Hindu Vivek Kendra

1. There are essentially two types of migrants from a country. one is due to persecution for various reasons, and the other is an economic migrant.  In analysing the issue of illegal migrants in India a clear cut distinction is not made.  This note will try to address this subject in a logical manner.

2. Persecution is essentially either for political reasons or religious.  The return of the person to his own homeland can take place only when there are circumstances which remove the cause of the persecution.  In such a case the persons are given asylum in the adopted country, since it would be inhuman to send them back, knowing fully well that they will not have normal civil liberties and in many cases their lives will be in danger. Political asylum seekers usually tend to be small in number, while those persecuted for religious reasons may well be significant in numbers.

3. An economic migrant does not receive these privileges, since the economic hardship is not specifically directed towards a particular section of the people.  The people's right to vote is not affected, and there is a possibility that there can be a change in government, so that the right economic policies are implemented. Economic migrants also will tend to be much larger and places a substantial monetary burden on the host country.

4. In the past, political asylum seekers have tended to go to either the United States or Europe. Countries like Germany had relatively lenient laws in this respect.  But, there has been tendency to misuse these facilities, and the same have been tightened. It is easy to identify such asylum seekers, since with the wide reach of information systems, those who are politically persecuted become well known even before they leave their homelands. The case in point is the students who led the Tinamen Square protest in China.

5. Religious persecution in the recent past has been relatively small, considering the number of such cases. However, in India this has special significance, particularly with the two important neighbours - Pakistan and Bangladesh having declared themselves-to be Islamic nations.  In case of the former, the stream of Hindu migrants has continued unabated since the time of independence in 1947, and a Hindu population of a little more than 20% has now been reduced to less than 1.5%. The numbers at any one time were small, and the absorption of this population was not a difficult task.

6. In case of Bangladesh, the Hindu migration of a large scale is a relatively new phenomenon, because traditionally the Bengali identity was more predominant than the religious one. (Of course, one cannot forget the massacre of Hindus in Naokhali and Calcutta in the pre-independence period.) The first major migration took place just before the Bangladesh war, and in the early 1970s a huge wave of Hindus had to flee their homes in Bangladesh. With the establishment of Mujibur Rehman as the Prime Minister, most of these were able to go back, and there was period of relative communal harmony in Bangladesh.  With his assassination, and due to the pampering of the Islamic fundamentalist, things have become quite bad, and the religious persecution of the Hindus has increased.  Swt Taslima Nasreem's Lajja gives a graphic description of what has happened. (It should be stressed here that the events of December 6, 1992, had no bearing on the persecution, which was prevalent even before the Ram Janmabhoomi movement came on the national agenda in the country.)

7. In case of Bangladesh, another group that had to flee its home are the Chakmas. Those who have become migrants due to religious persecution have to receive a special treatment in their host countries.  India is the logical host since the religions of both the groups have their origins in this country. To ask them to go back, knowing fully well that they will be persecuted, is an inhuman act.  Bangladesh itself was a recipient of the Muslims from Burma.  Attempts were made for forcible repatriation, which were violently resisted by the Burmese Muslims. It required a huge effort on part of the United Nations to create adequate conditions for their return.  While the Chakmas are being asked to go back, based on an assurance by the Bangladesh government, to what extent the ground reality will permit a permanent return has to be seen. However, considering the track record, it is difficult to foresee a condition, at least in the medium future, that the Hindus will be able to go back.  It has to be remembered that the Chakmas live in a small part, and mostly hilly areas, where they can defend themselves better.  The Hindus are scattered all over, living in mostly urban areas and self-protection is impossible in such situations.

8. In the international context, the issue of economic migration can be seen in the context of the boat people from Vietnam. (It has to be remembered that there was an ethnic angle also, since most of these boat people were of Chinese origin.) Countries like Hong Kong have kept them in separate camps, and are now being repatriated. other countries like Malaysia would not permit the boats to land, irrespective of the condition of the vessels, and in many cases knowing fully well that the chances of survival is very poor if not non-existent.

9. The economic migration into India is a very insidious programme, and requires to be handled as such.  The first such cases started during the time of Shri Fakruddin Ali Ahmed in Assam. it was done also to create a block of votes which would enable him to win the elections without going through the legitimate political process. The methodology that was adopted was to grant these people first the ration card, on the basis of which they got enrolled on the electoral rolls. The scale of this infiltration was such that we have had the instance of the AGP and AASU having to take the matter up in the streets. The violence during this period is well known.

10. This 'success' encouraged Congress and Communist politicians in other parts of India to emulate the method, and this illegal migration is now a problem in Bihar, Delhi, Bombay, and many other places in the country. These people are able to merge with the local population, and invariably live together in certain areas in the cities concerned.  Identification can only be done by special programmes. However, in most of the places the government machinery is in the control of the very political party that benefits, in electoral terms, by the presence of the illegal migrants.  With the seriousness with which the Chief Election Commissioner has taken up the issue, things have become difficult for these governments. The programme now is to confuse the issue, and passing on the responsibility from one department within the government to another.

11. Due to the concentration of the illegal immigrants in certain pockets, they determine the fate of the election there. Thus, the person that wins will be chosen not by Indians, but by foreigners.  They can well form significant blocks, whose interest will necessarily clash with those of the country. One thus sees a major security throat in the situation.  In addition, economic policies will also be determined by foreigners, through subversion of the political process.

12. It has also to be understood that India is a poor country with a large number of unemployed people.  The illegal immigrant is thus taking away a job away from a legitimate citizen of the country, increasing the economic burden on India, leading to higher taxes and utilising its resources not in the best interest of the country.  In developed countries like Germany and the United States one sees a reaction from the local people whenever they feel threatened by the foreign worker, even though most of them may be there legally. Not having loyalty to their adopted country, the illegal immigrants are more likely to involve themselves in unlawful activities, and this danger increases when these immigrant:. have political patronage.

13. That there are illegal economic immigrants in this country is accepted.  That they are on the electoral rolls is also accepted.  It is further accepted that they have to be removed from these rolls.  How this is to be done can be a matter of discussion.  But if it is not done quickly, then the consequences will be disastrous.

November 94.

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