NEW DELHI, Nov 16 - In a major departure from its past policy, the Centre on Wednesday declared that around two crore illegal Bangladeshi migrants are staying in India.
�As per available inputs, there are around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in India,� Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said.
Rijiju�s revelation is interesting given that the Centre had been so far maintaining that it was not possible to give out a figure on the number of illegal Bangladeshis present in the country because they cross over clandestinely and assimilate with the local population.
Rijiju said there are reports of Bangladeshi nationals having entered the country without valid travel documents. Since entry of such Bangladeshi nationals into the country is clandestine and surreptitious, it is not possible to have accurate data of such Bangladeshi nationals living in various parts of the country, he said.
Rijiju said deportation of illegally staying foreign national is a continuous process.
It was on July 15, 2004, the then Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sriprakash Jaiswal said in a Rajya Sabha reply that there were 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshis residing across 17 states in the country, as on December 31, 2001.
What is even more significant is that he claimed that Assam alone accounted for over 50 lakh illegal Bangladeshi migrants.
Jaiswal�s created a political storm forcing the then Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to call up the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to lodge a complaint. Jaiswal later withdrew his reply from the Rajya Sabha and since then the Centre�s standard line has been that it was not possible to give an exact figure to the number of illegal Bangladeshis.
Meanwhile, Rijiju�s revelation could create political trouble for the Sonowal Government too, as the Centre has listed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which proposes to grant citizenship to Hindu Bengali migrants, for passage during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament.
Assam and West Bengal are considered to be among the worst hit due to the alleged illegal infiltration from Bangladesh.
Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a major issue for many student, social and political organisations in the Northeast.
The 2014 election manifesto of the BJP said that the party will review and improve the border management and �punitive measures will be introduced to check illegal immigration.�
The BJP said it will address the issue of infiltration and illegal immigrants in the Northeast on a priority basis and this will include clear policy directions and effective control at the ground level.
Bangladesh and India share a 4,096-km-long international border.