On boycotting Indian products

Prominent Bangla blogger Himu has started a campaign to boycott Indian products on 1 March to protest BSF atrocities.  I have no idea how the campaign is faring in the ‘real world’, but in my (limited) observation of the cyberspace — blogs and facebook — the idea definitely resonates with most Bangladeshis. 

I personally wish the campaign success.  If nothing else, it will be a worthwhile symbolic act.  And symbols are important.

The thing is, I am not sure boycotting Indian products will have much more benefit beyond symbolism.  In fact, if this is actually successful, the result will probably be more harm than good.  That doesn’t, however, mean there is no place for civic activism.  There is.  And people like Himu can play a big role in leading that activism beyond symbols. 

Let’s start with how the boycotting strategy is supposed to work beyond symbolism.  The strategy is premised on this chain of events: we don’t buy Indian products; Indian business bottomlines are hit; businesses lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF; border is more peaceful. 

Let’s parse each part of this chain. 

Why do we buy Indian products?  To judge from the typical discussion in blogs and facebook pages, it would seem that Bangladeshis have lost all sense of ‘national honour’, and we buy Indian products because we lack any patriotic feelings.  In some accounts, it is all down to our womenfolk — mothers and sisters and bhabis, curiously not wives and girlfriends, and never women in their own right — who are to blame.  If only they stopped watching Indian movies and TV, and avoided Indian sari and fashion, all would be well. 

Implict in the boycotting strategy is the idea that if Bangladeshis developed a sense of nationalism and boycotted Indian products, our domestic producers would fill the gap — we would all be dhonno by buying Deshi ponno.

Nice feel good story.  But likely wrong. 

There may be exceptions in particular markets or products, but by and large, we buy Indian products because they are generally better-value-for-money.  If Bangladeshi products were competitive, consumers would not be fooled into consistently rejecting them.  And if they were competitive, one wouldn’t need nationalist rhetoric to support them. 

Let’s take the boycotting idea to its logical conclusion.  Suppose the idea gets huge political momentum in Bangladesh, and the government (or a future government) slaps huge tariffs and trade restrictions against Indian goods, and shuts Indian channels, and otherwise curtail economic interactions with India.  What do we think will happen?

In 2010-11, India (legally) exported about $3.6 billion worth of mostly consumption items to Bangladesh.  In that year, Bangladesh’s total import bill was $24 billion, $7.8 billion of which was from China.

We slap tariff on India, and do we really think it will be Bangladeshi products that will fill the gap? 

Still, the Chinese army doesn’t kill 100 Bangladeshis every year. 

But will we really be able to stop the consumption of Indian products?  Before Saifur Rahman opened markets and Nazmul Huda opened airwaves in the early 1990s, did we not consume Indian products?  Shut off legal channels, and I suspect we will still buy things that Indians make more cheaply than the Chinese (or the East Asians, or the Turks, or whoever).  It’s just that they will be contrabrand smuggled products.

Just like the Indian cattles are at the moment.  Hmm, it’s not hard to see how this could actually lead to more BSF killing at the border!

Okay, suppose we really got into nationalist fervour and decided to not have Indian beef.  And we convinced our ‘misguided women’ to shun Indian fashion.  So, no smuggling.  At all. 

What will that mean for the Indian business?

Look at the numbers again.  Our legal exports are worth $3.6 billion.  India’s total exports in 2010-11?  $251 billion. 

What about the illegal trade?  Numbers are hard to come by, but the cattle trade is estimated to be worth $500 million.  Pretty much everything else (other than drugs and guns) can be exported from India legally.  I have no idea how big the drugs market in Bangladesh is.  But even if it is twice as big as the cattle trade, and we get all our drugs from India, even then we are talking about around $5 billion — 2% of total Indian exports.

Do we really believe that Indian businesses will be worked up enough to lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF? 

Hmm, I suppose some folks will still believe that, just as others will continue to believe that Indian foreign policy establishment is always scheming to subjugate Bangladesh.  But to the more reality-based-people, I submit that boycotting Indian goods has limited effectiveness beyond symbolism.

And yet, the energy and passion behind this activism shouldn’t be underestimated.  This kind of citizens’ activism — initiated by bloggers — can actually make a difference.  In this case, I believe, beyond the 1 March symbolic boycott, bloggers like Himu can make a huge difference in two ways. 

