2. Immigration from Bangladesh
2.1. The uses of migration
In the demographic competition, simple procreation is not the
only factor. There are cases where Muslims are in a minority and use
migration to remedy their minority condition. This does not, of course,
mean that all Muslims involved in such migration are conscious soldiers
in a demographic offensive ("infiltrators"), but an element of planning
may nonetheless be involved, or may arise in certain activist circles
once the political potential of an ongoing migration process becomes
Thus, about the situation in Europe, Bat Ye'or observes: "The
Islamicist movement does not conceal its intention to islamize Europe at
all. Brochures sold in European Islamic centres explain goal and means,
including conversion work, marriages with native women, and especially
immigration. Knowing that Islam always started as a minority in the
countries it conquered, these ideologues consider the implantation of
Islam in Europe and the USA as a great chance for Islam."
The Islamic calendar starts with a momentous migration, that of
Mohammed and his followers from Mecca to Medina. The result of this
immigration from the Medinese viewpoint was that the city lost its
autonomy to Mohammed, who became its dictator and expelled or killed
sections of its population.
A recent case of the use of demography in the interest of Islam
was on the occasion of the 1994 provincial elections in the Malaysian
province of Sabah: "The number of Muslim‑dominated constituencies in
Sabah has increased from 17 in 1990 to 24 in 1994. The [Christian‑led]
Parti Bersatu Sabah has accused [the ruling party] of flooding the state
with Muslim immigrants from Indonesia and the Philippines. Some
estimates put the number of immigrants as high as 800,000", with Sabah's
original population numbering 1.5 million.
The situation in India follows the same pattern: higher Muslim
birth rate, and migration creating Muslim majorities in strategic
places. This is most visible in the problem of illegal immigration from
Bangladesh in the 1980s and 90s, the most common occasion for using the
term "demographic aggression". In the case of immigration, the
intentionality is undeniable but it is not necessarily or at least not
exclusively motivated by Islamic concerns: Bangladesh is simply
overpopulated and wants to get rid of its population surplus by all
means available. Non-Muslim governments would probably pursue a similar
policy in similar circumstances.
One factor which makes India the prime target of Bangladesh's
demographic dumping policy, apart from its geographical contiguity, is
the tough policy of other countries vis-à-vis illegal or even legal
immigrants: "At the end of last year, there were still more than 100,000
illegal immigrant workers from Bangladesh in Malaysia. As of early
February 1997 they are massively expelled by the Malay Government. (...)
Bangladesh has some experience with such disasters: last year already,
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar expelled some 50,000
illegal Bangladeshis. (...) Three years ago, the Malaysian Government
signed an agreement with the Government in Dhaka agreeing to take in
50,000 new guest workers from Bangladesh. But when more and more
Bangladeshis entered the countries secretly and started to work without
work permit, Malaysia canceled the agreement unilaterally."
Against Bangladesh's aggressive policy of encouraging its citizens to
trespass against the laws of other countries by settling there without
permit, most other countries defend themselves with a non-nonsense
policy of cracking down on these infiltrators.
2.2. Refugees and migrants
Immigration from Bangladesh is of two types. Firstly there are
members of the minority communities fleeing occasional waves of
persecution or the more general sense of being second-class citizens
under the Islamic dispensation.
Few Hindus would dispute their right to settle down in India. Secondly,
there are Muslims seeking economic opportunities or sheer living space,
which dirt-poor and intensely overcrowded Bangladesh cannot offer to the
ever-larger numbers of newcomers on the housing and labour market.
Hindu Revivalists are glad to quote unsuspect secular sources to
confirm their worst misgivings about Muslim demographic aggression from
Bangladesh. A 1992 report prepared by B.B. Dutta for the North-Eastern
Congress Coordination Committee meeting in Guwahati looked into both
types of immigration and notes:
"Between 1971 and 1981, Bangladesh census records show a
reduction of 39 lakhs in the minority population.
"Between 1981-89, 36 lakh religious minorities were missing from
"In 1972, there were 7.5 lakh Bihari Muslims in the camps in
Dacca. As a result of mediation by Saudi Arabia only 33,000 of them
were accepted by Pakistan.
At present, there are less than two lakhs in the camps, where have the
rest gone? (...)
