Two weeks after claiming that around 2 cr illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are living in India, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju seems to be backpedaling on the claim.
“There is no confirmed data with regard to number of Bangladeshi citizens illegally residing in the country..” he told the Lok Sabha today, two weeks after telling the Rajya Sabha that an estimated 2 cr (20 mln) illegal immigrants from the neigbouring country are living in India.
Rijiju’s earlier statement had invited strong reaction from Assam — the Indian border state that is the favored entry point for economic migrants from Bangladesh.
“What is the BJP government doing if there are really such a large number of Bangladeshi infiltrators in India? Why don’t they identify and expel them?” Tarun Gogoi, who until recently headed the state government in Assam had asked on Nov 18.
Many Assamese organizations, such as the All Assam Students’ Union, also came out strongly with demands that illegal Bangladeshi citizens be ejected out of the country.
The state of Assam has seen a remarkable change in its ethnic composition in the last two decades as Bangla-speaking Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh have “taken over” vast tracts of land in the lush green state.
This has kept tensions high between the Bangla-speaking population and the Assamese speaking locals.
Islam-dominated Bangladesh has very high fertility rates, with the result that the population growth in the country has outpaced the speed at which people can find jobs within its borders.
In May this year, the Assamese people elected a BJP government after 15 years of continuous rule by the Congress. Many local Assamese people accuse Congress politicians of encouraging and even facilitating illegal migration into the country.
It has been widely reported that an organized system exists in Assam that provides newly arrived illegal immigrants with fake documents such as birth certificates to help them stay on in India.
In his reply today, Kiren Rijju also said there was no confirmed data about how many Bangladeshi immigrants are involved in illegal activities in India.
A total of 6,700 immigrants from the country have been deported in the three years up to 2015, Rijju said.
Ever since Donald Trump won the US Presidential election with a pledge to deport 3 mln (30 lakh) illegal immigrants from neighbouring country Mexico, demands have been rising for tougher action against illegal immigration in India as well.