Illegal immigration, emerging a major problem in Nagaland

Peter Chachei

The concentration of illegal immigration of Bangladeshis from the neighboring state of Assam into Nagaland is emerging as a major problem in the state. Despite serious security and political ramification, these developments continue to remain substantially outside the realm of the security discourse in the state.

Nagaland state which shares nearly around 500-kilometre-long land border with Assam, areas around Dimapur, the main commercial hub of the state, has emerged as the prime target of migration, gradually spreading thereafter into other distant locales. 

Migration from Bangladesh has become a threat to the increase in the population growth of Nagaland, says a retired government official. Nagaland does not have a common border with Bangladesh; they are entering the state en-route Assam. Worse, many of them pose as residents of Karimganj, and sometimes even carry valid official documents like identity cards procured from the states of Assam, legal certificates signed by magistrates. “It becomes very difficult for the law keeping agencies to identify whether they are illegal or legal migrants” added a Police officer.    

Illegal migrants are reportedly acquiring land and other immovable properties in consent with their local sympathizers and even have gone to the extent of marrying the local girls’ inorder to secure legal and social acceptability for their permanent stay in the state.
The fact about the increase of illegal migrants in the city may be attributed to the fact that Dimapur and its surrounding areas are not covered under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system, which prohibits all non-Naga outsiders to settle in the area, and which is visibly being exploited by the immigrants before they trickle into other areas of the state.

Police personnel say that the very cosmopolitan nature of the Dimapur area makes detection of illegal migrants a difficult task. 

The Government Railway Police Station (GRPS) personnel have, in several; occasion has detained and forwarded illegal immigrants to the law keeping agencies and even have deported about hundreds of infiltrators, but most of them were again reported to have come back. According to the sources’ manning the border gate throws in that one of the reason for the continuous influx of the illegal migrants and the inability for the authorities to check those crossing the border line is the presence of many openings to the state. 

Cheap labor

The growing economic prospects and shortage of local labor in Dimapur in particular and the state in general have contributed to the ineffectiveness in limiting such influx into the state. “Bangladeshis migrant workers, providing cheap labour, have become the preferred option for many local residents, rather than to go for the relatively expensive and inadequate pool of local workers which has contributed to the influx of illegal migrants in large number,” asserts an elderly local gentleman. It has also been observed that a section among the Nagas patronizes them (Bangladeshis) by providing land for cultivation and even for settlement. 

Capturing markets

The continuing influx of illegal migrants has created a serious threat of destabilization in the state, with migrants progressively usurping the economic base of the Nagas. They have already secured considerable influence in trade and commerce and this is expanding rapidly. Muslim migrants today run almost half of the shops in Dimapur, the biggest commercial hub of the state. “There is no denying the fact that on any Muslim religious day, at least half of the shops in Dimapur, remains closed. The point is that this is a clear indication of how much the Muslim migrants have been able to make an impact on trading” said a young local entrepreneur on anonymity.