Category Archives: bangladesh

The billion is not quite Indian

The billion is not quite Indian

Officially India’s population crossed the one-billion mark last week, although some UN agency had unilaterally declared that this landmark was reached last August, so that it could conveniently coincide with India’s Independence Day.

The story was first taken up by êiThe New York Timesêr and the whole of the foreign correspondents corps followed suit. All the major European newspapers did full-page stories on how India, already poor and afflicted with debilitating problems (corruption, or the ubiquitous caste system the French love to talk about) had even more mouths to feed. The usual negative and condescending talk about India which sells so well abroad.

All the reasons have been paraded, then and now: the failure of India’s successive family programme, the inertia of the bureaucracy, the backwardness of its people, the underprivileged condition of women in India (although Indian women have known, in ancient Hindu India, much more freedom than their sisters in medieval Europe or Islam). But not a single newspaper, whether foreign, or Indian, bothered to mention that one of the reasons India crossed so quickly the billion mark is that there is, according to official (but secret) records (compiled by governments which were non-BJP), at least 18 million (1.8 crore) Bangladeshis in India today! Most of them are illegal migrants, but many of them have acquired fake papers through devious means — and sometimes even with the connivance of the local administration like in West Bengal.

Did you know that India shares 4096 km of border with Bangladesh and that it is nearly impossible to guard, as it costs Rs one crore per km to protect this border: metalled roads, so that patrols can quickly survey it, barbed wire, watch towers etc? That there are 41 battalions of BSF, precious manpower, which is tied down along the Bangladesh border?

That the government has only managed to fence 788 km out of 4,000 and that Rs 1,500 crore is spent every year on guarding it? Or that Bangladeshi infiltrators come up to Bombay, or even Delhi, where they form important communities which have voting power — hence their wooing by politicians and the silence that different governments maintain (even the BJP, apart from the courageous Assam Governor, who was immediately branded a “nationalist” by the Press)?

That even though the BSF managed to catch 60,000 illegal Bangladeshis last year, very few Bangladeshis are ever sent back, as officially the Bangladesh government, which covertly encourages it, says that there is no illegal immigration to India? And finally that Bangladesh may lose 20 per cent of its land in the next few years, because of erosion and constant flooding. And where will these people go?

It would be nice to say that Hindus in Bangladesh are prospering. Butit is the reverse which has happened. There were 28 per cent Hindus in Bangladesh in 1941, 10.5 in 1991 and less than 9 per cent today. Pogroms, burning of temples, specially after Ayodhya (see Taslima Nasreen’s book Lajja) have all ensured that Hindus also flee Bangladesh. What is the solution to the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis? It is true that it is not done with a bad intention: most of these immigrants come to India in search of better salaries and conditions of life. But ultimately, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments should co-operate so that quotas for work permits can be issued along with identity cards — and proper census kept.

There is another factor which has been kept under silence by the Press, both western and Indian, most of the Hindus — even the poorest in today’s remote Tamil villages — have understood that it is better to have less children: thus many women get operated after three or four kids. The Christians, of course, have been the first to embrace family planning in India, because they are among the best educated. The same thing cannot be said about the Muslims, the great majority of whom are poor. Thus Muslims in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar have often six or seven children.

Of course, if you dare mention this fact in India or abroad, you are immediately branded anti-Muslim. The problem is not with the Muslims as human beings — the refinement and hospitality of many Muslims in India is often unparalleled — but with their scripture, which was devised 1,400 years ago for the conditions and people existing then and which do not apply any more and have never been adapted to modern times.

So next time someone mentions that India’s population has reached the billion mark, just tell them: “No, there are 982 Indians and 18 millions Bangladeshis”!

Mother of memories

Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 19, 2003

At a time when we see politicians, journalists, philosophers, and even spiritualists utter only what is “politically correct”, at a time when nobody really dares to call a spade a spade – whether it is the Chinese threat to India, the 20 millions Bangladeshis illegally staying in this country, or the bypassing of India as a democratic superpower by the West – it is time we went over what the Mother of Pondicherry, whose 125th birth anniversary falls this year, said on these subjects so long ago, but all of which is still very pertinent today.

What the Mother uttered is extremely interesting for several reasons. First, she was French, and embodied the best qualities of France: Forthrightness, courage and this same fearless frankness which kindled the French Revolution and heralded an era of democracy in Europe: “Liberti Igaliti, Fraterniti.” Second, the Mother was not only the spiritual companion of India’s great prophet, Sri Aurobindo, but also her most faithful disciple. Sri Aurobindo once said that nobody could match the surrender of the Mother. Thus, naturally, she espoused Sri Aurobindo’s ideals on India, particularly the political vision which he formulated, when he was the most ardent nationalist and revolutionary, an episode of his life which even some of his disciples have buried, forgetting that Sri Aurobindo had reenacted the Bhagavad Gita’s extraordinary message: That force and violence can also sometimes be dharma, duty. Indeed, many of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples have forgotten that he let his own brother fabricate bombs in his house.

