No migration from Bangla to Assam: B’desh minister

Rajeev Bhattacharyya
 DHAKA, Oct 31 – The pro-India Awami League-led government in Bangladesh does not believe that its citizens have been migrating to Assam and the Northeast and settling there for the past few decades, which is an admission bound to create ripples in a State where a hectic exercise is on to identify alien citizens from the neighbouring country. “We don’t see any migration for the last 30 years to the neighbouring state of Assam. Even in 1971, the people who migrated because of the Pakistani attacks (genocide) have come back again and some might have stayed back,” Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told this correspondent.

Explaining the absence of migration to Assam, the minister said that none of the bordering districts of Bangladesh had witnessed religious or ethnic disturbances which nullified all possibilities of people’s movement to the other side of the border. And, he added, there was no question of migration from districts in the country which were far-off from the border, since Assam and the Northeast were linguistically different and hence deemed unfriendly.

Inu admitted that migration from Bangladesh had taken place during the colonial period and the possibility of “temporary migration” for a few months to states like West Bengal and Tripura, where the migrants would feel at home because of the language, cannot be ruled out. “But Tripura has never spoken about migration from Bangladesh, and so we don’t think there has been movement of people to Assam in recent years.”

By referring to the peaceful situation in the districts contiguous to India, the minister sought to draw a distinction between the conditions prevailing along the Indo-Bangla and Myanmar-Bangladesh border regions. The migration of the Rohingyas to Bangladesh began after violence erupted in the neighbouring Rakhine state of Myanmar nearly two months ago and the brutal crackdown by the army on the community.

While it is true that the bordering districts of Bangladesh had hardly witnessed any turmoil, a combination of many factors has forced Bangladeshi citizens to land up in Assam, Northeast and other parts of India since the past several decades. While persecution and political circumstances forced millions to cross the border in 1947 and 1971, economic migrants eventually came in greater numbers to occupy vast swathes of land in Assam.

In the interview, the minister dropped another bombshell by claiming that the Indian government had never taken up the issue of migration with Dhaka in the past two decades, which flies in the face of repeated claims made by the Indian government that all efforts would be made to put an end to the menace. He informed that other issues like terrorism, smuggling, drug and human trafficking have been discussed regularly and mechanisms erected by the two countries to check the illicit activities.

It may be mentioned that Inu’s statement is similar to what former Deputy Commissioner of Bangladesh Mahboob Hasan Saleh had told reporters in Imphal on the sidelines of a seminar on August 17, 2012. He had said that illegal immigration was a “non-issue” since it had never figured in any discussion between the two neighbours.

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