KOLKATA/GUWAHATI: With political fever still running high over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the India-Bangladesh borders along West Bengal and Assam have come alive. Many Bangladeshis, who had sneaked into India in recent years, have opted to go back.
There was an instant proof, as Inspector General of BSF (South Bengal Frontier) Y B Khurania said the force apprehended 268 illegal Bangladeshis trying to cross back, even as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) detained 60 at Petrapole border at Bongaon in Bengal.
Those detained were later handed over to Mohespur police station in Jhenaidah district of Bangladesh, across Bengal’s Nadia district.
The issue has, however, become a subject for discussion after BGB chief Major General Shafeenul Islam stated in the first week of January that 445 Bangladeshis were nabbed while they were sneaking from India.
Kuldeep Saini, IG of the BSF’s Meghalaya Frontier, recently said that inputs suggested that post-NRC, some Bangladeshis, who entered India illegally, had returned to their country.
He also said that the steady improvement in Bangladesh’s economy could be a reason why these people went back.
However, the BSF in Bengal said a substantial increase in the outflow of illegal Bangladeshi migrants was recorded in the past one month, giving an impression that the NRC fear among the illegal settlers triggered the trend.
“There has been a substantial increase in outflow of illegal Bangladeshi nationals in past one month. In January alone, we have apprehended 268 illegal Bangladeshi migrants when they were trying to sneak into the neighbouring country,’’ said Khurania.
A BSF officer posted in Bongaon sector said the infiltrators were detained in Bengaluru a month ago.
“The police spotted them when they were on their way to a local railway station to reach West Bengal. Driven by NRC fear, they were heading to Bangladesh.”
The officer said some of the arrested men were living in India for five to 12 years and two of them even had Indian documents.
In Basirhat, BSF personnel detained three agents and handed them over to the police.
“They sent at least 30 Bangladeshis in last December to the neighbouring country. They charged Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 for each crossover,” said a BSF officer posted at Ghojadanga border outpost in Basirhat.
Besides, sources in the district Intelligence Branch (IB) offices said over 5,000 odd Bangladeshis, who reported their entry after arriving in Bengal with valid documents, have gone “missing” in the past one year.
“Bangladeshi nationals are to report to IB with the details of their documents like passport numbers after arriving Bengal. If they continue to stay for more than a month, they have to inform us again. But, as many as 5,000 didn’t come for the second time. When we contacted immigration wings at the airport and border offices, there was no record of their return to Bangladesh,” said an IB officer.
However, BSF units in Assam did not have firm figures on the numbers of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants returning to their country from the Northeast routes.
“People go from one country to another, legally or illegally, in search of jobs. It is a global phenomenon. It is natural. Labourers arrive in India (from Bangladesh) to work, mostly in the metros. However, instances of them arriving here to work and settling down have decreased,” a BSF spokesman said.
The spokesman said he did not find anything to link the return of immigrants to the updation of the NRC or the CAA.
Assam’s Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said the government has no idea how many of the people went back from the state.