While the issue of illegal immigrants has been continuing to cause demographic imbalance in Manipur for many years, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asked on November 9, 2022 top intelligence officials to detect, detain and deport “illegal migrants” in each state, and continue with the targeted crackdown even if the neighbouring countries do not accept them.
In a meeting with the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureaus (SIB) of all States on November 9, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah tasked the officials to identify around 100 “illegal migrants” in each State, check their documents, and arrest and deport them if possible, reported The Hindu as told by senior government officials. Amit Shah asked officials to continue with the targeted crackdown even if the neighbouring countries do not accept the undocumented migrants, the report added.
However, this is not the first time that Amit Shah has flagged an influx of such undocumented migrants – “illegal migrants” or “infiltrators”, along with demographic changes in Border States, as one of the key internal security challenges in the country.
In 2018, he had said that the National Democratic Alliance government had begun the process of identifying “infiltrators” and removing them from the voters’ list.
Then, even after over 1.9 million people were left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam in 2019, he said that the exercise will be carried out across the country.
Notably, demographic changes with the rise of Muslim population in the border districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar appear to be the reason for the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent direction to top intelligence officials to detect 100 ‘infiltrators’ in every State, arrest and deport them; and to continue with the targeted crackdown even if the neighbouring countries do not accept the undocumented migrants.
It may be mentioned that the Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked the chiefs of State Police who attended the National Security Strategies Conference organised on August 17-18, 2022 by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to keep a strict vigil on demographic changes and radicalisation in border districts.
The IB made a presentation on the rising Muslim population in the border districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and sought to link these population changes to extreme poverty in these areas as projected in the National Family Health Survey data. An official who attended the meeting said that the Union Home Minister was not convinced with the explanation and asked for a thorough analysis of the factors contributing to such changes, reports added.
Moreover, at the annual Director General of Police conference held from November 19-21, 2021, the Uttar Pradesh police presented a paper stating that the population growth in general in border areas was higher than the national average, and that there has been a steady growth in Muslim population in the border villages. It said that a significant increase in the numbers of mosques and madrassas (seminaries) over the past few years have confirmed the fallout of changing demographics on both sides of the border.
Further the report said, according to the UP Police’s presentation, out of 1,047 villages in seven border districts of Maharajganj, Siddharthnagar, Balrampur, Bahraich, Shravasti, Pilibhit and Khiri, 303 villages had a Muslim population between 30-50%. Around 116 villages had a Muslim population of more than 50%. The total number of mosques and madrassas in the border districts rose by 25% to 1,688 in September 2021 as compared to 1,349 in February 2018, it added.
In the meeting held on November 9, 2022, the Union Home Minister asked officials to keep an eye on organised religious conversion by Christian groups as evident from incidents of Sikhs converting to Christianity, another official said.
Earlier, the Union Government of Inida has issued an alert on the illegal stay of Bangladeshi nationals in India. Directors General of Police of States/Union Territories have been told to take appropriate action on the illegal immigrants who sneaked into the country along the Bangladesh border in West Bengal and settled across the country, The Hindu reported on November 6, 2022 quoting police sources.
Security agencies were informed of a well-connected network of local people and agents in West Bengal that was facilitating the foreign nationals to gain entry, obtain original documents with the help of fake addresses, identities etc.
The illegal immigrants who initially obtained Aadhaar cards moved to different parts of the country to get employment and settled there. Some managed to get other proof of address or identity such as bank passbook, voter identity card and PAN card, the report said.
In the context of Manipur, the All Manipur Students’s Union (AMSU) has been demanding detection and deportation of illegal immigrants from Manipur for more than four decades. In 1980 the AMSU along with All Manipur Students’ Coordinating Committee (AMSCOC) and the Government of Manipur signed an agreement to detect and deport illegal immigrants.
However, the Government of Manipur failed to fulfill the terms of the agreement. In 1994 the AMSU resumed the agitation demanding detection and deportation of illegal immigrants and the then Governor of Manipur Lt. General (Rtd.) V K Nayar reached an agreement with the AMSU to detect and deport the illegal immigrants, which remains unfulfiled.
A number of civil society organisations besides AMSU have been continuing its movement against illegal immigrants who are estimated to outnumber many indigenous ethnic groups of Manipur.
The civil society organisations including AMSU are concerend about the alarming demographic imbalance due to the rising Kuki-Chin illegal immigrants from the neighbouring Myanmar and the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants besides illegal migrants from other states of India.
The Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), Manipur continues demanding implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) update in Manipur besides setting up Manipur State Population Commission.
