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Photos: Fences and Forces, India's Futile Attempt At Curbing Illegal Immigration

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In late-2009, I wrote in an article that the trump card for wining an election in a significant number of Parliamentary Constituencies and Assembly Constituencies in India - in states such as Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Bihar, Maharashtra and even Delhi - lies in the hands of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Almost three years later, the case is the same. In Assam, for instance, Bangladeshi immigrants are the majority in 11 (up from 7 in 2009) of the 27 districts. According to Indian Intelligence Reports, Bangladeshi immigrants dominate as many as 40-46 of the 126 ACs in Assam, and that number is expected to rise to 54 by 2015, enabling Bangladeshi voters to potentially appoint a chief minister of their own in the state government.

Bangladeshis Claim Residency, Citizenship and Voting Rights in Assam

See the Photo Story below, in the slideshow. Photos by Shib Shankar Chatterjee.

Taking advantage of this influx, Bangladeshi immigrants - usually Bengali-speaking Muslims come for food, clothing, shelter, joba and a better life - apart from anti-social and religious fundamental activities. Bengali-speaking Hindus come to escape religious persecution, Pan-Islamic Religious Fundamental inhuman activities, and because they are unable to access government and non governmental facilities, and schemes in Bangladesh.

It has been found that Bengali-speaking Muslims have begun to use photocopies of Indian National Residential Certificates, Permanent Residential Certificates, Voter ID cards, passports, ration cards, and certified copies from the village panchayat leaders. They use these fake or duplicate documents to falsely prove residence in Assam state. With these documents and others, they can acquire Indian citizenship or register their names on the voter's list.

Politicians Need Support Of Illegal Bangladeshis

As a result, no party or leader in Assam state can now dream of coming to power without the support of the Bangladeshi migrants. This reality has led the indigenous population of Assam - and the Indian Northeast at large - to fear the loss of majority in their state, and the loss of their ethnic identity.

This fear was largely responsible for the fatal clashes between Bodos and Muslims in Assam in July, 2012 and earlier, since 1979. However, the Bengali Speaking Religious Minority Muslim Community and their leaders do not accept this and they have even denied the fact.

In order to curb this systematic illegal immigration - and other activities such as illegal trade, cross-border insurgency, human trafficking, religious fundamentalism, and arms and drugs smuggling, the Government of India erected a barbed-wire fence along its 4096.70-kilometre border with Bangladesh.

Fences And Border Guards Not The Complete Answer

Monitoring the border are frontier guards, known as the Border Security Force (BSF) of India, considered one of the world's largest international border patrol forces. Yet, the situation in India today - especially in Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Tripura - is turning worse. With the BSF soldiers unable to contain illegal border activities, indigenous people increasingly feel invaded and insecure.

If the governments of India and Bangladesh leave the issue of illegal immigration solely to fences and border forces - which let immigrants in as easily as they evict them - ethnic violence is sure to escalate in the Indian Northeast in the near future.

  • Soldiers on Indo-Bangla BorderSoldiers of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) stand guard near the India-Bangladesh border at Sonahat village, Dhubri district, Assam.
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Shib Shankar Chatterjee is a former BBC, The Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Statesman Contributor from Northeast India, who specializes in investigations of important issues affecting the people of India and Bangladesh. Read more stories by Shib Shankar Chatterjee.

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