There are no credible estimates of immigrants from Bangladesh who have crossed over to India illegally. On Tuesday, the Border Security Force chief came up with one for Bangladeshi nationals who entered India with valid documents and went missing.
"There are 1.5 lakh Bangladeshi nationals who entered India over the last five years through the integrated check-posts but never went back," BSF director general AK Mitra, who believes that the eastern region and not Jammu and Kashmir, could be a problem area in the future, said on Tuesday.
"No one knows where they went."
Incidentally, Intelligence agencies had sounded an alert when a few dozen Pakistani nationals walked past the Wagah border last year to watch cricket matches and disappeared. That experience had prompted the security establishment to cut down the number of cricket visas during the recent matches and scale up surveillance on the cricket fans.
Mitra, who has ordered the force to raise the level of guard along the Indo-Bangladesh border in view of the political developments in Dhaka and the impending polls, suspects some of those who entered from Bangladesh legally would have been involved in activities against the country. "They must have come for something."
The BSF D-G acknowledged that the force could not stop illegal immigration from Bangladesh but pointed that many of those who entered the country did not return. In this context, Mitra said his greatest worry, however, was that every investigation into terror incidents led sleuths to the Bangladeshi route.
Initially it was economic migration, but of late investigations into various terror operations taking place in the hinterland have found that the Bangladesh border was being freely used by terrorists to enter India, he said. "That makes the illegal migration problem a little more serious," he said at a media briefing ahead of the force's 41st Raising Day on December 1.
Officials said there was a pattern to infiltration by terrorists and insurgent groups from the eastern border. The northeastern insurgents usually entered India from North Bengal; those using Bangladesh as a launching pad to go to J&K or other parts usually entered from South Bengal.
"We will be able to identify our concerns once the elections in Bangladesh are over. Now they are too busy in their own problems," he said when asked whether the force is concerned over ISI support to Jehadi elements.
Asked if there was evidence to suggest that the previous government did support outfits against India, Mitra said it was a "safe presumption" to make since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party had been in alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islamic Oikya Jote, two fundamentalist organisations that were "rabidly anti-India".