Of all kinds of migration, illegal migration has become the most volatile and contentious issue in Indian polity today because of the socio-political conflicts it has brought in its wake. Illegal migration comprises of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country.
From the eastern borders, Bangladeshi illegal immigration has changed the demography of northeast especially Assam. More recently, there has been an influx of Rohingyas who are prosecuted in the Myanmar. From the northern borders, mainly persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan and Afghanistan have come to India. Often it has posed a security threat for India, especially in Kashmir where militants infiltrate through Line of Control.
Issue of illegal immigration into India
- Increasing pressure on land and mounting unemployment in Bangladesh due to steep rise in population. Porous India-Bangladesh border of 4,096 kms is also another major factor.
- Stagnant Economic Growth and Lack of Employment: Industrialisation in India’s neighbouring countries has not been able to keep pace with the growing labour force and as a result, the unemployment rate is declining. The working-age people who are unable to find jobs in the country look outside for employment opportunities.
- Illegal voters: Most of the Bangladeshi immigrants have got their names enlisted in the voting list illegally, thereby claiming themselves as citizens of the state.
- Religious Discrimination: In Bangladesh, the already discriminatory land laws were further manipulated by vested interest groups and corrupt administrators to dispossess and alienate the Hindus from their own land and property. Religion has a particular effect in the case of the Rohingya
- Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism: Militants and people are infiltrating into Kashmir to create unrest and keep India embroiled in the decades long issue posing the biggest security threat.
- Issue of terrorism: Pakistan’s ISI has been active in Bangladesh supporting militant movements in Assam. It is alleged that among the illegal migrants there are also militants, who enter into Assam to carry out the terrorist activities.
- Diplomatic Effort: India has to make diplomatic effort to get Bangladesh to cooperate as illegal migration cannot be solved unless origin country cooperates. Sharing of digital database of its citizens will make it easier.
- Better Border Management: Fencing, construction of border roads and proper management of border will make a difference. Like engaging in proactive patrolling of the India-Bangladesh and India- Myanmar international borders.
- Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme: Compilation of data is likely to reduce the comfort level of fresh illegal migrants.
- Bar from Voting rights: Bangladeshi who are already in could be allowed to work but should not be allowed to vote and this will diminish their ability to influence government decisions by being a political force.
- Use of regional forums: Forums like BIMSTEC can be used to discuss issues like illegal migration from neighbouring countries and garnering support and coordination from the members.
- Dispute resolution: Government should resolve pending border disputes with the neighbouring countries, as they later become matters of national-security threat.
- No diversion of security forces: The border-guarding force should not be distracted from its principal task and deployed for other internal security duties. For eg- Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), a force specifically trained for India- China border should not be used in the Naxalite-infested areas.
- Involvement of army: It is felt that the responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the LoC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the Indian Army while the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders.
Illegal migration into India has continued unabated since independence. As lakhs of undocumented migrants fleeing either politico-religious persecution or economic deprivation crossed the border and settled in the border states of India, it created conflict between the host population and the immigrants. Thus, it is important to tackle the issue of illegal migration very carefully in order to safeguards India’s interests.