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The ‘Bangladesh’ Issue in India



We call them ‘Miyas’. The word ‘Miya’ could mean two different things according to my interpretation- a group of Muslim people or the word means ‘gentleman’ among Muslims and used in greeting one another. In whichever form the word ‘Miya’ is confined, we in Nagaland have used it for our own convenience. The name has stuck and we refer to these Bangladeshi migrants in Nagaland as ‘Miyas’. Miyas inhabiting rural villages of Nagaland, outskirts of Dimapur and in the commercial centers of both Kohima and Dimapur. With a rough estimation of 3.5 lakh ‘Miyas’ in Nagaland, we also have a fair share of them among us. They are found at construction places, ‘paan’ shops, grocery store and now owning big businesses too. Somewhere along their stay in the state they’ve also acquainted themselves to our ‘Freedom Struggle’, sometimes getting protection from Underground factions or rumoured to fund them whenever possible within their limits. Not forgetting that they are also our ‘vote bank’ for dysfunctional activities of politics and government in Nagaland.

So a little question lurks behind the enigmatic nature of these ‘new’ inhabitants in Nagaland: “Who are Miyas?
Bangladesh means ‘country of Bengal’. Their official language is Bengali and it was Rabindranath Tagore who also composed their National anthem. Perhaps Punjab and Bengal were the worst victims of ‘the Partition’ of India both pre- and post-Independence days. An unforgiving vindictive mirror based on religion and Colonization’s indirect influence reflects back sadly on these two states; marred into their history and formation. With a little help from her Indian friends in 1971, Bangladesh parted ways from Pakistan and called itself ‘Country of Bengal’. However, Independence came with some a lesson and bitter-sweet taste of freedom as the country saw a reign of corrupt administration, which tried to nationalize everything triggering famines, poverty and also widespread corruption in the land. By 1991, Bangladesh in the 90’s saw better days and had recovered some of its economy from those early hazy days of Independence. Bangladesh is the 9th most populated country and the one of the world’s most densely populated places in the world.

Madhya Masaldanga- No man’s land. They are a group of villages, or called ‘enclaves’ which belong to Bangladesh but covered on all sides by India- stuck on the wrong side of the border. Enclaves that neither India nor Bangladesh would claim as theirs. All in all about 50 Bangladeshi enclaves in India and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and people living in these enclaves.

Bangladesh is not only home to Bengalis but also to ethnic groups of people like the Choto Kumira Tripura people originally from Tripura who had migrated to Bangladesh a few centuries back, and adapted themselves to the Bengali culture, language and habits. Some Bangladeshi people have Burmese ancestry as well from Burmese migrants during The Burmese War.

Perhaps Assam, among North-eastern states of India was deeply affected by the influx of illegal immigrants into India. Their Student protests and agitations had began just nine years into the formation of Bangladesh. And it all led up to the infamous Neille massacre in Nagaon district of Assam in February 1983; recounted as perhaps one of Assam’s bloodiest history of ‘ethnic cleansing’.  After the elections of 1983, these immigrants had joined politics, and slowly and slowly inhabited the rural regions and districts of Assam. In unofficial records Assamese people are a minority in its own land and an Islamic majority now. In 1985 the Indian government had agreed to built a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border but it was difficult to differentiate the Assamese Muslim and the Bangladeshi Muslim. So the government yet again made another mistake while jeopardizing the Muslim minority in India. A certain ‘fear’ psychosis embedded in the minds of Assamese people of being overpowered in their own lands, while incidents of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants procurring voter ID cards and Indian rations were reported. Tripura, here, is also another good example. Tripura has a lot of Bengali influence yet the reality also strikes us that its tribal population has disintegrated to a 23% in Tripura. These two above examples show how much influence and effect of influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have affected our demography too.

