The Silent Demographic Invasion
|Indian officials know very well that Bangladesh is a breeding ground for terrorist attacks against India. Yet nothing is being done to warn Dhaka|
Months continued to roll by. The BJP had taken up the issue. The Cabinet had decided that the IMDT Act shall be repealed. But nothing happened on the ground. Quite the contrary. With a new Congress Government in office in Assam, a Government dependent on the votes of the beneficiaries of the country’s inability to act on the question, ULFA had an even freer hand. The extent of the change will be evident from a single fact. When the Government of Bhutan, at great risk to itself, flushed out the ULFA cadre, the latter came back to Assam. For it was now the safe expanse for them! Intelligence agencies warned, the highest personages in the State warned that ULFA were extorting vast amounts again, that they were using these to re-arm, that this would spell disaster soon enough... That the situation in Manipur was deteriorating by the week... That several of the ULFA cadre had begun to establish camps in part even of Meghalaya...
In Delhi the Directors General of Police met again in a much publicized conference. The Intelligence Bureau made a presentation on the illegal immigration from Bangladesh, on how that country was continuing to be a haven for terrorists striking at India, and how the two phenomena together constituted a grave danger to our national security. The press was formally briefed about the presentation. Papers carried elements of it. A journalist brought me the copy of the note that had been distributed.
The note repays reading: for both reasons — it shows once again the twin facts: everyone knows what is going on, and yet nothing gets done. Here is the text of the note.
There has been an accretion to India’s security threats from Bangladesh, particularly after the formation of the BNP-led government there in October 2001. The points of concern include:
• 1. Shelter and training to Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) and use of BD soil for carrying out actions in our border States;
• 2. Acquisition of arms by IIGs in Bangladesh and their transportation for use in India;
• 3. Growth of radical Islamic groups as also private madrasas spewing hatred against India;
• 4. Enlargement of ISI activities with increasing use of Bangladesh soil for espionage in India as also terrorist actions by radical Islamic groups;
• 5. Efforts to subvert sections in India’s border States with indoctrination and training being provided to such elements;
• 6. Continuing inflow of illegal migrants resulting in demographic distortions and growing political clout of such illegal migrants in some border States.
The 4096-km long and porous Indo-Bangladesh border makes for easy crossing. The problem of continued unabated influx of largescale (over 15 millions) illegal Bangladesh migrants into India has assumed serious security implications. Illegal BD migrants, driven by economic forces, have settled in various States including West Bengal (79 lakhs), Assam (50 lakhs), Bihar (4.75 lakhs in the north-eastern districts including Katihar, Sahebganj, Kishanganj and Purnia), Tripura (3.75 lakhs) and Delhi (3.7 lakhs). In Nagaland, the population of Muslims, mostly illegal migrants from Bangladesh, has more than trebled in the last decade — the figures rising from 20,000 in 1991 to over 75,000. Similarly, in Mizoram also, there has been a growth in the numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants though firm estimates are not yet available.
The illegal BD migrants have significantly altered the demographic complexion particularly of the border districts of West Bengal and Assam. Their ability to obtain ration cards as also enroll themselves as voters not only gives them a back-door entry to Indian citizenship but also provides them with a political clout that facilitates settlement of more Bangladeshi illegals in our country. In Assam, the illegal migrants are able to affect State politics in a major way with their having acquired a critical say in around 50 of the 126 Assembly constituences in the State. Their presence has already led to a major movement against them in Assam and in Nagaland. Also their presence is being increasingly resented by the locals. The North East Students Organization (NESO) has also taken up the issue of illegal migration and repeal of IMDT Act with increased fervour.
Besides the demographic threat, the support to the NE-based IIGs in Bangladesh, by its Army and security agencies, has become stronger. The IIGs use BD soil for shelter, training and storage and transport of arms as well as carrying out actions in India. All the major outfits in Tripura (NLFT, ATTF), Assam (ULFA, NDFB), Meghalaya (HNLC, ANVC), Nagaland (NSCN/IM), NSCN/K) and Manipur (PLA, UNLF)) have such camps primarily in the districts of Bandarban, Rangamati, Chittagong, Khagrachari, Moulvi Bazar, Habibganj, Sylhet, Mymensingh, Kurigram, Comilla and Dhaka. Cox’s Bazar is the main reception point for foreign arms whereafter these are transported to India through land routes in Bangladesh.
Several top IIG leaders stay in Bangladesh, some with their families. These include Paresh Barua (C-in-C, ULFA), Ranjan Daimary (President, NDFB), Julius Dorphang (Chairman, HNLC), Dilash Marak (Chairman, ANVC), Bishwamohan Debbarma (President, NLFT) and Ranjit Debbarma (President, ATTF). These leaders are known to be in contact with Bangladesh security agencies as also the ISI. Most of the IIG leaders use Bangladesh passports, as these are easily available.
