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Before election, Mamata playing illegal Bangladeshi immigrants card

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By Amitava Mukherjee

New Delhi: A dangerous situation may arise in the country if Mamata Banerjee’s demand for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi immigrants living in India for more than five years is conceded.

The West Bengal chief minister has called for restoration of the district magistrates’ former rights to grant citizenship which, in effect, may facilitate further immigration from Bangladesh.

The situation in West Bengal is so grim that as early as in the 1980s T V Rajeswar, a former IB director and former governor of the state, was forced to write in a mass circulation daily cautioning against heavy infiltration from Bangladesh.

His article averred that in the 1981 census, the total population growth rate for West Bengal was 23.2 percent while that of the minority community was 29.6 percent. In the same census, the overall yearly population growth of the state was 2.3 percent. But in the districts bordering Bangladesh the figures were higher: 2.7 percent in 24 Parganas, 3.3 percent in Nadia, 2.55 percent in Murshidabad, and 2.66 percent in both Malda and Jalpaiguri.

The same pattern continued in the 1991 census. The average population growth rate of West Bengal was 24.73 percent – quite an abnormally high figure. But the districts bordering Bangladesh showed even higher figures: North Dinajpore (34 percent), North 24 Parganas (31.69 percent), South 24 Parganas (30.24 percent), Murshidabad (28.20 percent) and Nadia (29.95 percent). This proved that illegal immigration from Bangladesh was continuing. It is continuing unchecked even today.

The issue is sensitive and must be handled with statesmanship. Banerjee is playing this card a bit rashly with an eye on the coming election as she has reasons to be somewhat worried about a probable Left Front-Congress electoral understanding. But she has picked up the right point from this complicated maze of population movement.

Although Rajeswar had mentioned the abnormal rise of the minority population in the 1981 census, he had missed one vital point: exodus of the Hindus from Bangladesh since the birth of that nation. The hard truth is that both Hindus and Muslims are emigrating from Bangladesh to India and there is no point in giving it a communal character.

The only logical reason behind Banerjee’s demand for granting citizenship to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants may be her fright that a significant quantum of votes which the BJP could garner in the last parliamentary election may be transferred this time to either the Left or the Congress.

In the last municipality elections, the BJP’s share of votes had dwindled by about 50 percent and this portion had found its way to the Left kitty. As most of these municipalities are situated in the Indo-Bangladesh border areas, playing the “citizenship for the immigrants” card may have temptations.

It is likely that the BJP, too, will lap up this issue. During the last parliamentary poll campaign, Narendra Modi held out promises in this regard. Some time back Rajnath Singh, the union home minister, had lamented about the centre’s inability on the issue as the BJP does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

The issue has now become a double-edged weapon. On one hand, voting patterns in large numbers of constituencies in 24 Parganas (North) , 24 Parganas (South), Kolkata, Nadia and several districts of north Bengal may be affected by majoritarian sentiments arising out of the issue. On the other hand, the minority community can also influence results in 60-odd constituencies.

West Bengal is now sitting on a powder keg and no one should try to disturb the fragile equilibrium that is still holding the social fabric together. There is no point in crying over Muslim immigration from Bangladesh. Hindus are also coming. In 1951, East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, had 22 percent Hindus. Now the number has come down to a mere seven percent. Where are they going ? The natural answer is India.

Moreover, Bangladesh being a Muslim-majority country, it is but natural that there will be a considerable number of Muslims among the emigrants. Trying to give a communal colour to it will be unjust.

In 1951, West Bengal’s population had 79.40 percent Hindus and 18.63 percent Muslims. In 1981 the number of Hindus decreased to 77.10 percent while that of the Muslims increased up to 21.55 percent. In 2001, the share of the Hindus in the total population further came down to 72.90 percent, but the Muslims’ share jumped up to 25.37 percent.

As per the 2011 census, Hindus now constitute 72.5 percent of the population of the state. No doubt it shows a decline. This declining trend is noticeable in the minority community’s share of the total population also at 25.2 percent. But the rate of decrease is slower.

Many experts have however expressed reservations about the sharp decrease in the population growth rate in West Bengal during 2001-2011. According to the 2011 census, the growth rate was 17.84 percent in 2001 but nosedived to 13.84 percent in 2011.

Any attempt to give citizenship to Bangladeshi illegal immigrants may seriously jeopardize the political, social and economic life of the country as well as its security scenario too. West Bengal or the north eastern Indian states can no longer accommodate the Bangladeshis. So neither Mamata Banerjee nor any other political party should tinker with such an explosive situation. (IANS)

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First satellite launched by Bangladesh

It was successfully deployed at Bangladesh's specified orbit slot "within 36 minutes" of the launch and two ground stations in Bangladesh received test signals from it, said State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak at the Kennedy Space Centre in the US.

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In September 2016, Bangladesh signed a 14 billion taka ($180 million) loan agreement with Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) to finance the country's first-ever satellite.
Satellite, pixabay

Bangladesh launched its first satellite, “Bangabandhu-1”, on Saturday, becoming the 57th nation in the world and fourth in South Asia after India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to own a satellite.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted the communication satellite, named after the Bangladesh founder, early in the morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida, bdnews24 reported.

It was successfully deployed at Bangladesh’s specified orbit slot “within 36 minutes” of the launch and two ground stations in Bangladesh received test signals from it, said State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak at the Kennedy Space Centre in the US.

The launch was telecast live in Bangladesh, with experts saying it will serve as a milestone in the telecommunication sector.

“The satellite will be a great addition to our Information Technology heralding our entry into the Satellite Club of the world,” said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a message.

"The satellite will be a great addition to our Information Technology heralding our entry into the Satellite Club of the world," said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a message.
Bangladesh, pixabay

“The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 will certainly bring revolutionary changes in our broadcast and telecommunications sector. With this launching, we’ve hoisted the Bangladesh flag in the space… entered a new era.”

She thanked the satellite building and launching company, the US and the French governments for their support. Hasina also praised Russia for renting its orbital slot to Bangladesh.

Experts said that the country’s first geostationary communication satellite will give extra space to the digitization process. It will help expand Internet and telecommunication services in remote and rugged areas which still remained beyond the coverage.

Once the satellite becomes active at its orbital slot, it will be reportedly controlled from three stations in the US, Italy and South Korea for about a month. Finally, the satellite will be controlled and maintained from ground stations in Bangladesh.

In September 2016, Bangladesh signed a 14 billion taka ($180 million) loan agreement with Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) to finance the country’s first-ever satellite.

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In November 2015, Bangladesh signed a 19.51 billion taka ($248 million) deal with French firm Thales Alenia Space for the satellite project.

The Bangladeshi government also purchased a 119.1 east longitude orbital slot from Russia-based Intersputnik for 15 years for $28 million. (IANS)