In Mizoram, resides a group of people who call themselves Chakma. However Chakmas are not considered as ‘natives’ of Mizoram, it is believed they have migrated from another place. They are ascribed as a scheduled tribe of India and called Chakma Autonomous District Council. The total population of Chakma and Tongchangya (another group in Mizoram) was estimated to be more than 100,000. The total population of CADC was 34,528 as per a 2001 census. Using the population census as a parameter, the growth in population of Chakmas in the state has not tallied with the natural growth rate which can suggest a huge influx of migration from another place. The interesting thing is Arunachal Pradesh also have Chakma people, whom they believe, have migrated up from Mizoram, and Mizos believe they migrated to Mizoram via Hailakandi District in Assam. Though Mizoram is strict in issuing ID cards to outsiders and other illegal immigrants from the Bangladeshi, they have found complex situation to addressed about the Chakma people in Mizoram.

Besides the North-eastern states, India have reported of immigration influx. Bangladesh migrants are the largest group of migrants in India. Constituting, on an official account, of 3,084,826 people according to 2001 census! However, media and unofficial sources have estimated even a round figure of 20 million! In West Bengal it is very difficult to differentiate one from the other as both can speak Bengali; and in trying to address the problem one also could, unfortunately, incriminate the real Indian Muslims who remained after the Partition of Pakistan and India. In West Bengal, reports and change in demography of rural places like Nandigram have been reported. Reports from Kerela State Intelligence Officials claim that the state had seen an influx of immigrants recently. Because of well paid wages for both skilled and semi-skilled workers in the state, workers claiming to be from West Bengal began streaming into the southern state. Big Indian cities, where one’s identity can be hidden, are known to be ideal places for illegal immigrants in India.  

But beyond this issue, human trafficking is a very thriving and threatening affect of the porous India-Bangladesh border. The Centre for Women and Children studies in 1998 recorded an estimated 27,000 Bangladeshi women were forced into prostitution in India. Some of them are further trafficked to the Middle-east, through India, for forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Under the Citizenship Act of 1955 citizenship can be acquired by:
- Birth- if one or both parents are Indian citizens and NOT illegal immigrants.
- By descent
- By registration:- But not if the person is an illegal immigrant.
- By naturalization:- If the person has lived 12 years in India over an aggregate of 14 years. How through legal means and NOT as an illegal immigrant (because there will no document about the said person).
- By incorporation of territories that India has claimed.
Under the Citizenship Act of India 1955, the interpretation of an illegal immigrant is one who has:
- Entered the country without proper documentation, authority or prescribed travel documents.
- Entered the country with proper documentation, authority or prescribed travel documents but has remained beyond the permitted time.

So our question should rather be “Who are the illegal Bangladesh immigrants in India?” “What are they doing here?” Post 15th August 1947, our history with Pakistan (Bangladesh then, East Pakistan) had become two countries. Whether on grounds of religion or other disagreements the boundaries became clear for these two countries. They are consigned themselves as two separate, individual country-members in the UN. So what we ought to understand, perhaps, is that we are dealing with an ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ in India. The issue is not about whether the North-east states cannot hold themselves integrated, because of disunity among its people, states etc. But rather this important and pressing issue of illegal immigrants who are streaming into India and who are NOT Indian citizens. This is a country-country issue, this is a border issue. This is directing our concentration to the porous borders of India and Bangladesh. I am even apprehensive to ask, Does India want another border-issue on its lap? Pakistan was an inevitable conflict, China could perhaps have been prevented, or taken enough measures to protect the border areas, to reassure Indian citizens in the borders of China which it had not. And with Bangladesh then, are we waiting for it to happen?
 
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu is a 24 year old native of Kohima, Nagaland. Since she was 17 years, Agono has lived and studied in Norway. Right now, she volunteers with people from slum areas in Delhi and in doing so she hopes to learn more about their lives too. Her column ‘Through a Young Mind’ will be featured regularly on the Wednesday issue of the Morung Express.

