The number of people caught while trying to cross over to Bangladesh from India increased by over 50% with a total of 2,971 people arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) in 2018 as compared to 1,800 in 2017, according to latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
A large number of those who were caught trying to illegally emigrate were women and children.
The NCRB “Crime in India 2018” report says that out of the 2,971 people arrested in 2018 while making an “outward movement” to Bangladesh, 1,532 were men, 749 women and 690 children. This corresponding numbers was 1,477, 268 and 55 in 2017.
On the other hand, “inward movement” from Bangladesh came down marginally to 1,118 in 2018 in comparison to 1,180 in 2017. The NCRB data does not explain the motives of those arrested by BSF, which manages the international borders in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Assam.
The bureau started compiling data on people caught while crossing over from the different borders in 2017.
The numbers come at a time when the second draft list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was released on July 30, 2018 which excluded 4 million people. There were reports at the time of widespread fears in the region that those not included in the list would cross over to Bangladesh. The final draft list, which exclused 1.9 million people, was published last year on July 31.
Subir Bhaumik, an author and Bangladesh expert,said that the data does not surprise him.
“A definite reverse migration is happening to Bangladesh because of primarily two reasons – a fear factor generated by NRC post Assam followed by repeated statements by BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leaders that such an exercise would be conducted all over India. Secondly, Bangladesh’s economy today is in much better position and there is uncertainty in India. Those who came here (to India) in 1970s and 1980s have better opportunities in Bangladesh. Why would they risk being beaten up and called illegal immigrants when they can respectfully work in their country?” Bhaumik said, adding that the 2019 figure may be even higher.
Earlier this month, Border Guard Bangladesh’s (BGB) director-general, Major General Md Shafeenul Islam, said that 445 Bangladeshi nationals were arrested while crossing over from India.
“The number of people trying to cross over is not alarming but it has definitely increased. It will be difficult to assess how many of these people have actually tried to leave the country – either on their own as they wanted to emigrate to Bangladesh or through trafficking networks,” said a senior BSF official posted at a section of 4,096km-long India-Bangladesh border who asked not to be named.
“Subsequently, large number of human traffickers, cattle smugglers, fake currency and drugs suppliers, and suspected terrorists who move in and out of Bangladesh regularly are often arrested on Indo-Bangla border. But there are other people who have families on both sides who are often apprehended as well when they cannot produce proper documents”, the officer added.