Starting with West Bengal, why the Home Minister’s pitch for an NRC across India is valid

Vicky Nanjappa

New Delhi, Nov 20: Union Home Minister, Amit Shah said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be carried out across the country on the lines of Assam. He said that there is no need for people of any religion to be worried about it.

The NRC does not have any provision that says certain religions will be excluded and all citizens of India irrespective of religion will figure in the NRC list, Shah also said while also stating that this is different from the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The need for an NRC is extremely important considering the fact that there are 2 crore illegal immigrants staying in India. In 2004, the then minister of state for home, Sriprakash Jaiswal had said that there were around 12 million such people living in 17 states and union territories as on December 31, 2001. He had said that Assam accounted for 50 lakh and West Bengal 57 lakh Bangladeshi immigrants living illegally.

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Back in 2012, the Intelligence Bureau had reported that the issue was catching up like wildfire in the states of West Bengal, Kerala, Telangana (then AP) and Karnataka. The report stated that there are all sorts of people. Many are here in search of a livelihood, but then there are many who indulge in illegal activities such as smuggling as drugs and sometimes arms. They come into the country through West Bengal and gradually move into other parts of the country. While touts and middlemen help them with documents, there are others who take advantage of their poor living conditions and lure them with money in order to carry out illegal activities.

Officials point out that there is a need to deal with this issue with an iron hand. In this context, we must take a look at what former Pakistan prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said in his book. He had said, "it would be wrong to think that Kashmir is the only dispute that divides India and Pakistan, though undoubtedly the most significant. One at least is nearly as important as the Kashmir dispute, that of Assam and some districts of India adjacent to East Pakistan. To these Pakistan has very good claims."

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his book, Eastern Pakistan: Its Population and Economics, said, "because Eastern Pakistan must have sufficient land for its expansion and because Assam has abundant forests and mineral resources, coal, petroleum etc., Eastern Pakistan must include Assam to be financially and economically strong".

Former Governor of Assam, S K Sinha had said that secular parties and the minorities do not see any danger from illegal migration. They believe that most of the so-called illegal migrants are Bengali speaking Indian Muslims and this issue has been unnecessarily blown out of proportion. They fear that in the garb of deporting foreigners, Indian Muslims will be harassed.

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Over the years political parties have completely neglected this issue. It has become a ticking time bomb and if one sees the emergence of the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami in India, it is clear that the outfit was able to position itself with the help of these illegal immigrants. The incident at Burdwan was yet another reminder of this. Bombs were being prepared in West Bengal with the help of such people who were to ferry it across and carry out a series of blasts.

A former officer with the Research and Analysis Wing, Amar Bhushan says that this is a dangerous issue. He says that in the early 1990s, the Research and Analysis Wing carried out a daredevil operation in Bangladesh against the activities of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The intention behind the operation was a larger one and India was clearly worried about the rise of illegal immigration which the Jamaat was carrying out at the behest of the ISI.

The agenda was a larger one and after losing out on Bangladesh, the ISI wanted to infiltrate as many Muslims as possible in a bid to either merge a portion of India with Bangladesh or divide the nation.
Bhushan who has written about this mission in his latest book- The Zero Cost Mission/The Wily Agent says that they were alarmed by the spurt in illegal immigration into India.

Militancy was not exactly the problem and the Jamaat was not too big an outfit back then. The problem was that they were helping the ISI's larger design of increasing illegal immigration into India, Bhushan tells OneIndia.

The illegal immigration that takes place assumes worrying propositions. An intelligence file clearly suggests that illegal immigration from Bangladesh are part of a devious agenda to set up a Greater East Pakistan/Bangladesh.

Amidst this, there was another report of how some locals in West Bengal with the help of illegal migrants from Bangladeshis had planned on declaring azadi in Murshidabad. The Intelligence had picked up information that a group of highly radicalised people were making attempts to take on the establishment. These persons who were in touch with their handlers in Bangladesh were gradually building momentum in the area and had decided to declare freedom from India. The Intelligence says that the plan was hatched several years back and it was decided that these elements wanted to declare freedom and fight to merge with Bangladesh.

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Secret meetings were held in madrasas and other areas to plan the movement. It was decided to either merge Murshidabad with Bangladesh or remain independent. The plotters had even managed to rope in several like-minded locals into their fold. The funds too were being raised through various mechanisms that included fake currency peddling and also donations. Bangladesh trained terrorists were preparing for a launch into this region and carry out a series of spectacular attacks. However, there were some tough measures that finally foiled the movement, a highly placed source said.

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