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Comments (12 posted):

Sigonnaag Chakma on June 03, 2012 02:47:22
morungexpress
It seems Agono Iralu is an activist from Nagaland. So, I forgive her for her ignorance on Chakmas of Mizoram when she writes, “In Mizoram, resides a group of people who call themselves Chakma. However Chakmas are not considered as ‘natives’ of Mizoram, it is believed they have migrated from another place. “
I must tell her that the southern and western parts of Mizoram where the Chakmas reside were never part of Mizo hills before 1982; it was part of Chakma kingdom. In 1982, the British transferred a tract of eastern part of Chakma kingdom to Assam for administrative convenience. What is Mizoram today is composed of the then Mizo hills and the “transferred land” from Chakma king.

The provincial gazetteer of India Volume V at page 413 states that:

"The station of Demagiri is not situated within the present area of South Lushai Hills. It is topographically within the area of Chittagong Hill Tracts. But under Sir Charles Elliot's order passed in 1892, it was declared that for administration purposes Demagiri should be considered a part and parcel of South Lushai Hills.”(NOTE: Demagiri is a Chakma dominated area in present Mizoram]

On 1st April 1898, Demagiri and other villages from CHT together with the South Lushai Hills were brought under the administration of the Chief Commissioner of Assam. As a result, the Chakma Raja “had to forego some of his land and subjects, who had been inhabiting beyond the river Thega Khal”. (SP Talukdar, The Chakmas: Life and Struggle. Also see “Movement for Autonomy: A Case Study of the Chakmas of Mizoram” by P. Chakraborty in “Autonomy Movements in Mizoram” edited by RN Prasad)

A few radical organizations has been trying hard (without any success) to mislead the people and create xenophobia against the minority. The allegation of infiltration has been rejected by another prominent Mizo.
Dr HT Sangliana, Vice Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities during his visit to Mizoram in June 2011 stated, “On the alleged Chakma infiltration, he found the allegations not genuine. He said, ''We have received a lot of complaints about Chakma infiltration. But there were no supportive evidences,'' and suggested that the NGOs keep vigil and garner evidences to support their allegations. http://htsangliana.blogspot.in/2011/06/h-t-sangliana-wants-bru-repatriation.html

He found that Chakmas have been deprived of education and economic benefits in Mizoram.
Sigonnaag Chakma on June 03, 2012 02:48:59
morungexpress
Read as "were never part of Mizo hills before 1892"
Sintu Chakma on June 04, 2012 01:30:34
morungexpress
Ms. Agono Iralu, I would like to reiterate the points made by Mr. Sigonnaag Chakma.

I appreciate your efforts in writing about the issue of 'illegal Bangladeshi' migrants. But your writing about the Chakmas is not well-researched and hence not at all valid and true. I assume you must have written it out of people's hearsay. The two things- writings through well-researched and writings through people's hearsay is totally different. One is reliable, valid, testable and thus authentic while the other one is just the opposite.

Therefore, I would like to request and demand as well from you to make the necessary corrections in the article. The truth has been provided to you already by Mr. Sigonnaag Chakma.

For your information, no Chakmas residing in the territory of the present day India is illegal.

The Chakmas residing in the Indian States of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura are original inhabitants of the respective states since centuries.

Only the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh had to enter India through legal agreements between the years 1964-69 due to the racial, religious and political persecution in CHT and also due to the submergence of their agricultural lands with the construction of the huge Kaptai Dam.

Please make the necessary corrections.

Thank You
victor talukdar on June 04, 2012 03:33:15
morungexpress
Dear Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu,

I really can't say its fine, but I am an optimistic person and will take this as an opportunity to share this link with you and welcome you to know more about the Chakmas. Although it contains only the very basic information it will certainly be good to begin with.

