Northeastern states share more than 4,500 km of Border with Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Bhutan. Of this, the 1,643-km Indo-Myanmar border in Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh is unfenced and ethnic communities on each side can travel visa-free 16 km inside the other country. India also has a porous border with Bangladesh, where most of the Rohingya Muslims trying to escape persecution in their home country are ending up. India’s border states in the East are therefore vulnerable to an influx of Rohingyas.
While handling a large number of refugees in itself is a problem, the possible presence of terrorists among them increases the risk. At least two Pakistan-based terror groups are reported to be working among Rohingya Muslims. A militant outfit, Aqa Mul Mujahideen, formed by a group of Rohingya Muslims is trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists, say security experts. There is a risk also of these militants linking up with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, an extremist group in the Northeast.
India has said no to granting asylum to Rohingyas. But there are already some 40,000 Rohingya Muslims in India, settled in Hyderabad, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. In August, the Indian government termed them illegal immigrants and conveyed its intention to deport them. While a petition challenging their deportation is pending before the Supreme Court, the government doesn’t want the problem to get bigger with more Rohingyas landing up in India.
Assam Rifles, which is guarding the Indo-Myanmar border, is on high alert to check any attempts from Rohingyas to sneak into India. Also, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an alert to the Northeastern states, asking them to watch out for illegal immigrants. “We are wary of Rohingya Muslims sneaking to India through Moreh in Manipur and through Indo-Bangladesh borders in Tripura,” a senior intelligence official told ET, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The home ministry’s special secretary (international security) Rina Mitra and joint secretary (northeast) Satendra Garg inspected the security arrangements in Moreh and the Indo-Myanmar border, including the Friendship Bridge. Moreh, an Indian town bordering Myanmar in Manipur, is a trade hub.
The BJP-led government in Manipur has decided to set up two new police stations in border districts to watch out for Rohingyas trying to enter the state.
Police in Manipur have also begun a house-to-house verification in the border areas to look for illegal immigrants. According to chief minister N Biren Singh, 1,211 houses had been screened in Jiribam and 265 of these identified as suspicious. Of these, people in around 107 were found to have entered India illegally. The Manipur government has also requested the Centre to take up with Myanmar the deportation of 22 Rohingya refugees lodged in a jail near Imphal.
Though there is no settlement of Rohingya Muslims in Northeast India, they enter the country through the region. Police in Assam’s Barak valley last month arrested five Rohingyas and sent them to jail. Those people were on way to mainland India, L Lungriading, Assam’s additional director general of police, told ET. “Barring this,” he said, “there is no report of influx of Rohingyas from anywhere in Assam.”
But the situation could change if authorities lowered the guard. Presence of illegally entered foreigners is an emotive issue in Northeast India. According to the interim report of the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People, headed by former chief election commissioner HS Brahma, indigenous people of Assam have been reduced to a landless class due to unrestricted infiltration from Bangladesh.
In 1985, Assam agreed to accept foreigners who entered the state from Bangladesh before March 25, 1971. But infiltration continued, causing friction between the local tribes and those whom they view as illegal immigrants. Many have died in clashes.
Elsewhere in the Northeast as well, local people have opposed moves to allow refugees, including Buddhists from Tibetan, to settle down in the region. The problem could get worse if more refugees land up. Authorities don’t want such a situation to arise.
Assam’s additional director general of police (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya said: “Alert is issued by the district police of Karimganj, Cachar, Hailakandi, Dhubri and South Salmara regarding the Rohingya refugee. We have discussed security scenario with top officials of the Border Security Force and other security agencies.”
Source : timesofindia