"It would be interesting to note that a group of intellectuals in
Dacca is seeking to legitimise the migration of Muslims into the
adjoining areas of North East region by invoking the theory of
lebensraum or living space. A number of Dacca dailies carried
articles written on these lines by university professors. They were not
at all apologetic about the infiltration. People are sought to be
inspired by the hope that one day the north-eastern region will be added
to Bangladesh giving it a natural boundary in place of present one which
So, there is a large emigration of non-Muslims, but there is also
a large emigration of Muslims, as exemplified by the case of the Bihari
Muslims in Bangladesh, of whom the great majority, feeling unwelcome
both in Bangladesh and in Pakistan, have simply returned to Bihar and
adjoining areas, whence their parents had left for the promised land of
(East) Pakistan in 1947. Moreover, the intentionality of the population
shift from Bangladesh to India is expressed quite candidly by opinion
leaders in Bangladesh.
The BJP argues that refugees from persecution and illegal
economic migrants merit a different treatment, as is assumed in the
arrangements for refugee relief of most countries. But secularists see
it differently, for "unlike the BJP, the Congress (I) views both Hindus
and Muslim from Bangladesh as infiltrators".
Terminology is a part of the problem here, with secularists
systematically describing Hindu refugees as "migrants" if not
"infiltrators", and Muslim illegal immigrants as "refugees".
2.3. An estimate of the numbers
Arun Shourie has brought the findings of the police and other
Government agencies to the notice of the public. According to an
Internal Note prepared by the Home Ministry, "large-scale infiltration
has changed the demographic landscape of the borders", and it also
affects Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc.
By 1987, the number of illegal immigrants in West Bengal alone
was ca. 4.4 million, and 2 to 3 million in Assam, so that "large
stretches of the border in these states are becoming predominantly
inhabited by Bangladeshi Muslims. The simmering communal tension in
some of the border areas is one of the manifestations of the effects of
large-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals who have slowly
displaced or dispossessed the local population, particularly those
belonging to the Hindu community".
Moreover: "In the metropolitan cities of Delhi and Bombay not less than
4 to 5 lakh Bangladeshi Muslims have been residing".
The Hindu population in East Bengal had declined from 33% in 1901
to 28% in 1941. It fell to 22% by 1951 due to the Partition and the
post-Partition exodus, and to 18.5% in 1961. By 1971, it had fallen to
13.5%, partly due to the 1971 massacre by the Pakistani Army, partly due
to intermittent waves of emigration. The 1981 figure was 12.1%. In
1989 and 1990, due to "large-scale destruction, desecration and damage
inflicted on Hindu temples and religious institutions",
"clandestine migration by the Hindus to India went up".
On top of the continuous trickle of Hindu‑Buddhist refugees fleeing
discrimination and harassment, the big majority of clandestine
immigrants consisted of Muslims seeking "living space". It is very hard
to count them, but the difference between the actual Bangladesh
population in 1991 and predictions for 1991 based on the birth rate and
other data shows that millions of people have disappeared from the radar
screen of Bangladeshi census workers: "The net shortfall, according to
Bangladesh government projection was between 7.24 and 9.24 million, and
according to UNDP estimates it was between 12.24 and 14.24 million."
And since 1991, millions more have been added to that number.
2.4. Indian worries
All the BJP's "genuine secularists" are, in their heart of
hearts, worried about the demographic increase of the minorities, but
they don't want to admit it in so many words. Thus, in its 1996
Election Manifesto, the BJP warns that because of Bangladeshi
infiltration, "various demographic entities are bound to come in
conflict" due to "an alarming growth of a section of the population";
already, "a section of the population has grown by almost 100 per cent"
in certain northeastern areas.
Not wanting to sound anti-Muslim, the BJP avoids being explicit about
the "communal" angle.
Even to the extent that the BJP does identify the problem as
"illegal Bangladeshi Muslims", it dooms itself to an
unimaginative (and by now probably unrealistic) solution, viz. to
physically push these people back across the border, and then build a
hermetic fence around Bangladesh. However, the BJP state government in
Delhi, voted to power in 1993 on a platform prominently including a
crackdown on Bangladeshi "infiltrators", has totally gone back on this
promise. Few people seem to realize that the only democratic way
to conduct this policy of allowing illegal immigration is to have
Parliament pass a law declaring: "Henceforth, India gives up the right
to control its borders and the access to its territory", a right which
is one of the defining elements of sovereignty. Allowing illegal
immigration to continue is an act of contempt for India's democratic
laws and institutions.
Even a secularist paper has noticed the seriousness of the
problem: "The police say that Bangladeshis are behind most of the
robberies, stabbings and other crimes being committed in the capital.