Third, the Mother is also Durga. And it is under this form that her children still pray to her: “Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge, terrible art thou in thy own self of might, Mother beautiful and fierce. In the battle of life, in India’s battle, we are warriors commissioned by thee; Mother give to our heart and mind a Titan’s energy, to our soul.” Thus the Mother is extremely forthright and clear in her sayings and writings on the problems India is facing today at the hands of Pakistan, China, Bangladesh or the US. This is particularly true in her Agenda, her intimate conversations with her French disciple, Satprem, where she expressed herself freely.

On Bangladesh, the Mother said on the eve of the 1971 war with Pakistan: “Can you imagine that along with the refugees, Pakistanis have entered India, and they have poisoned wells and rivers. Some of them were caught in the act. It’s dreadful.” Then, Satprem asks: “But Mother, shouldn’t the problem of India and Pakistan be settled once for all?” And this is the Mother’s unequivocal answer: “That’s what I was hoping for. But they’ve made…such a mess with this whole Bangladesh affair, it’s dreadful – dreadful. Now, they have found a solution: The Americans are trying to come to an agreement with the Chinese – to help Pakistan massacre people. That’s the last straw!” (July 17 1971). She had also faith in the Indian Army, and much less faith in the Government. What she said 30 years ago could be applied even today: “The Army is ready to fight up there on the borders of India and Bangladesh, but it is forever waiting for the Government to give the order” (September 15 1971).

Has anything changed today? Bangladesh has not only forgotten that it owes its freedom to Indian soldiers, but has also turned inimical to India, giving shelter to Islamic separatists groups. And who can forget the horrible way India’s BSF soldiers were mutilated by the Bangladesh Rifles? It would be enough for India to close the Farakka dam for three days to bring Bangladesh to its knees, or for a few Mirages to fly over Dhaka. But as usual Indian leaders are trapped in the goody image of the big brother and the “Army is forever awaiting the Government’s orders”.

The Mother was equally forthright on Pakistan. When Satprem tells her: “Mother, it is obvious that India is the symbol of the New World in formation, so India must be ‘one’ symbolically, in order for the New World to see the light of day;” the Mother answers succinctly: “Yes.” Satprem continues: “Consequently, Pakistan has to disappear”. “But, of course,” is the Mother’s reply! And she adds: “India already missed one chance. But now… it shouldn’t miss this one” (April 7, 1971). And when she learns that the USSR is putting pressure on India to negotiate with Pakistan, she exclaims raising her arms: “Everything has to be started all over again.” We know the situation today: Every time the Indian Army has painfully made gains, the Indian Government, whether of the Congress or the BJP, has surrendered it. The latest was the mobilising of the entire Indian Army along the border with Pakistan at great cost, to finally call them back under pressure from the US. That day, Islamabad knew that it could get away with anything.

But it is probably for China that the Mother reserves her strongest words. Satprem: “The latest argument is that Pakistan wants India to declare war so she can call China to her aid.” Replies the Mother: “In any case the Chinese are on Pakistan’s side as they are already there in Pakistan.” Satprem: “Mother, don’t forget that India betrayed Tibet! When Tibet was invaded by the Chinese, India kept its mouth, ears and eyes shut and did nothing to help the Tibetans.” Mother: “Quite some time ago I had a vision of China invading India, even South India. And that would be the worst of catastrophes. It will probably take centuries before things can return to normalcy (silence). And the Chinese are very intelligent (Mother goes within for a long time).”

Today this might seem a little far-fetched, except that the Chinese are still claiming huge chunks of India such as Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim, and have given the nuclear capability to Pakistan and are blocking India’s entry as a permanent member of the UN, whereas they got theirs because of India’s support. Yet, we still see Indian leaders talking about “the everlasting Indo-Chinese friendship”.

Finally, the Mother, although she had great hope from America, did not mince her words. Satprem: “Mother, do you know that the President of the United States (Nixon) is going to China?” Mother: “Yes, can you beat that!” Satprem: “They also have quietly started giving economic aid to Pakistan again; they are doing it discreetly, but they are doing it. Their intention is to put Pakistan back on its feet.” Mother: “They’re mad! India missed the first chance; it missed the second chance; now we don’t know when it will come again” (Mother strikes her forehead, then shakes her head several times). Today, we see that the United States, instead of choosing India – a democratic, pro-west, secular country – as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, has favoured Pakistan, a non-democratic, non-secular and often anti-west nation. How can Mr George Bush be so short-sighted? It is not Iraq he should target, but Pakistan!

Let us all then remember the Mother’s strong words (which might displease some of her disciples, who would rather, as Satprem aptly says, “lock Mother and Sri Aurobindo in their Samadhi, so that they can go on with their little spiritualised routine, instead of putting their vision into practice”) on the year of Her 125th birth anniversary. Let the strong spirit of Durga and Sri Aurobindo pervade India and make us the Kshatriyas of the 21st century.