SIGNALS FROM DHAKA

Friendship is a two-way traffic. It’s important that both sides remain cautious and positive about carrying this forward. The two-day visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh marking the 50th anniversary of the formation of Bangladesh in 1971 was marred by anti-India, anti-Modi protests that killed several people in multiple locations. This cast a shadow over the visit and will further vitiate the anti-India mood in sections of the population there.

India’s support to the Mukti Bahini independence movement in the liberation of East Pakistan from the domination of the other Pakistan is well-known. Ever since, for large parts, the newly formed Bangladesh remained friendly towards India and continued to look at Pakistan with suspicion. The largely Bengali-speaking population of Bangladesh has more affinity to Indians than to the Punjabi-dominated Pakistanis. As Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Independence leader Mujibur Rahman, maintained cordial relations with India through successive terms. The same cannot be said about Khaleda Zia, Hasina’s principal political rival, who has been put to a corner by the effective governance styles of the Awami League leader.

Sending illegal migrants back to Bangladesh provided they are duly identified to have come from that country, is not a bad idea. However, when the Modi government brought in laws, it acted in a crude manner and gave the impression that the pro-Hindu BJP was trying to drive Muslims out of India. No government can allow illegal migration. That India slept over it and kept the border unguarded for decades is a testament to the poor governance systems here. These migrants, having ended up here and settled down peacefully for generations, are now listed for deportation. Herein lies the rub! There is no treaty between Bangladesh and India for ‘return migration.’

The utterances by Home Minister Amit Shah terming Bangladeshi immigrants as termites have soured relations between the two countries even as both governments are putting up a facade of mutual respect. But the Bangladeshi public know better the state of affairs in India. The manner in which things have shaped up in the past two years  has given the impression that India is becoming anti-Muslim. This had its echo in the Middle East, where millions from India are gainfully employed. It has had its echo in Malaysia and several other Muslim nations. Now, the violent protests against PM Modi in Bangladesh added a new dimension to this and raised a question mark over future India-Bangladesh ties.

India is a beautiful mosaic of races, religions, castes and communities. Hence those who govern the country must be mindful of their words and deeds and make sure every segment of the society is properly taken care of without any  discrimination.

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