Their area of operation includes posh localities in South Delhi where
most of them work as domestic help.(...) Scarce job opportunities are
thus being hijacked by these foreigners. Pakistan claims to be a great
friend of Bangladesh, but it is unwilling to allow even one Bangladeshi
to stay on. In fact, Pakistan gunned down hundreds of Bangladeshis who
were trying to sneak into its territory. If this is how Pakistan is
dealing with the situation, there is no need why we should be so
generous. As a first step, India's borders with Bangladesh should be
effectively sealed. As for those Bangladeshis who are already in the
country, they should be identified and deported. Otherwise, the whole
country will be paying a very heavy price."
As against the reassuring view that Muslims can only outnumber
Hindus in India in a matter of centuries, the evolution in the
North-East suggests that the problem of a Muslim majority will take the
form of the successive Unterwanderung ("to overwhelm by walking
in") of designated parts of India within decades. The demographic
evolution is bound to create successive Kashmir-type situations, with
local Muslim majorities in a (decreasingly) Hindu-majority republic.
Bat Ye'or: Les chrétiens d'Orient entre Jihad et Dhimmitude (Le
Cerf, Paris 1991), p.256.
The Economist, 26/2/1994.
De Wereld Morgen (Brussels), April 1997, p.17.
Published information about the oppression of and the violence against
the minorities in Bangladesh is extremely scarce. The most accessible
general information can be found in Taslima Nasrin's controversial
fact-novel Lajja (1993, Penguin 1994); an actual report is
Communal Discrimination in Bangladesh: Facts and Documents,
compiled and published by the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian
Unity Council, 1993.
Urdu-speaking Bihari Muslims migrated from Bihar to East Pakistan in
1947. In the Urdu-Bengali controversy and in the Bengali freedom
struggle they sided with Pakistan, a position which turned them into
unwanted refugees after the creation of Bangladesh.
"Report 'C' -- 1992 of Congress (I)", excerpts reproduced as appendix
2 in Arun Shourie: Secular Agenda (ASA, Delhi 1993), quotation
on p.299-300; as annexure B in Baljit Rai: Is India Going Islamic?
(B.S. Publ., Chandigarh 1994), quotation on p.91-92; and in S.N.M.
Abdi: "No place to call their own", Illustrated Weekly of India,
Statement by Mr. D.P. Roy, joint secreatry of the All-India Congress
Committee, quoted by Tapan Sikdar, president of the West Bengal BJP:
"How West Bengal Congress is providing fillip to Muslim infiltrators",
BJP Today, 1-10-1992.
Appendix 1 in Arun Shourie: A Secular Agenda, spec. p.269.
In Shourie: Secular Agenda, p.269-270.
In Shourie: Secular Agenda, p.270.
A list of over 200 Hindu places of worship attacked or destroyed in
November 1989, compiled by the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council
of Bangladesh, is given in Shourie, Goel et al.: Hindu Temples,
What Happened to Them, vol.1 (Voice of India 1990), appendix.
Shourie: Secular Agenda, p.272.
Internal Note, in Shourie: Secular Agenda, p.273.
BJP Election Manifesto 1996, p.39. Though intended as quite
serious, this could practically be read as a parody of the Press
Council rules pertaining to riot reporting (where "Muslims burned a
temple down" becomes "members of a particular community damaged a
religious building"). BJP spokesmen have tried to justify this
wording with reference to a crackdown on Hindu refugees by the CPM
Government of West Bengal, who wanted to show that Hindus would suffer
first if anything was undertaken against Bangladeshi immigrants.
Rajiv Shukla: "The unwanted guests. Isn't it time we sorted out the
Bangladeshi illegal immigrants issue?", Sunday, 12/2/1995.
Estimate given by Rodney Stark: The Rise of Christianity (1996);
this book has received jubilant reviews in Christian circles because it
downplays the factor of suppression of Paganism by Christian emperors
and highlights positive factors such as the effectiveness of Christian
charity in attracting converts, see e.g. the review by Marcel van
Nieuwenborgh: "Toen Nieuwe Testament nog nieuw was", De Standaard
"Etnisch konflikt in Boetan leidt tot vluchtelingendrama" (Dutch:
"Ethnic conflict in Bhutan leads to refugee drama"), De Standaard,
Among the Parsis, 36% is over 55, and 25% of the adults are unmarried.