Bangladesh, particularly Dhaka, has been used as a staging point for sending members of both IIGs and jehadi groups to Pakistan and Afghanistan as also for their infiltration into India for action. Three ATTF Ugs (underground operators), who surrendered before security forces on October 2, 2002 revealed that ISI had arranged a 6-month training for 8 ATTF UGs at Kandahar (Afghanistan) and they were flown to Kandahar from Dhaka. Two senior leaders of NDFB (Dhiren Boro, Vice President, arrested on January 1, 2003 and Gobinda Basumatary, General Secretary, arrested on December 5, 2002) disclosed the instrumentality of ISI in training of NDFB cadres in Pakistan with the cadres being sent from and returning to Dhaka. The interrogation/ debriefing reports of several ULFA leaders including Pradip Gogoi (Vice Chairman, presently in jail) and Lohit Deori revealed that several batches of ULFA cadres were flown to Pakistan from Dhaka for imparting training, which was arranged by ISI.
Asghar Ali (R/o Nalgonda, Andhra Pradesh), the person responsible for the kiling of Haren Pandya, former Gujarat Home Minister, revealed during interrogation that at least 8 Muslim youths were sent to Bangladesh through Kolkata for onward journey to Pakistan for training around December 2002. Qari Salim, an ISI operative and a HuM cadre who was arrested in Guwahati in 1999, had revealed that he had come via Bangladesh and was tasked to carry out sabotage activities on the Leh-Manali Highway. The persons involved in conspiracy of the hijacking of IC-814 from Kathmandu in December 1999 had used Bangladesh for their movement to India from Pakistan.
Pak Intelligence Offices (PIOs) in Dhaka are becoming increasingly active in espionage against India. In 2002, three modules being run by PIOs from Dhaka, and using some BD operatives, were busted. A large number of secret documents and photographs of sensitive defence locations were recovered. Another module run by a PIO from Dhaka, also using a BD operative, was exposed in August 2003 in Sikkim while collecting defence related information pertaining to deployment/ movement of Indian Army in sensitive North Bengal and Sikkim area.
Meanwhile, within Bangladesh there has been a steady growth of the Wahabi brand of Islam, which encourages ‘jehadi’ terrorism. The ‘Qaumi’ madrasas of Bangladesh (estimated to be 90% of total one lakh madrasas which are outside the ambit of government control) are the main purveyors of its doctrines with India-baiting remaining a lynchpin of their teachings. The financial aid to these madrasas comes through charities mainly from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The madrasas are used for indoctrination of youths from both sides of the border, as also shelter/ transit point by military/ suspected Pak ISI operatives, as also as training centers by fundamentalist outfits like HUJAI, JEI, ICS, IOJ, and for infiltration into India.
Islamic organizations in Bangladesh have been distributing anti-India and fundamentalist propaganda material in North East. During October-November 2001, calendars depicting Osama bin Laden were found in circulation in Karimganj district of Assam. Police also seized CDs and audio-cassettes at Tezpur (Nov 2001) and at Karimganj (Nov 2002) containing anti-India inflammatory speeches of Moulana Dilawar Hussain Syeedi, a JEI-BD MP. The radical ambience in Bangladesh has encouraged the growth of a number of ‘jehadi’ groups including the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJAI-BD), Jamait-ul-Mujaheedin (JUM), Shahadat-e-Al-Hukma and Jaish-e-Mustafa. The presence of JEI-BD in the government and Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) in the ruling alliance provides protection and encouragement to their activities as also to the indoctrination, training and shelter to radical Islamic groups from India including the SIMI, MULTA and Islamic United Reformation Protest of India (IURPI).
The growth of the clout of radical Islamic forces in Bangladesh, the increasing activities of the ISI there and the susceptibilities of the BD Government to such forces predicates greater attention to this front. A section of Bangladeshi opinion makers have already been talking of a Bangladeshi lebensraum in our North East. Besides a response at the political level, there is need for greater focus on the Indo-BD border and closer coordination between the security agencies, border guarding forces and State Police forces for an effective response to the growing threat from Bangladesh.
• • •
The presentation done, the meeting over, the press having been briefed, things continued exactly as before.
Months passed. The BJP took up the issue again. Resolutions were drafted, proposed, passed, released to the press. Public meetings were addressed in Assam. Pledges were again made that the IMDT Act would be repealed... In the meantime, elections to the Lok Sabha were called.
And in those elections, the Government from which some hope could have been entertained for scrapping the IMDT Act was swept from office. The Congress — the very party that had been the major beneficiary of enrolling Bangladeshis onto electoral rolls — was the dominant constituent of the new Government. And the Communists — who would never allow any advance in the matter — were the principal props of the new Government.
The person — Anwara Taimur — who had become a major symbol of the regime that was getting Bangladeshis onto electoral rolls to perpetuate itself, was sworn in as Member of the Rajya Sabha on 4 June, 2004...