India says it wants to seal the border with Bangladesh in the northeastern state of Assam. India’s government, led by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), has given the military until June 2017 to finish. The BJP says these measures are a necessary defense against illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
Sarbananda Sonowal—Assam’s new chief minister, and a high-ranking official within the BJP—has asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to proceed with urgency on the matter of sealing the border. BJP’s unprecedented electoral success in Assam was due in large part to promises made during the campaign that a BJP-led government would be tougher on immigration. Responding to Sonowal’s request, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced that security forces aim to seal the border with Bangladesh in Assam by June 2017, within one year.
The total length of the Indo-Bangladesh border is of 4,096 kilometers (2,545 miles), about 7 percent of which is located in Assam. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a 224-kilometer (140-mile) fence has already been constructed along the border, but there are still 122 locations across a a 61-kilometer (38-mile) stretch that lack any physical barriers, making the area easy for immigrants to cross. According to the government’s new plans, at least 100 of these locations will get fences, and the BSF will install various barriers at the remaining sites.
According to press reports, Sonowal has promised extra assistance to the BSF to make the mammoth task feasible. (A 42-kilometer, 26-mile stretch in the Dhubri sector is expected to be particularly challenging for construction crews.)
The porous border with Bangladesh has long been one of India’s national security concerns, and India’s government has taken various steps throughout the years to put up obstacles to illegal immigration, including barbed wire and floodlights at observation posts. Controversially, the BSF has also maintained a “shoot-on-sight” policy at the border. The new plan to fortifying the border appears to signal the government’s new, more serious approach to curbing illegal immigration into Assam.
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Written by Sohini Chatterjee