30 October 2005

Cross-border resilience

An editorial from South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) points out a cross-border problem close to home. According to the editorial, “India has successfully transformed itself into a national security state… protecting territorial borders with little visible regard for the human lives that inhabit those areas.” The editorial makes a case of the happenings at the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Apparently, the Indian leadership is taking a tough stand on illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, very few people living in the border region between India and Bangladesh have a citizenship of either country, possessing the proper legal papers to prove who they are. These people are caught between the forces of both countries, with no place to go. They feel policing by both countries as prejudiced and discriminatory.

At times, there are serious outbursts of violence, increasing ethnic, social and political tensions between the two countries. But, the migration just can’t be stopped. Scarcity of land and water, natural disasters, unemployment, degrading living conditions in the less-developed Bangladesh automatically induce migration into India. India feels this destabilizes it socio-political, economic and ethnic position, and is willing to do whatever is necessary to stop or, at least, reduce the flow of migration.

The editorial is rather silent on Bangladesh. However, it presents a case for India’s wrongful attitude to cross-border migration through the Indo-Bangladesh border, tracing its history from 1947 to present-day, commenting on how the border is consistently being militarized. It blames India’s Border Security Force (BSF) for its merciless treatment of the immigrants, killing many, sparing no one, branding its victims as infiltrators, ISI agents and smugglers.

Still, India finds its cross-border migration a tough issue to handle. The immigrants are resilient and will stop at nothing. As the report says, “Threatened and hungry people will defy borders whether by braving bullets or by melting into the darkness.”

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