http://www.cadc.gov.in/

With all the best wishes,
Victor Talukdar Chakma
victor talukdar on June 04, 2012 03:51:34
morungexpress
I could not stop myself from highlighting the following lines from LB Chakma's article The Chakma People on the web link below:

http://www.cadc.gov.in/the-chakmas/the-chakma-people

At the time of India’s partition on religious lines, the Chakmas petitioned senior Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Saradar Vallabhbhai Patel for the inclusion of Chittagong Hill Tracts into the Indian Union. Chittagong Hill Tracts had a 98% non-muslim population and the Indian leaders assured the Chakma leaders that there was no question of the CHT being awarded to Pakistan. At the hearing of the Bengal Boundary Commission, Mr. Sneha Kumar Chakma passionately argued for the inclusion of CHT into the Indian Union. Ironically, the Chairman of the Bengal Boundary Commission Sir Cyrill Redcliff was absent in the meeting and later awarded the Chittagong Hill Tracts to Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten the Governor General of India was aware of this controversial award but did not disclose this to senior Indian leaders before Independence for fear of the celebrations being marred by protests. He recounts in his Autobiography that he feared the senior Indian leaders would boycott the celebrations completely had he disclosed the controversial award before Independence. The people of Chittagong Hill Tracts hoisted the Indian flag in Rangamati in celebration of India's Independence completely unaware that the CHT was awarded to Pakistan. Three days later the Indian flag was pulled down by the Pakistani Army.
hemanta larma on June 04, 2012 11:23:15
morungexpress
Dangubi(that's what we call Miss with affection) Agono Iralu, it is heartening to see how most commentators have been kind to you in spite such a ill informed writing of yours. Your article definitely depicts an enormous challenge and is a very important issue, but I am appalled how could you be so casual with your research. Your writing seems like folklore & hearsay information, for just few clicks and google "CHAKMA" you will have enough information to add more substance to your article. When you write "In Mizoram, resides a group of people who call themselves Chakma. However Chakmas are not considered as ‘natives’ of Mizoram, it is believed they have migrated from another place". It is almost saying "In Nagaland, resides a group of people who call themselves Nagas. However Nagas are not considered as ‘natives’ of Nagaland, it is believed they have migrated from another place".
Point 1. CHAKMA community do not need to scream & claim that they are Chakma, simply because they are CHAKMA (i do not know if you might have looked at from Naga perspective for many smaller tribes still need to scream & claim themselves as Naga, e.g. Rongmei, Jeliang Rong etc.)
Point 2: Whose consideration are you projecting when u write "Chakmas are not cosidered to be natives"? IS it govt. of India's or some over jealous neighour's? Kindly do not rely on hearsay. Do rely on researched facts to establish your points when you write.
Though i do not blame you much for your blunder on CHAKMAS, but you definitely need to be humble enough to clarify and apologize on your factually wrong reporting. I would still wish you all the very best for your writing career!
boyeer changma on June 05, 2012 10:55:48
morungexpress
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu, first of all, I have no idea to which tribe of Nagas you belong to. I just would like to tell you that if you are or want to be an inspiring prolific writer, then I think you need to be more sensible in your writing and need to do more research in depth before you write about someone. Not knowing very well about the Chakmas, I don't think it's an good idea to write anythings rather than only from hearsay which I believe you did here on your article, on the part of the Chakmas.


Just to enrich you IQ level about the Chakmas, I would like to add that Chakmas are no NOMADIC tribe unlike other tribal people in North-East India, they have a rich cultural values and own chakma script. Chakmas in India are no illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Chakmas of India have been living in their own motherland for ages. Yes, there are also million Chakmas across Bangladesh and Burma but they do not need to cross the Borders to live their lives like the Chin Zo-Kuki-Mizo people.

Good Luck with your writing.
boyeer changma on June 05, 2012 10:55:48
morungexpress
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu, first of all, I have no idea to which tribe of Nagas you belong to. I just would like to tell you that if you are or want to be an inspiring prolific writer, then I think you need to be more sensible in your writing and need to do more research in depth before you write about someone. Not knowing very well about the Chakmas, I don't think it's an good idea to write anythings rather than only from hearsay which I believe you did here on your article, on the part of the Chakmas.