First, bloggers can exert direct pressure on the government.  Awami League, for all its shortcomings, is a mass political party.  Sheikh Hasina, for all her faults, is not deaf to sustained, unambiguous message from her party.  There are two clear examples even under this government — the Arial Bil airport, and daylight savings — where she backtracked when her supporters sent a clear message. 

Fast forward to the current issue.  I see the call for boycott coming not just in the Jamaat-linked SonarBangladesh, but also among the so-called progressive, pro-1971 folks who are closer to AL than any other party.  So one would think that the ruling party will listen to these folks. 

If they spoke out that is.  Evidently some people are exercised about the state of our hairstyle, but not about the fact that the ruling party’s number two leader is dismissive of something for which a major Indian newspaper thinks India should apologise unconditionally

If there is a sustained pressure on the AL leadership from its base, it will be more vocal with India on BSF atrocities. And that will be a huge improvement on the current state of things.

But perhaps that won’t be enough.  To really change BSF attitude, we need political pressure in India. And again, bloggers can take the lead.  Himu is a lead moderator in a progressive Bangla blog regularly frequented by Indian Bengalis.  Why not encourage them to be vocal about this issue? 

Why not write about it in the Indian media?  Why not work with rights activists in India? 

Instead of boycotting Indian beef, why not work towards legalising the cattle trade?  India sells $800 million worth of beef to Vietnam.  Why not to Bangladesh?  Remember, Habibur Rahman was beaten not because he smuggled cattle, but because he didn’t bribe the BSF enough.  Legalise the trade and there will be less bribery, and less brutality. 

Instead of railing against Indian TV in Bangladesh — which is not forced on anyone — why not work towards opening the Indian airwaves to Bangladeshi channels?  Or at least improving the programmes in Bangladeshi channels (let’s face it, who wants to watch Asif Nazrul and Mohammad Arafat when you can flick the channel and get Piyanka Chopra)?

Let me end with a bit of history and culture that is common to all Bengalis. 

Boycotting as a political strategy in our part of the world started a century ago, when Bengal was first partitioned.  Boycotting of British products during the Swadeshi movement, however, contributed to a worsening Hindu-Muslim relationship, which eventually culminated in the border where the BSF commits its atrocities.  Rabindranath Tagore wrote about the political economy of that boycott, and Satyajit Ray filmed it. 

History isn’t without a sense of irony, it seems.

73 Responses

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  1. tacit said, on February 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    I applaud your effort to inject some rationalism in this extremely emotionally-charged debate.However, I am not too optimistic about your point that if Bangladeshis mobilize, the AL government shall listen and pay heed. Both the AL and UPA governments are now fixated on elections and survival. There will be no major changes in diplomacy between Bangladesh and India the next two years; the relationship will drift along as it currently stands.

    • jrahman said, on February 14, 2012 at 7:18 am

      You’re probably right about the relationship drifting until elections in both countries. But sustained pressure on the AL leadership, from people on its side of politics, will still matter at the margin. AL chief won’t listen to you or I. But she might listen to people who are on her side of politics on nine out of ten other issues. She might listen to Mohammed Arafat, who might listen to Himu.

      • tacit said, on February 14, 2012 at 8:29 am

        Nine out of ten? Pah. You clearly have not been paying attention. Unless you agree with Sheikh Hasina on twelve out of ten things, you may as well start writing for Amar Desh.

  2. Diganta said, on February 15, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I had a different reason why the boycott might not work. The question is – if BSF stops killing, will the people go back and use Indian products? If not, then the companies won’t waste their resources to bash BSF – directly or indirectly. But I also would like to see the energy since this is good political activism.

    I am still not clear about who has the control to stop BSF from killing people at the border. Indian Govt and corresponding agencies probably doesn’t have that power, if they had, they would have purged their own police forces already. BSF and Indian Police forces target Indian people as well. There are a few incidents of BSF personnel being punished, but even that didn’t stop it.

    If voice of Indians would have made any difference, the editorial of Hindu would have done it. Even after that BSF has killed and tortured a few and incidents are being reported again and again.

    BSF has built up what I can call world’s largest extortion racket. Only way to stop this could be to legalize cattle trade between India and Bangladesh. India provides Pakistan one million cattle per year, it can do the same for Bangladesh too. However, if the cattle trade is legalized, the border population will become jobless, because some big corporate company will take the task of crossing the cows. They will move more towards trafficking drugs. Will that be any good?

