The Question over Immigrants and Patriotism

But I hear your mother’s voice, over the tide, and she whispers in my ear, ‘Oh but if they saw, my darling. Even half of what you have. If only they saw. They would say kinder things, surely.’”  – Khaled Hosseini

                    (The Sea Prayer)

While Patriotism is a strong bond towards one’s motherland, one must not forget that the concept of motherland is a bit complicated for our country and her neighbors.

British India considered Modern Day Pakistan and Bangladesh as its parts too, and the people who resided there were Indians. Many suffered at the hands of “The Divide and Rule” by the British and a mismanaged partition, and they continue to do so today.

Immigration has been and still continues to be a major issue in India.

During the War between Pakistan and East-Pakistan (Modern day Bangladesh), in 1971, many Bangladeshis fled to India to escape poverty due to war.

Today, politicians often exaggerate these figures and say that due to these people who illegally crossed borders, now India has an unemployment issue.

While illegally crossing borders is still an offense, but holding them responsible for a deeper issue for which no one else rather than the government(s) should be held responsible is also an offense.

The population of Bangladesh is 16.4 crores. The population of registered citizens of India is 135.26 crores. As per claims made by politicians, more than 20 million Bangladeshis are living in India.

Now in any other country, this figure will be more than enough to ring alarm bells. However, with a population of 1.33 billion, 20 million people do not make even 2% of the entire population. 

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella once remarked, that he’d be thrilled if a Bangladeshi was to head an Indian Tech firm. However, this seems highly unlikely.

The impoverished Bangladeshis, who migrate to India often take up low manual jobs, which locals often reject with disdain. Recently the police deported many groups of Bangladeshis who were living in Bengaluru and were working as manual scavengers or for garbage collectors.

How are these people who earn their living by doing meager jobs such as rag-picking and live their life mostly in poverty-ridden slums, being held responsible for the unemployment issue in India?

Are these the “termites” that politicians accuse of undermining India’s foundations? According to Tumbe, in 500 of India’s 640 districts, the concentration of foreign migrants is below 0.5%.

Instead of focusing on creating more jobs without having to turn to privatization, the government instead is willing to spend Rs. 2-3 lakh crores on NRC. When people asked why was Aadhar card, or even a Voter ID, not valid enough proof for the NRC, the government didn’t reply.

Many said, that Aadhar card is not viable since it is easily available without much verification.

To them I’d like to ask, then why were we asked to make Aadhar cards and link them to our accounts not 3 years ago? Why was 1.6 Billion USD spent on the project?

And if the government issued Identification cards are being handed out without proper verification, then my friend, we have a bigger problem at hand than Bangladeshi Infiltration.

Taking an example from Assam where NRC was implemented, people fear that these “illegal immigrants” will be kept in Detention Centers. The government has already started building at least 5 of these centers and has instructed each state to have at least one.

Let’s go to the USA for a second, where illegal migrants are being kept in ICE(US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) detention centers. ICE has been criticized for many horrific incidents.

The foremost being police brutality, and the unsanitary conditions in which these immigrants were kept. The conditions got so bad that people from around the US donated soaps and sanitizers to the ICE for these people to use.

In what was considered an inhumane act the ICE didn’t allow these donated products to be used by the immigrants.

But this is not all, many children have gone missing from ICE detention centers and many adults have died due to the unsanitary conditions.

Hopefully, you’ll agree with me on this when I say that we do not want this situation in India. No matter where the humans belong to, no one should be treated this way.

Locking people up in detention centers is a human rights violation, and this is the sole reason why Genocide Watch has listed Assam under crimes against humanity. Till November 2019, 28 people had died in the Assam detention center, due to illnesses.

We must remember Anne Frank and thousands of other Jews died due to illnesses and unsanitary conditions, not gas chambers.

But let’s say you don’t care about morality and stuff. Even then you should care about detention centers not being built since it is the taxpayers’ money which will be spent on both the construction of these centers and for the survival of those who will be kept in these.

So what is the solution? How do we solve the issue of unemployment and illegal immigration simultaneously?

Refugee camps/centers can be set up to help those who are fleeing war or poverty, and more strict border control seems like a good way to stop further illegal immigration.

Instead of building detention centers, the government should invest more in healthcare and education sectors which will solve both unemployment issues as well as literacy issues.

 Yes, progress will be slow, but if we don’t start now, there will be no progress at all.

One must understand the difference between Patriotism and Nationalism. While Patriotism demands one to love their motherland, nationalism demands you to hate others’ nations. While a patriot will point out its nation’s flaws and try to rebuild the system for the well being of the people residing in it, a nationalist will support its country no matter what.

With such a diverse population and such a complicated history, it’s the need of the hour that this nation gives birth to more patriots rather than nationalists. It’s the need of the hour that we put the lives of human beings over our differences.

It’s high time that instead of teaching people that everyone is the same, we teach them that all people are different and that is okay.

By:- Aanandita Singh

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