Just to enrich you IQ level about the Chakmas, I would like to add that Chakmas are no NOMADIC tribe unlike other tribal people in North-East India, they have a rich cultural values and own chakma script. Chakmas in India are no illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Chakmas of India have been living in their own motherland for ages. Yes, there are also million Chakmas across Bangladesh and Burma but they do not need to cross the Borders to live their lives like the Chin Zo-Kuki-Mizo people.

Good Luck with your writing.
boyeer changma on June 05, 2012 10:55:48
morungexpress
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu, first of all, I have no idea to which tribe of Nagas you belong to. I just would like to tell you that if you are or want to be an inspiring prolific writer, then I think you need to be more sensible in your writing and need to do more research in depth before you write about someone. Not knowing very well about the Chakmas, I don't think it's an good idea to write anythings rather than only from hearsay which I believe you did here on your article, on the part of the Chakmas.


Just to enrich you IQ level about the Chakmas, I would like to add that Chakmas are no NOMADIC tribe unlike other tribal people in North-East India, they have a rich cultural values and own chakma script. Chakmas in India are no illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Chakmas of India have been living in their own motherland for ages. Yes, there are also million Chakmas across Bangladesh and Burma but they do not need to cross the Borders to live their lives like the Chin Zo-Kuki-Mizo people.

Good Luck with your writing.
boyeer changma on June 05, 2012 10:55:48
morungexpress
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu, first of all, I have no idea to which tribe of Nagas you belong to. I just would like to tell you that if you are or want to be an inspiring prolific writer, then I think you need to be more sensible in your writing and need to do more research in depth before you write about someone. Not knowing very well about the Chakmas, I don't think it's an good idea to write anythings rather than only from hearsay which I believe you did here on your article, on the part of the Chakmas.


Just to enrich you IQ level about the Chakmas, I would like to add that Chakmas are no NOMADIC tribe unlike other tribal people in North-East India, they have a rich cultural values and own chakma script. Chakmas in India are no illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Chakmas of India have been living in their own motherland for ages. Yes, there are also million Chakmas across Bangladesh and Burma but they do not need to cross the Borders to live their lives like the Chin Zo-Kuki-Mizo people.

Good Luck with your writing.
boyeer changma on June 05, 2012 10:55:48
morungexpress
Agono (Rugotsono) Iralu, first of all, I have no idea to which tribe of Nagas you belong to. I just would like to tell you that if you are or want to be an inspiring prolific writer, then I think you need to be more sensible in your writing and need to do more research in depth before you write about someone. Not knowing very well about the Chakmas, I don't think it's an good idea to write anythings rather than only from hearsay which I believe you did here on your article, on the part of the Chakmas.


Just to enrich you IQ level about the Chakmas, I would like to add that Chakmas are no NOMADIC tribe unlike other tribal people in North-East India, they have a rich cultural values and own chakma script. Chakmas in India are no illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Chakmas of India have been living in their own motherland for ages. Yes, there are also million Chakmas across Bangladesh and Burma but they do not need to cross the Borders to live their lives like the Chin Zo-Kuki-Mizo people.

Good Luck with your writing.
lamba pheda on June 07, 2012 02:20:09
morungexpress
Please do a proper research. Chakmas in mizoram are the sons of that state. I wont reiterate what others have said.

Media can be bane when wrong info is spread. Your false fact can create xenophobia among ignorant people. I expect some screening from the publishers

Please explore and highlight about nagas in myanmar, assam, arunachal, manipur. They are minority there but are they 'illegal immigrants'. Same goes with the case of mizo, bru, kuki etc. Your assertion seems to be like this that only burmese should reside in burma, mizo in mizoram, manipuris in manipur etc. I wonder why they give such names to states to problematise identity crisis among people.

By the way every minority faces hurdles. U are based in delhi. Might have feel alienated when people call you nepali chinki ping pong etc

I expect a volunteer in the slums to have compassion for the downtrodden. Please spread love and brotherhood among people by abstaing from writing false facts.

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