Notably, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on August 26, 2022 has assured members of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) and the United Naga Council (UNC) to forward the resolution adopted by the Manipur Legislative Assembly for enforcing National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.
Remarkably, the Government of Manipur has launched massive drive against illegal immigrants in the state. Over 600 non-locals and foreigners found staying in the state without valid documents and Inner Line Permit (ILP) apprehended in multiple drives by police in the second week of October 2022.
Manipur Chief Minister Nongthobam Biren on October 16 announced that the government will soon conduct house-to-house surveys to crackdown on illegal immigrants as well as migrants. Speaking to the media at CM Secretariat in Imphal on October 16 evening, Chief Minister Biren cautioned that actions will be undertaken under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act and the Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) against the people of the state if they are found sheltering non-locals illegally during the house-to-house survey.
Chief Minister Biren further expressed concern that the illegal residency of a Bangladeshi identified as one Md Anwar Hussain, 54, son of Md Amzad Ali by impersonating as a local since 1990 went unnoticed until he was arrested recently. As informed by the chief minister, the Bangladeshi national had started obtaining a driving license as well as an Aadhaar card.
Earlier, at least 48 foreign nationals have been arrested in a massive drive against illegal immigrants launched across Manipur on October 12. Fourteen persons suspected to be Bangladeshi Muslims staying without valid Inner Line Permit (ILP) were detected at Kakching Police Station jurisdiction and 10 persons were also detected by Pallel Police Station while another 24 persons suspected to be Bangladeshi Muslims or Rohingya Myanmarese were also picked up from Imphal East.
Recently, at least two persons from Khuljang road near Chakpikarong, Chandel district in Manipur, including a Myanmar national, have been arrested for impersonating and using Aadhaar of a dead person and another for assisting in the illegal immigrant to enter India.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) (range II), Ningshen Worngam told media at Officers’ Club, 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles, Babupara on November 9 that during preliminary investigation by Chandel district Police it has been found that Lenkhenmang Mate, 26, son of Doujatong Mate of Tuivang village in Myanmar was holding an Aadhaar card named as Holkholal, 38, son of Tongkhotahang of Khengjang Village, Chandel District, which was not his real name. DIG Ningshen said Holkholal had passed away in May 2019 and Lenkhenmang was impersonating Holkholal by possessing the Aadhaar card of the deceased person to aid in his illegal border trading or business.
On September 28, 2022 at least three Myanmar nationals carrying fake Aadhaar cards along with Myanmar identification cards were rounded up at Sugnu Khongnang Khong in Manipur’s Kakching district by a team of commando unit of Sugnu.
Last year in 2021 after the February 1 military coup in Myanmar, amidst COVID-19 lockdown, 29 Myanmar nationals, including six minors were arrested from Ngathal and Kawnpui villages of Churachandpur on March 31, 2021 for entering India illegally.
Another 24 Myanmar nationals including 14 females, seven males and three minors while travelling in three passenger vehicles were also caught with fake Aadhaar cards at Army Checkpoint, Khudengthabi in Manipur’s Tengnoupal District along Imphal-Moreh sector of Asian Highway-1 on October 5, 2021 on Indo-Myanmar border.
Moreover, at least 14 Myanmar nationals who attempted to board an Indigo flight from Imphal International Airport, Imphal by using fake Aadhaar cards were caught by airport security personnel and handed them over to Singjamei Police Station at around 2.20 pm on September 30, 2021.
Eighty Myanmar nationals (25 males, 35 females and 20 children) were arrested on June 28, 2022 from Churachandpur district of Manipur after launching intensive search operations at different locations in the district by the police. They are arrested under section 14 of Foreigners Act 1946 for they could not produce any valid document for staying in India and disclosed that they were all citizens of Myanmar.
Now, the government needs to detect the illegal immigrants and identify who are illegal foreign nationals to be dealt with Foreigners Act 1946 and who are illegal migrants from other states of India to be addressed under the Bengal Eastern Frontiers Regulation Act 1873.
Moreover, both the Government of India and the Government of Manipur need to consider some of the illegal immigrants as refugees otherwise; it will be difficult to distinguish many of the illegal immigrants from ethnic people of Manipur due to the racial and cultural affinities.
However, pertinent questions arise – Are the Government of India and the Government of Manipur determined to detect and deport the illegal immigrants all out? Or is it just symbolical as the Union Home Minister directs the top intelligence officials to detect around 100 illegal immigrants, arrest and deport them while Manipur has been chronic with illegal immigrants causing demographic imbalance in Manipur for decades after the abolition Manipur Pass and Permit System in 1950.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics