Human migration and its discontents
by Saurav Basu on 13 Nov 2009 2 Comments

Human migration is the subject of the UN Human Development Report 2009 “Overcoming Barriers: Human mobility and development.” At a time when human migration has become the subject of heated controversy across the world, the HDR report makes astounding assertions like “migration is the weapon of the weak” and “being able to decide where to live is a key element of human freedom.”


The HDR argues that migration and development in the developed world would stand to be directly proportional. In other words, it would be a win-win situation for both. While migrant families will gain from increased standards of health, living and ability to educate their children better, while increased remittances will benefit their parent country; the local population will gain from their services, both skilled and unskilled (like providing nannies for children of working mothers). The demographic challenges, especially the increased dependency ratios can be averted only through migration, claims the HDR.


At a time when Europe is slowing closing its doors to even skilled migrants like Indian doctors, the language of the report seems largely at variance with their respective governmental positions with regard to migration. The rise of conservative politics in Europe should not be seen as xenophobia, but legitimate ethnic concerns on what is construed as the growing Islamisation of Europe or demographic jihad. The concept of Eurabia, persuasively argued by Bat Ye’or and passionately pleaded by essayists from the Brussels’ journal Fjordman [] cannot be wished away as alarmist.


Multiculturalism is anyway an anathema to Islam and there exists an essential incompatibility between Islam and the modern West, quite unlike the early medieval ages where Islam and Christian civilizations were separated more in belief than in principle. Considering that the implementation of the HDR’s recommendations would accelerate Muslim migration into Europe, one would have expected the report to suggest patterns of migrant behaviour which would make the process more acceptable to locals. But the HDR does not even touch upon the idea of integrating migrants into the mainstream. Who can integrate fatwa threatening Mullahs like Anjem Choudary who have the audacity to convene pro-Sharia marches from the House of Commons to Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, call for the assassination of the Pope, advice the Queen of England to wear burqa and expect Buckingham Palace to be transformed into a white domed mosque (Pioneer, 3.11.2009, Priyadarshi Dutta). The HDR also remains oblivious to the lamentable condition of South and East Asian migrants in the Middle East, especially when they profess a religion different from Islam.


More disturbingly, the HDR report adopts an ostrich like attitude to the question of sustainable development. As Garrett Hardin in his overlooked work, ‘Ostrich factor: our population myopia’ (OUP, 1998) has argued, modern anti-Malthus economists who claim that population explosion is a blessing are living in a state of denial. There is no end to the negative effects that can be reasonably expected from a further increase in population. To expect human migration to serve as an economic panacea is the logical corollary of such dubious thinking. Instead, a restrictive Chinese population model amongst the socio-religious groups averse to family planning can be realistically effective in bridging economic and social divides.


Any human migration which is forced is unacceptable. Forced migration creates refugees. In the Indian context, in the post independence period, the land was inundated with Hindu migrants from Pakistan. In 1971, millions of Hindus had to flee from Bangladesh. In 1989-90, jihadis in Kashmir rendered lakhs of Kashmiris refugees in their own land. A slow but steady trickling of persecuted Hindus from Pakistan continues unabated.


And yet, migration of a set of individuals from one place to another which invariably increases pressure on the land and society to such an extent that it involves a compelling displacement of the locals or lowering of their standards of living, whether in terms of employment opportunities, pay scales, health, hygiene, environment, public transport and security, is an ethical contradiction and the strongest argument against unidirectional human migration. The natural rights of the locals cannot be obfuscated through the alternative discourse on migrants’ rights. 


Migration of outsiders, both domestic and alien can heighten ethnic tensions and eventually precipitate violence. However, an important distinction needs to be made between both. Domestic or internal migration by citizens enjoys some degree of constitutional sanction, is not a security hazard and is consistent with democratic morality. In contrast, international migration by aliens is subject to several overriding factors, including the ability of the migrated to assimilate and respect alien national and religious values apart from the factors relating to ability of the target state to sustain the new migrant population while maintaining and expanding upon the living standards of the locals.


The Amartya Sen paradigm of every human’s claim to multiple identities which the HDR cites is again an expression of intellectual inadequacy, considering that all such identities despite their validity are subject to innate hierarchical differences and are context sensitive. Therefore, the Islamic identity in an Islamic national state in the absence of foreign interference is subsumed by ethnic and other sectarian identities. In contrast, the sectarian identity is always in danger of submitting itself to a unified monolithic radicalized Islamic identity in non-Islamic states.