    The other question that no one asks – why these cow-traders actually cross the border even after knowing that their life is at risk? How deep is the poverty in Bangladesh borders and what could be done to improve their conditions?

    • Diganta said, on February 15, 2012 at 5:15 am

      I wrote something on cow-trade, it would be nice to get your opinion on those. I am not sure though my points are good …

    • jrahman said, on February 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      I’ll comment on your post in your blog. Whether the Indian government can do anything to control BSF is a valid question. Some argue that the Indian government tacitly condones, if not actively orders, a shoot-to-kill policy. I don’t believe that’s the case, but I do wonder if there has been a concerted effort to discipline BSF. I think this deserves a post of its own.

      I am not sure I agree with you about the jobs market impact of legalising cattle trade. Cattle (or goat) trade is legal within Bangladesh. But I have never seen big corporate trucks moving animals during the Qurbani season. These things are done by people because labour is much, much cheaper than machines. And as long as that remains the case, I don’t think there will be much adverse impact on jobs.

      On the final point — anecdotal evidence suggests that most border killings take place in the poorest regions of Bangladesh. I’d very much like to do/see a detailed analysis of shootings over the past decade or so, broken down by location, demographics etc. As with most things in Bangladesh, there are lots of theories and assertions, not enough empirical research.

  3. A well wisher said, on February 15, 2012 at 5:59 am


    Your silence over the ghastly violence in Hathazari last week is puzzling as you have written extensively about the discrimination against Hindus in Bangladesh, humdrum as it may be.
    This is disturbing as it comes at a time when more Bangladeshis than ever have come to reclaim their rich heritage like the fakirs and bauls of yore. I am not asking you to express your concern, for I have no doubts about that. Is there something else at play that we do not understand?

    • jrahman said, on February 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Well, beyond the concern and condemnation, I am puzzled by some aspects of what happened in Hathazari. I’ll post about it once I have a better grasp of the facts.

    • Udayan said, on February 18, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Not sure why Hathazari and the border situation are related, and why we need to discuss one if discussing the other …?

  4. Diganta said, on February 16, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Jobs impact on legalizing cattle trade should be there, unless you are looking at same mode of cattle trade post-legalization. Right now, there are people to collect cows, transport them to border, cross them the border, from border to slaughterhouse and then the rest of the business. The people who cross the border with cattle are paid because of the risk they take with their act. That risk will be zeroed once the transfer is legalized. So the dividend will be zeroed too, i.e. those who transport them from remote Indian villages to the border, can go a few more miles to deliver them to slaughterhouses in Bangladesh.

    Furthermore, India exports cattle to Pakistan through 2-3 licensed traders only, i.e. they are the only companies authorized to transport cattle to other side of the border. If similar things are applied in India-Bangladesh border too, then the licensed traders will always win the one-sided price-war. The people engaged with crossing the border with cattle will lose their money.

  5. logicat said, on February 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    a boycott or simply a conscious choice to try to buy bangladeshi would be a great thing. but i’ll believe it when bangladeshis stop spending absurd amounts on indian wedding saris and wedding jewelry instead of buying bangladeshi saris and jewelry. 🙂 it’s true that for the most part, indian goods are better than the local counterpart, and that’s why people buy them, but not in every instance, a lot of it has to do with our perception of “quality” and “smartness.” it’s also true that the government might do a better job of protecting domestic industries from unfair competition that uses illegal inputs and evades duties (e.g. the indian jewelry industry). i don’t think any of this will have any impact on border killings, but injecting a little economic nationalism into the debate over what to buy may not be any bad thing.

  6. Fugstar said, on February 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    The beast of spurious and petty consumerism is bigger than blocking the supply of indian gear and the unofficial outflow of Bangladeshi value.
    Ghorer Baire’s wisdom does relate, but indian goods arent particularly good anyway (taxi cabs). We are middle asian and have a port.

    Indian govt meddlement in Bangladesh runs deeper than Felani, and the ritual beatings. Its ecological and most visible and embarassing when these people are in power because of the Liberation Mortgage they took out.

    The recent cyber sorties that temporarily closed indian websites were useful in spirit. I hope they do not become a victim of national vanity. If the Hatters are listening, could you raid indian water board and raw servers for vital information please?

