Police in Assam, Uttar Pradesh flag concerns at demographic changes in districts bordering Bangladesh, Nepal

They highlight an increase in number of mosques, seminaries and a high decadal growth in population in these areas

July 31, 2022 07:06 pm | Updated August 01, 2022 09:03 am IST - New Delhi

BSF personnel keep up vigil at an outpost along the India-Bangladesh international border in Assam. File

BSF personnel keep up vigil at an outpost along the India-Bangladesh international border in Assam. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Flagging concerns about demographic changes in districts along the international border with Nepal and Bangladesh, at the annual police meet last year, the Uttar Pradesh Police and the Assam Police highlighted an increase in number of mosques, seminaries and a high decadal growth in population in these areas. The annual Director General of Police conference held from November 19-21, 2021 was presided over by the Prime Minister.

As the decadal census exercise is on an indefinite hold, this is the latest consolidated data on the “demographic changes” in border areas in the two States.

The Assam Police paper on demographic changes in bordering areas said that at 31.45%, the decadal growth in population — from 2011 to 2021, within 10 km of Bangladesh border is higher than the projected national and State average of 12.5% and 13.54% respectively.

The Hindu population in the four border districts — Dhubri, Karimganj, Cachar and South Salmara — increased from 1,33,240 in 2011 to 1,77,141 in 2021, a rise of 32.9%.

The Muslim population in the four districts grew at a rate of 29.6% in the said decade. The total number of Muslims in 2011 stood at 3,95,659 while it increased to 5,13,126 in 2021.

Socio-cultural similarities

The numbers were arrived at based on data culled from voter lists, 2011 census, records available with the local police and current population data by village panchayats, said the paper.

The paper said a comprehensive sociological analysis needed to be undertaken to find out the reasons for the population growth. It was difficult for security personnel to differentiate between legal and illegal migrants due to socio-cultural similarities.

On November 30, 2021, Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Pankaj Kumar Singh had said demographic changes in certain border districts of Assam and West Bengal could be one of the reasons for the October 11 Home Ministry notification enhancing the jurisdiction of the border guarding force.

Mr. Singh said the 2011 Census reflected the demographic changes and the “demographic balance has changed in Bengal and Assam leading to revolt among the people … voting pattern has changed in the neighbouring border districts … the government thinking was that this notification can help in catching the infiltrators.”

The Union Home Ministry had enhanced the powers of the BSF to “arrest, search, and seize” within 50 km from the international boundary in the States of Assam, West Bengal and Punjab on October 11, 2021. Earlier, the BSF’s limit was fixed up to 80 km from International Boundary in Gujarat and 15 km in Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

Mixed population

The Uttar Pradesh Police presentation said the Indo-Nepal border had a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in few districts. It said the population growth in general in border areas was higher than the national average and there had been a steady growth in Muslim population in the border villages. It said that inputs suggest that the significant increase in the number of mosques and madrasas (seminaries) over the past few years confirm the fallout of changing demographics on both sides of border.

It said that out of 1,047 villages in seven border districts of Maharajganj, Siddharthnagar, Balrampur, Bahraich, Shravasti , Pilibhit and Khiri, 303 villages had a Muslim population between 30%-50%, while 116 villages had a Muslim population of more than 50%.

The total number of mosques and madrasas in border districts stood at 1,349 in February 2018 which increased to 1,688 in September 2021, a 25% increase, the Uttar Pradesh Police paper said.

Other police forces suggested that to counter the changes, the existing Intelligence grid need to be augmented and more police stations, particularly in the bordering areas of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam should be set up.

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