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Bangladeshis- Unwanted guests in its neighboring countries

Aung Kyaw

Bangladeshi illegal immigrants to its neighboring countries cause great alarm in India and
Burma. The illegal immigrants’ issues have rocked Indian Parliament many times and caused
strong protests from students, civil societies and many intellectuals. The illegal immigrants pose
great danger to the Arakanese people in western Burma, and the large influx of immigrants
without any check could endanger Arakanese or cause minority in their own land. Some
humanitarian activists are supporting these illegal immigrants without taking account of
venerable people whose populations are very small.
There were 67,906 tribal people out of the total population of 91,765 in 1876 in Tripura State in
India (Naih). The tribal population of Tripura was reduced to minority people by these illegal
immigrants from Bangladesh. In the 1991 Indian census, there were 353,345 tribal people out of
2,757,205 of total population (Naih). According to the Home Ministry’s statistics of India, there
are 15 millions illegal immigrants in India from Bangladesh (Ved). According to Anand Kumar,
there are around 20 million illegal immigrants. The Assam governor said that around 6,000
illegal immigrants are entering Assam everyday (Sandham). If the statement of the Assam
governor is right, there would be 180,000 Bangladeshis a month and 2,160,000 a year. As India
is a country with varieties of languages and people, it is hard to detect these illegal immigrants.
The Bangladeshi immigrants speak Bengali, and India already has Bengali speaking people in
The 2001 Bangladesh census states that there are 123.1 million people with a density of 834
people square kilometer. The population could be doubled to 250 millions by 2050
(sdndbd.com). The area of Bangladesh is 144,000 square kilometers. The Bangladeshi population
is increasing immensely. Since 1965, the annual population growth has been estimated around
two to three per cent. The reason for the enormous population growth in Bangladesh is that the
Islamic law permits polygamy, and it is prevalent in Bangladesh (O’Donnell). Bangladeshis also
take pride in having many children to provide cheap labors instead of quality of life. According
to O’Donnell, most girls marry at the time of puberty or soon afterward. He further states that the
government does not keep family planning as a priority. The initiative of family planning called
“Family Planning Association” was twenty-first in the list of government priorities.
As illegal immigrants are increasing, the chief ministers from five states in the north eastern
states of India asked the federal government to increase security along the international borders
(Illegal). For political reasons, these illegal immigrants got voting rights in India, and they are
the vote bank of certain political parties. The Supreme Court of India issued notices to the federal
government of India and federal Election Commission on 10 December 2004 to strike off the
names of these illegal immigrants from voters’ lists (Reddy). The federal government of India
took up the issues with Bangladeshi government, but there has not been much result. In January
and February of 2003, the Union Home Minister urged the Bangladesh government to take back
its people from India. APJ Abdul Kalam, the president of India also voiced his concerned over
the illegal immigrants at the joint session of federal parliament (Pathania).
The government of India took many initiatives to protect its border from intruders or illegal
immigrants. It decided to fence its border with Bangladesh, a project that is to be completed by
2007. The government also established ‘border management’ within its ministry to focus
attention on border related issue. The government has also decided to issue national identity card
to track down illegal immigrants.
Contrast to Indian government, the Burma government has done nothing much to check illegal
immigrants. The district of Buthi Daun and Maung Daw in western Burma are now dominated
by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Now, these illegal immigrants are spread all over to
Arakan State and other parts of Burma. The illegal Muslims are now claiming themselves to be
of the “Rohingyas tribe,” but many Arakanese claim that there is no such word or people in
Arakan history. The Arakan National Council, the apex body of political parties and civil
societies of Arakan, has not recognized “Royingyas” and there is no “Rohingyas” in the list of
ethnics group in Arakan National Council website. In 1978, the Burmese government expelled
200,000 to Bangladesh (O’Donnell).
There are several reasons that cause large number of migrate to its neighboring countries. The
first reason is a basic need. As the population is so large, food and shelters become scare because
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. The other reasons are economics and
politics. After 1970s, there was political instability in Bangladesh (Datta). There is less
employment opportunity and the neighboring countries are better in economics than Bangladesh.
In Arakan State in Burma, they farm, fish and perform other prosperous economic activities.
Unless the Bangladesh rejects Islamic laws of polygamy and enforces effective family planning,
population will be growing. The growing population will make the country lag behind other
countries, and it can also provoke its neighboring countries on the issue of illegal immigrants,
because Bangladeshis will migrate to India and Burma as long as population is growing.
• Arakan National Council. 25 Aug. 2005 <http://www.arakananc.org>.
• Datta, Pranati. "Push-pull factors of undocumented migration from Bangladesh to West
Bengal: A perception study." The Qualitative Report 9 (2004): 335-357.
• Naih, Mottoj K. "Mapping North East India''''s foreign policy: Looking past, present and
beyond." The Indian Journal of Political Science (2004): 636-653.
• O''''donnell, Charles P. Bangladesh: Biography of a Muslim Nation. Boulder: Westview
• Pathania, Jyoti M. "India & Bangladesh: Migration matrix-Reactive and not proactive."
South Asia Analysis Group. 17 Mar. 2003. 24 Aug.
2005 <http://saag.org/papers7/paper632.html>.
• Sdnp. "Population explosion & Bangladesh." Sustainable Development Networking
Program. 11 July 2004. 24 Aug. 2005
• Reddy, Balaji. "Bangladeshis - Is congress playing games with India''''s illegal
problem to get more Muslim votes?" India Daily. 11 Dec. 2004. 25 Aug. 2005
• Sandham, Oken J. "Will illegal migrants outnumber the people of north-east India in 20
years?" Asian Tribune 30 May 2005. 25 Aug. 2005
• Ved, Mahendra. "Trade more with Bangladesh." The times of India 25 July 2005. 25
Aug. 2005 <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1181155.cms