The illegal influx of numerous Rohingyas and Bangladeshis into India through the porous India-Bangladesh border along Tripura, Assam and Bengal continues unabated.
This despite the many measures--erecting barbed wire fences and increasing patrolling along the border, cracking down on the network of touts involved in trafficking and boosting vigilance, among others--that have been taken to stop the influx.
Recent reports from Tripura, through which a large number of Rohingyas enter India, indicate that despite the arrest of many touts in a joint operation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Assam Police’s Special Task Force (STF) (read this), the illegal influx continues.
Security and law enforcement agencies in Tripura and Assam routinely apprehend Rohingyas and Bangladeshis who have entered India illegally. Most of these infiltrators are arrested while traveling by train to Delhi and other cities in India.
The police forces of both these states have also mounted vigil to identify infiltrators who have taken refuge within their respective states. The weak link here is Bengal which, under Mamata Banerjee, covertly encourages this infiltration and facilitates the process of the infiltrators getting Indian citizenship.
But all the measures like fencing the border and stepping up vigil amount to only tackling the symptoms of the disease and not the disease itself.
The plain truth is that Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims can enter India illegally not just because of the touts, but because of the ecosystem that facilitates and aids their illegal entry into India.
It is also a known fact that most of the infiltration (coordinated by touts and agents on both sides of the border) happen with the tacit connivance of the BSF and local police. The recent NIA-STF investigations have revealed that BSF personnel posted along the border are often paid off by the touts to look the other way when the infiltration takes place.
Of course, the infiltration, or trafficking, also happens through the unfenced portions of the border, particularly the areas where rivers (which cannot be fenced) flow between the two countries. The BSF is not to blame in such cases.
It must also be noted that it is impossible for the BSF to physically man and guard the entire stretch of the border. And no amount of CCTV cameras mounted atop double-line fences can deter the traffickers and the infiltrators who come with new and ingenious ways to breach the fences and avoid surveillance.
Deny new infiltrators safe refuges
As soon as these infiltrators enter India, they find safe refuge at many villages and hamlets in the border areas. The residents of such border villages and hamlets that provide refuge to the new infiltrators are Muslims who, or whose parents or grandparents, had entered India illegally in the past.
As such, the shared religion between the infiltrators and residents on this side of the border motivates the latter to help their brethren and co-religionists with shelter and food after they cross over.
It is, thus, important to deny the infiltrators such safe refuges. All infiltrators who are apprehended should be vigorously interrogated to make them reveal the identities of not only the touts who helped them enter India, but also those who provided them safe refuge on this side of the border.
Since this is a national security issue with grave implications that the NIA is empowered to investigate, the central agency ought to be well within its rights to arrest people and families on this side of the border who provide shelter and refuge to the infiltrators.
The arrested should be slapped with grave charges like treason, endangering national security and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and their prosecution should be fast-tracked so that they are convicted and put behind bars within the shortest possible time.
Such arrests and convictions will surely deter others from providing refuge to Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims who enter India illegally.
Crackdown on collaborators inside India
The next important step is the obliterate the ecosystem that encourages and aids this illegal influx of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims.
A large number of people--from elected representatives of panchayats and junior government officials to thana-level policemen, heads of schools and political functionaries--participate in the process of issuing documents like fake birth, school education and residential certificates which are used to issue ration cards and Aadhaar cards to the illegal migrants.
Possession of such ration cards and Aadhaar cards procured on the basis of fake documents allows the infiltrators to apply for and obtain voter identity cards and even passports.
The NIA should widen the ambit of its probe and subject the 44 touts arrested from various parts of the country to rigorous interrogation and make them reveal the identities of all those who help in making and procuring fake documents, ration cards, Aadhaar cards and voter ID cards for the infiltrators.
All these collaborators should then be arrested under stringent charges, including treason.
Admittedly, there are tens of thousands of such people in many parts of the country, especially in Tripura, Assam and Bengal.
There will be a lot of resistance to such a crackdown, especially in Bengal where people who help the illegal infiltrators procure Indian citizenship documents with fake or forged documents enjoy state patronage.
But since this is a matter that has national security dimensions and implications, and since it falls within the NIA’s ambit to investigate and prosecute this grave anti-national crime, all it needs is determination on the part of the NIA and strong backing by the Union Government to carry out this onerous task.
The entire purpose of such a massive exercise would be to send a chilling message to all those who provide refuge to the illegal infiltrators and help them procure fake documents and Indian identity cards that they will be prosecuted under stringent laws and will have to spend many years, if not a lifetime, behind bars.
Update the National Register of Citizens (NRC)
Most non-BJP ruled states will oppose this, but that does not mean this vital exercise should not be undertaken.
If necessary, a directive from the Supreme Court can be obtained (as was the case with Assam) to start this exercise all over the country.
Of course, a proper and foolproof set of rules and procedures should be framed to prevent such an exercise from degenerating into a farce, as was the case in Assam where the earlier Congress government framed rules for the NRC updation exercise in a clever manner to help Bangladeshi Muslims.
A closely supervised exercise to update the NRC through a clearly defined and strict set of procedures and rules in a transparent manner will automatically result in detection of the presence of tens of lakhs of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in India.
While what is to be done with them is a different matter, this detection alone will discourage further infiltration. A strong message needs to go out in unequivocal terms to all Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims wanting to enter India illegally that this country will not be safe for them any longer. They will be identified, arrested and persecuted, along with their protectors and benefactors.
Until all this is done, Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims will continue to sneak into India in large numbers. Stronger fences and greater vigilance will hardly deter such infiltration until the ecosystem and networks of politicians, policemen and petty babus is obliterated.
The task of thwarting the illegal influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators and identifying the ones who have already come in ought to get the same priority as the terrorists who infiltrate into India from Pakistan.
Because, after all, both pose a grave danger to India’s security. In fact, the infiltrators from Bangladesh pose the additional threat of demographic change. And the radical Islamists among them constitute the ‘fifth column’ in India.
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