Bangladesh Fears Muslim Influx After Indian Citizenship Bill

When the entire nation including the northeastern states of India, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh that border Bangladesh, is reeling under violent protests over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, in a strange turn of events, Bangladesh’s telecom regulatory authority has ordered operators to shut down services along the Indian border out of fear that Indian Muslims might seek to enter Bangladesh after the act.

It may be recalled that despite agitation by people of northeastern states of India, like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and protests by Congress-led opposition parties, the Indian Parliament passed its Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) on December 11, 2019. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will grant citizenship to the non-Muslims – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, and Parsis – from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan on the plea that they fled their parent countries on account of religious persecution and arrived in India before December 31, 2014.

The Citizen Amendment Act has not only rattled Indian Muslims, but neighboring Muslim nations are also apprehensive of the fallout of the CAA. Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have expressed displeasure over the exclusion of Muslims from the act. They said that the law is against the secular fabric of the Indian constitution, and it is anti-Muslim, meant to deprive Muslims of Indian citizenship.

Why Are Muslim Nations Unsettled?

Their primary worry is that as per the CAA, India is the homeland for Hindus, and for the other five religions, it is a country that will offer them sanctuary. Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are charged $2.79 for overstay of more than 91 days, and for more than two years, it is $6.97. Muslims, overstaying up to 90 days, are charged $400, and for those overstaying for more than two years, the cost is $500.

Whereas Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Tahir Qadiry publically stated that his government has been “respecting the minorities, especially Sikh brothers and sisters”, Bangladesh suddenly canceled two scheduled ministerial visits. Pakistan has passed a resolution in the National Assembly, condemning the CAA as discriminatory. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, declared that the CAA would create fear among Muslims in India, and they will leave in droves.

What has puzzled India is Bangladesh telecom regulatory authority’s order to shut down services along the Indian border. The fact is that there has always been a flow of illegal migrants into India from Bangladesh, as India has been a safe sanctuary for them. Most of the Bengali-speaking Hindus and Muslims who have settled in Assam over the past decades are from Bangladesh. The infamous 1983 Nellie massacre in Assam, following the ‘Bongali Khedao’ or ‘Drive Out the Bengalis’ agitation, led to the killing of over 2,000 illegal Bangladeshi Muslim migrants. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam contains 1.9 crore names of unlawful migrants, mostly from Bangladesh.

Why is Bangladesh Scared?

The Citizen Amendment Act has raised the spectre of a mass exodus of illegal Bangladeshis back to their homeland, Bangladesh. According to political observers, instances of reverse migration of hundreds of Bangladeshis who were arrested after the crossing of the border into Bangladesh have sent alarm bells ringing in the political corridors of Bangladesh. Reportedly, these people confessed that they are ‘Bangladeshi Muslims’ and have returned home because they no longer see any hope of getting Indian citizenship after the CAA.

According to political analysts, Bangladesh is also scared of  1983, Assam type violence due to reverse migration on account of the CAA. The CAA can encourage the Islamists and anti-Indian lobbies in Bangladesh to target the Hindu minority. The political leaders fear that Islamist propagandists may paint India as anti-Muslim; this may become a tool to target Hindus.

Reports of large detention centers being built in Assam have unnerved Muslim migrants who see no hope of citizenship after the CAA. Bangladesh is already finding it difficult to cope with the 4 lakh plus Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar. Bangladesh is now concerned over the possibility of a larger influx of Bangladeshi Muslims, who are illegal migrants in India. India has been on good terms with Bangladesh in recent years. So now, the million-dollar question is how the Indian government will deal with lakhs of illegal, stateless Muslim migrants at the same time keep Bangladesh and neighboring Muslim nations happy.