border wherever possible will be urgently taken up. Border patrolling will be intensified.

(B)    Initiate steps to detect illegal infiltrators and delete their names from electoral rolls

(C)    Maintain National Register of citizens.


24. " But the Party had to team up with a number of Allies. Together, they pledged to work according to a Common Minimum Programme. This document DID NOT MENTION THE SUBJECT AT ALL."

About Shourie's book
Can officers use red or green ink of files? A simple question, you may think. But in Government it is enough to set off meetings, letters, references to other ministries that stretch over a year, A tree falls on to the house of the Indian High Commissioner; memos fly to and from, and for nine years Government cogitates, and deliberates, and weighs pros and cons, unable to decide who is to repair the house, and how.

From such trifles to matters that spell the difference between life and death, the same pattern, Environment degenerates. Laws are passed. Rules are formulated under those laws. Boards are set up to enforce the laws, the rules, The degradation accelerates, Intelligence agencies, governors, experts on national security issues warning upon warning about the peril that the demographic inundation from Bangladesh spells for our country.

Political parties keep quarreling about the matter. Ministers keep issuing statements, and disowning them. Governments keep ordering intelligence agencies to prepare position papers, and then up-dates of position papers. Legislatures keep drawing the warnings. Courts keep adjourning hearings. The inundation continues, Governments shut their eyes to a problem. The problem swells. Governments look the other way. The problem explodes. Governments set up an institution to tackle it.

Five years later, exactly what had been forecast comes to pass-the problem is still there, and the institution has become another problem, As the institution has not worked, a law is passed. As the law is not enforced, amendments are decreed that make penalties under the law more frightening. Legislation as a substitute for enforcement. Vision statements, plan documents, strategy papers as a substitute for execution.

Can we compete with modern China with mores of the Kuomintang?

Improving governance is the reform we need. But how is reform to be brought about when every proposal-whether it be electoral reform or getting the Government out of running hotels-has to be put through the same winding, interminable loops? How is the system to be overhauled when the decision to reform it, and the wherewithal to carry through that decision lie in the hands of the very ones who benefit from arrangements as they are at present? Can the structures be reformed at all? Or does what was done with Industrial Licensing, with import and export controls, does what Arun Shourie strove to ensure in the telecom sector, show the way? That is, wherever possible, to jettison the function? With a wealth of primary material, Shourie argues that the only way ahead is to revolutionize the nature of the Indian State-from the principal Engine of Growth it was taken to be in the 50s and 60s from The Great Monitor it became in the 70s and 80s, to an enabling State, a State that clears the way so that others may do their best for the country. A leaner State, but one that performs those fewer, and indispensable functions better. A rare glimpse into what has become of governance.