There have been just 116 illegal Bangladeshi migrants detected by Meghalaya since 2018, Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said in the Assembly today.
The spectre of illegal migration from the neighbouring nation is often used as a dog-whistle by political parties and pressure groups of all sorts. The high point in the figures for Bangladeshi infiltration was 2020 when 37 were detained. But even this worked out to an average of just three a month. A further 25 have been caught in the first eight months of this year.
Admittedly, the figure of 116 arrested does not reveal the full scale of illegal migration as it does not include all those migrants who may have slipped past the police net. By comparison, however, Rymbui said that more than 16,000 migrants from other Indian states who were travelling without proper documents had been pushed back into Assam as they attempted to enter Meghalaya.
The minister said all this in response to a question raised by Salmanpara MLA Winnerson D Sangma of the Congress Party.
Rymbui also informed that three districts have Superintendents of Police dedicated to combatting infiltration and that the total number of infiltration posts in the state is 30.
Of the 116 Bangladesh nationals nabbed, 44 are currently in jail and 72 have been deported.
Sangma wanted to know whether the government has studied the data to identify the areas that are vulnerable to illegal migration. The minister responded that the government is doing this where needed.
Meanwhile, Mawsynram MLA Himalaya Shangpliang, also of the Congress, informed the house that border areas are vulnerable not just to migration but to theft, with the legislator saying that Bangladeshis cross the border in the hundreds during the winter months to strip Meghalaya plantations of ripe betel nuts.
Gambegre MLA Saleng Sangma also said that the government should be concerned about “lakhs of Rohingya refugees” in the state and should strengthen its presence along the borders.