Their numbers have plummeted to ca. 50,000, half of what it was in
mid20th century. See e.g. Nergis Dalal: "The Parsis are allowing
themselves to die out", Times of India, 2031990; Bachi J.
Karkaria: "Dying embers", Illustrated Weekly of India, 2811990;
and Arnavaz Mama: "Survival strategies", Sunday Observer, 711990.
Shraddhananda: Hindu Sangathan, p.99.
Shraddhananda: Hindu Sangathan, p.1819.
See also P.K. Datta: "'Dying Hindus' Production of Hindu communal
common sense in early 20th century Bengal", Economic and Political
Weekly, 1961993, p.1307; and C. Jaffrelot: Hindu Nationalist
Movement (Viking/Penguin 1996), p.24. Typically, both exclusively
discuss the presumed sociological determinants and other externals of
Mukherji's analysis, not its degree of accuracy.
Indra Prakash: They Count Their Gains, We Calculate Our Losses,
HMS, Delhi 1979.
S.K. Bhattacharyya: Genocide in East Pakistan/Bangladesh (A.
Ghosh, Houston 1987), p.159. In the Hindi original: Ham do hamâre do
Ham pânch hamâre pachîs. The saying is sometimes accompanied by a
cartoon showing the Government poster (father, mother, boy, girl) plus
its Muslim variant: a man with goatbeard and four veiled wives
surrounded by a sea of children.
S.K. Bhattacharyya: Genocide in East Pakistan/Bangladesh, A.
Ghosh, Houston 1987, p.151.
The Economist, 7/11/1992.
Reproduced in K.R. Malkani: The Politics of Ayodhya and HinduMuslim
relations (HarAnand, Delhi 1993), appendix 4.
Reproduced in K.R. Malkani: The Politics of Ayodhya and HinduMuslim
relations, appendix 4.
Unlike in British India, the census category "Hindu" here includes the
preIndependence category "tribal" or "animist".
Syed Shahabuddin: "Census 1991, Muslim Indians and Sangh Parivar",
Muslim India, September 1995, p.386. The estimate for Jammu &
Kashmir is based on the assumption of a constant ratio between the
religions, which understates the Muslim percentage by ignoring the
higher Muslim birth rate and the Hindu emigration from the state.
Ashish Bose: "1991 Census data: Muslim rate of growth", Indian
In a letter published in Organiser, 1561997, Syed Shahabuddin
opines that the Indian Muslims may well be "the largest Muslim community
in the world", i.e. larger than the Indonesian Muslim community.
Ashish Bose: "1991 Census data: Muslim rate of growth", Indian
Calculated on the basis of provincewise population figures given by
Joachim Betz: "Indien", Informationen zur politischen Bildung
Figures given in Violette Graff: "L'islam indien à la croisée des
chemins", Relations Startégiques et Internationales, p.118.
M.S. Aiyar: "Sex, lies and tushtikaran", Sunday, 2411993.
Namita Bhandare, Louise Fernandes and Minu Jain: "A pampered minority?",
N. Bhandare, L. Fernandes, M. Jain: "A pampered minority?", Sunday,
Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Book of the Year 1992, entry
Bangladesh, official figure for 1991.
UNO estimate for religionwise percentage given in Jaarboek 1996
of Winkler PrinsEncyclopedie; the Encyclopeadia Brittannica
yearbooks 199196 only give the 1981 figure: 96.7%.
Total population figure based on preliminary census data, given in
various media, e.g. W.M. Callewaert: "De moslims in India",
Kultuurleven (Leuven), 1997/3, p.44. The Encyclopeadia
Brittannica yearbook 1991 only gives a UNO estimate.
This assumes the Encyclopaedia Brittannica figure for the Hindu
percentage in Bangladesh in 1991, viz. 11.9%, which is probably too
See in Malkani: Politics of Ayodhya, appendix 4.
R. Zakaria: The Widening Divide (Viking/Penguin 1995), p.181.
R. Zakaria: The Widening Divide, p.146. The survey was conducted
by the "High Power Panel for Minorities", with Dr. Gopal Singh as
Chairman and Zakaria himself as MemberSecretary.
"10,000 Pakistani untraceable after expiry of visas", Indian Express,
Most explicitly in the title of retired police officer Baljit Rai's book
Demographic Aggression against India: Muslim Avalanche from
Bangladesh (B.S. Publ., Chandigarh 1993), about the spillover of
Bangladesh's demographic surplus into India.