The New Horizon

A new world explored with a rational view

How many Bangladeshis live in India?

with 7 comments

This is often debated at various different forums and studies. To be truthful, neither India nor Bangladesh can afford to have a proper documentation in place in order to count the number of migrants. So, there’s always a place for right wing political leaders to exploit the facts and try to use their own statistics to gain political mileage.

In India, the lack of documentation and the ethnic similarity between Indian and Bangladeshi population creates trouble in getting close to any actual figure. The most reliable figure produced from Indian side is from the Census report. It reports the number of people of Bangladeshi origin (i.e. place of birth is in Bangladesh) to be 3.08 million (Total 5.1 million and 2.5 million in West Bengal). So, this becomes the official figure of Bangladeshis living in India. However, one should remember that India had treaties with Pakistan and subsequently with independent Bangladesh to legalize Bangladeshis in India who entered the country before 25th March, 1971. Most of these population had actually migrated to India before 1971 and thus they are legal Indian citizens now. My father, who migrated to India in 1967, falls under this category.

A more detailed look at the same data provides some detailed insight. The number of Bangladeshis who migrated to India (thus deemed to be illegal) in last 20 years amount to around 880,000 among whom 600,000 came between 1981 and 1991, where only 280,000 came between 1991 and 2001. This drop of 53% can clearly be explained by growth of Bangladesh economy and establishment of democracy in Bangladesh.

There are a couple of caveats in the census data. The first one is that the data is voluntary, i.e. the chances of cross-referencing or verification of claimed country of birth is clearly very low. So, it totally relies with census official, who sometimes is convinced to change the country of origin and put them as internal migrants (or vice versa). It is understandable that a lot of migrants won’t be willing to disclose their country of origin. On the other hand, census official may put anything on their country of origin, merely by suspecting their origin. More often, a recent immigrant can always claim that he/she has actually migrated only a few years back, a technique used by most of my relatives who moved over in late 1980s. West Bengal, the Indian state that culturally resembles Bangladesh, has the majority of  Bangladesh immigrants, amounting around 75-80% of them.

There are many incidents where an Indian Bengali is identified as a Bangladeshi, especially in Mumbai and Delhi. A report was published by Irfan Engineer on this issue where he identified a lot of similar cases. A tug of war between Govt of Maharashtra and West Bengal initiated in 1998 when a set of people to be deported were identified to be Bengalis of West Bengal.

There are couple of other official sources of data. The number of Chakmas living in Arunachal Pradesh is 60,000. However, they are granted Indian citizenship in 2004 and the Election Commission subsequently started enrolling them as voters.

The statistics on deportation is also interesting. The Supreme Court of India struck down the IMDT Act in Assam in 2005. Citing documentation, the court said that 489,046 persons were deported between 1983 and November 1998 from West Bengal under the Foreigners’ Act. On the contrary, IMDT was able to deport only 10,000 persons although 300,000 more allegations were in process.

A word of caution for whoever reads too much into the Foreigners’ Act because it is used not only for deporting illegal entrants, but also persons who overstayed in India. Unless we have a detailed documentation or break up on who was deported for what, any conclusion from this data can be misleading. Due to bureaucracy, a lot of Bangladeshis who come to visit India have to overstay as getting long term Indian visa is a nightmare for them.

That brings us to the conclusion – getting Bangladeshis to India legally should solve a lot of illegal immigration. A quota for Bangladeshi qualified engineers to have work visa for a certain period is absolutely necessary. The visa process for Bangladeshis who come to India for education or health should be eased. Along with all these, the improvement of economic and democratic processes in Bangladesh should reduce the flow of migrants.

Reference :

Politics and Origin of India-Bangladesh Border Fence (updated link)

The Hindu report on IMDT

India Census Data

Problem of Bangladeshi migrants : Politico-economic study in historical context

Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation

Case of Razia Begum


Written by Diganta

February 10, 2011 at 12:49 am

7 Responses

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  1. […] Sarkar at The New Horizon discusses about the immigration issues between India and Bangladesh. […]

    • Do you really think that giving a working visa to Bangladeshis would solve the issue. In Bengal , the Bangladeshi immigrations have been nothing less than state sponsored invasions which has completely offset the population balance of the state.One of the major reason of Left Goverment able to set a base in Bengal in 1970s and rule for more than 30 years was just by providing jobs and security to bangladeshis and in return setting up of an organized vote bank. The saga continues – with all oppressed Hindus in Bangladesh already having moved in – now the infiltrations are more by Muslim population and of course our dear new state ministry is no different than other predecessors in nurturing the minority vote bank. The increasing population in the districts falls in the blind eye of the govt. – and crores of Indian money is going in to develop the immigrant Muslim population.
      When it is just so easy to immigrate in a country and stay back will anyone care of the hastles.Oh no it does a faster communication system will ply between Bangladesh and India bringing in more and more of resource eating parasites from the other end.
      Do something – next time you visit your office , take a bus or in any public place casually ask the bengalis in Kolkata of their origins – you will find out of 10 – 9 would have origins on the other part.
      1950s were a different time when there was movement in both directions – but any Bangladeshis coming after 1971 just took advantage of a democratic govt and they will do that again – working visa would just be a wastage.


      August 20, 2011 at 4:28 am

      • All right smart guy, then why is there no protest against these ‘invasions’ in bengal? And also, there is a significant number of people originally from east bengal who migrated to Kolkata either before partition or immediately after their lands became part of Pakistan. This does not mean they are illegals.


        August 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm

  2. There are lot of people entering India, especially from Bangladesh. They should be dealt severely and sent through boats to their places and left there if the nation does not respond properly. There may be terrorists in between them. We are impotent Indians. We couldn’t even get rid of Kasab. What is Congress doing. Pleasing the religion which it always supported and has destroyed India. Demolish Congress Party please. Key for our nation’s development and growth.

    Note: Every child in India knows that Rajiv Gandhi and Indira were always actively self – centered people who have Billions worth of gold and cash of Indians at the Swiss Bank. Bhopal Gas tragedy boss was helped to flee from India by Rajiv. What more proof do you need?


    May 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

  3. muslim bangladesi will sent to their land

    shringi nandan yadav

    May 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

  4. Are the Rohingya people suffering because of their religion?

    Look past your religion: Maintaining Secularism is not an easy job. We have compromises to make and we do that albeit not on a large scale as I would prefer it to be. I have read your statements and in every article even though you are a citizen of thi…


    May 26, 2015 at 10:16 am

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    December 16, 2016 at 8:38 am

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