The inability of the HDR to make a clear distinction between illegal and legal migrants is also a cause for concern. The Economic and Political Weekly in its 10 Oct. 2009 editorial seeks to exploit this absence of distinction, and makes a pitch for unrestricted Bangladeshi Muslim immigration into India. The suggestion is patently preposterous considering that there is nothing in the HDR report which remotely proves that an overpopulated country could benefit from unskilled migrants.


Instead, all evidence to the contrary suggests that Bangladeshi immigration has been responsible for transformation of demography in border areas of Assam, Bihar, West Bengal and the NE. Moreover, the poverty stricken locals are further marginalized by the aggressive Islamic Bangla migrants who displace them from their livelihood. There are at present 15-20 million illegal Bangladeshis residing in India, according to a report of the Intelligence Bureau [Hindustan Times, 7.11.2003].

The George C Francis committee argued that big changes in demographics in terms of an illegal influx from Bangladesh cannot be ignored since this population often shelters anti-India elements and provides steady recruitment to jihadi modules [Times of India 9.6.2008]. The Supreme Court in 2005 struck down the illegal IMDT Act in Assam, according to which the onus of proving one's nationality or otherwise lies on the complainant, whereas under the Foreigners Act, the onus is on the accused. The court also strongly observed that the act in question had encouraged Bangladeshi infiltration [].  But the Congress government at the Centre decided to amend the Foreigner’s Act itself, lest the ruling upset their ‘secular’ vote-bank.


Kamal Sadiq in his incredible ‘Paper Citizens: How Illegal Immigrants Acquire Citizenship in Developing Countries’ (OUP, 2009) has shown with incontrovertible evidence how corrupt officials and politicians have made it so easy for illegal Muslim migrants to acquire documents of citizenship in countries like India. (In contrast, Hindu refugees from Pakistan face a processing time of up-to seven years, TOI 10.9.2009) These illegal ‘citizens’ are invaluable for ‘secular’ political parties and the Left as they serve as bonded votebanks against the right wing who alone oppose such illegal migration.  Hence, the extension of this ‘secular’ logic makes perfect political sense too.


It is also distressing that the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh has committed multiple pogroms and genocides against its minority Hindu population and has never been held accountable for its actions thanks to the mysterious silence maintained by liberals and democrats. Instead, leftists like the Noble Prize winner Amartya Sen have completely effaced such spectacular crimes against humanity by deliberately misreading the demographic data (See, The Argumentative Indian. Sen’s spurious argument has been appropriated by Harvard scholar Martha S Nussbaum in her poorly researched, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, 2007.)


Sen claim that both India and Bangladesh were subject to the same pressing problems of minority accommodation and have responded similarly, conveniently ignores the Islamic constitution of the latter as opposed to the secular counterpart of the former. Moreover, divided India’s Muslim population has increased from 8.1% after partition to 13.4% in the 2001 census, while Bangladesh which had 30% Hindus at partition has declined to 9%. While Muslims of India enjoy several unprecedented minority rights vide articles 29 and 30 of the constitution, the Hindus of Bangladesh were subject to the East Bengal Requisition of Property Act, 1948 which effectively grabbed all Hindu property and rendered them destitute. This vulnerable population was then subject to multiple genocides and pogroms by Islamists (See, AJ Kamra’s ‘The Prolonged Partition and its Pogroms’ and Sachi Ghosh Dastidar’s ‘Empire’s Last Casualty’).


However, the mother of all genocides took place in 1971, when population statistics from Bangladesh and US government publications prove that 80 percent of the refugees from Bangladesh were Hindus and that 80 percent of the 3 million killed were Hindus (SN Vyas, 12.1.1997, Organiser).


Independent Bangladesh’s track record with respect to its Hindu minority has been no better as Hindu properties can be confiscated anytime through special acts under a constitution which remains committed to Islamic rather than secular values. The Global Human Rights Defense Group even found Bangladesh post-2001 using rape as a genocidal tool against its minority populations (Jenny Lundstrom: 2007). Hindu women who had to bear the brunt of the attack face constant threats of abduction, rape, mutilation and forced prostitution. Conversion to Islam often mitigates these existential threats. 


The author is an independent researcher

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