In raids conducted across the city of Bengaluru on Saturday, the police arrested 30 Bangladeshis staying illegally. The police said that they would be booked under the Foreigners Act and deported accordingly. These raids come at a time when there are demands for an NRC to be conducted in every state.

Over the years, South India in particular has seen a large number of illegal Bangladeshis settling. The late Maloy Krishna Dhar, former joint director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau had spoken at length about this issue. During a talk at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in the year 2006, Dhar had spoken about how Karnataka and Kerala had become hotbeds for such illegal immigrants. He even said that there are several modules that have been set up in these states.

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Today, the situation has worsened. The problem of illegal Bangladeshis has been coupled with that of the Rohingya Muslims. It is like a double edged sword for the agencies to deal with. While in the case of some there are genuine concerns, the biggest danger is that they are extremely vulnerable to terror outfits, who will rope them as foot soldiers for a very small amount of money.

Sowing the seeds of terror:

The link between terror and illegal Bangladeshis must be understood in the context of what late Pakistan Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said. He had written that it would be wrong to think that Kashmir is the only dispute that divides India and Pakistan. One at least is nearly as important as the Kashmir dispute and that is of Assam and some districts of India adjacent to East Pakistan. 

The late Bangladeshi leader 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.”

These statements got the ISI and DGFI into overdrive mode and they began setting up modules in Assam. Over the years, they gradually moved to Bengal and finally South India. These modules were tasked with aiding large scale infiltrations. The idea was to cause a great deal of duress to the security agencies and locals. They wanted these illegal immigrants to take away the jobs of the locals knowing fully well that there would be a communal clash.

However in the midst of all these, the illegal Bangladeshis became the vote bank. They were doled out official documents and were entitled to a vote. Security experts say that there is such a hue and cry "when we speak about illegal Bangladeshis because it directly hits the vote banks of the ‘so called’ secular parties".

The southern connect:

When the Bengaluru blast accused T Nasir was arrested, he spoke about the ease with which he would cross over to Bangladesh and then back to India. While probing the matter further, it was also found that he had used the illegal Bangladeshis to carry out the serial blasts in Bengaluru.

This was a wake-up call and further probing found that several illegal Bangladeshis had migrated into Karnataka and Kerala. Many had worked as foot soldiers for terror groups while others circulated fake currency. There were others who moved to areas where there was a demand for labour. The demand rising in these construction companies only added to the issue and touts would supply them with illegal Bangladeshis at a very cheap cost.

Back in 2017, seven Bangladeshi nationals employed at a plywood factory in Kerala were arrested. The investigation further revealed that touts in Karnataka and Kerala had become very active and were planning on ferrying a large number of Bangladeshis into these states.

Officials that MyNation spoke with say that identifying these persons over the years had become problematic. They mingle with the Bengali speaking population and hence go undetected most of the time, officials pointed out.

A playground for illegal immigrants:

The January 2018 Bodhgaya case threw up several startling facts. The NIA carried out a series of arrests. It arrested Mohammad Zahidul Islam from Bengaluru, Abdul Karim and Mustafizur Rehman from Mallapuram. The arrests in Kerala were made from a camp set up for Bengali-speaking people.

After setting up a series of modules, all of them moved South and made Karnataka and Kerala their hideouts. It then came to light that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) had set up sleeper cells in Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana.

Outfits such as JMB along with local contacts facilitate the movement of illegal Bangladeshis. Many are roped into terror networks and it would not be wrong to say that they are ticking time bombs.

The ironic part of all this is that, while several secular parties cry foul when the Indian Government acts against illegal Bangladeshis, Bangladesh itself has something else to say.  In 2017, Bangladesh had said that jihadis from their country were choosing India to escape the law. This was a serious statement considering the fact that our agencies have always said that terrorists from Bangladesh and now Rohingyas are using India as a safe haven.

The constant ignoring by the so called secular parties only led to the problem becoming bigger. They did not even want to acknowledge the problem and always turned a blind eye to it, said an officer in the home ministry while commenting on the political parties opposing action against such persons.

In 2016, the home minister had said that there were about 20 million illegal Bangladeshis living in India. Not just this, the NCRB data for 2015 and 2016 said that in the category of crimes committed by foreigners, it was the Mamata Banerjee-ruled Bengal that recorded the highest. Bengal accounted for 57.6% under this category.

These statistics are indeed worrying and the action that the government has initiated in the past few years must continue because illegal Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims are the real ticking time bombs of India.