    Its a kind of direct action that bypasses suchilism and the corrupting press discourse.

    The message was sweet, “This is about your government, not you, not religious identity.”, and heartening as it demonstrates that not all deshis on the internet are running around 71 roundabouts, apolitical, consumed and developmented.

    Indian government and public perceptions of bangladesh and bangladeshis can only be changed by our people throwing of the drunken bonds of seduction. There should be a cost to them every time they do harm, as well as a path for forgiveness and mercy.

  7. Rumi said, on February 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Recently I saw a debate on this issue in a friend’s facebook note. Statements (Like –what Hiati is to USA, Bangladesh is same to India etc) were made by very good friends and I did not find it wise to continue the debate.

    In the same thread there was absolute consensus that we should not blame India for BSF atrocities in Bangladesh border. Because BSF atrocities are committed locally and Indian Central Government is not in control of the acts of BSF. I understand the owner of this blog shares same view.

    Well being friendly neighbors, sharing culture, language, food, religion, history, dresses, movies — we can allow ourselves to be very big hearted and be understanding to our neighbor.

    But then a small question comes up. While we are this much considerate and understanding to our neighbor, is there any shred of reciprocity from our neighbors?

    When a misguided brainwashed nutcase from a Sylhet Madrassa will travel to fight Jihad in Kashmir — will there be a similar level of understanding that Bangladesh Government cannot totally control what each of her 150 million citizens thinks or does? The recent history makes me believe that not only there is a lack of the slightest desire of ‘understanding’, there is a ultra enthusiastic desire to directly put the blame on the highest official in the government and its top most security services.

    Even some of our compatriots who are dovish in being more ‘understanding’ that acts of a regimented disciplined military force of our neighbor is merely a local discipline issue are ‘full of arms’ in blaming our own government’s nefarious intentions when a nutcase from Sylhet gets caught traveling from Sylhet to Kashmir.

    • dhakashohor said, on February 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Too bad there isn’t a like button on wordpress. Rumi bhai’s comment summarises the way a lot of us feel about Indian attitudes towards BD.

      Jyoti bhai, I have less optimism than you that SH will listen to her core constituents on this particular issue.

    • Diganta said, on February 20, 2012 at 5:43 am

      That’s a real good comparison. What would happen if one Madrasa student from Sylhet goes on to carry on some fight in Kashmir. Well, I don’t deny that there will be a flurry of negative reports against Bangladesh. But, it will also set Indian govt in fire for letting them come in India and not preventing this to happen. If you remember, there is a big change in Indian Naval/Coast guards following Mumbai attacks. In anticipation of a Sylheti student carrying bomb to India, the country has invested billions of dollars in border security and fencing work.

      Let’s switch the context back to the BSF atrocities. Coming to Bangladesh, what is being done in Bangladesh to stop people from going across?

  8. jrahman said, on February 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, this post is going places! All, there will be another post on the issue. For now, let me quickly touch on a few things.

    1. Diganta, on the job loss point — perhaps there can be innovative solutions like cow bazaar in the border.

    2. Logicat, your point re: perception of ‘smartness’ is perhaps valid. But I’d argue that the appropriate reaction there is a re-calibrated ‘cultural nationalism’, not a self-defeating economic one.

    3. Fug, I’d argue that what this demonstrates is that there are people who are simultaneously concerned about 1971 and BSF killing. And that’s a good thing. Perhaps this will be part of the re-calibrated nationalism of the future?

    4. DS/Tacit, perhaps you’re right. Perhaps Hasina will not listen to anyone on anything by now. But then again, we won’t know unless it is tried. And people who are willing to go so far as to not consume anything Indian (much harder than it seems) should at the least be vocal about the likes of Syed Ashraf.

    5. Rumi bhai, I saw the same facebook message. Had it been made by a good friend of mine, I’d have point blank called their analysis stupid. I stayed silent because I don’t know the person well. More importantly, I don’t think you describe my view accurately. I do believe that the incidents reflect local BSF actions — in the sense that local commanders or soldiers decide when to shoot and whom to shoot — and not a policy decision taken by the Indian government to shoot-to-kill Bangladeshis. But that doesn’t mean I believe Indian government has no control over the local BSF commanders. If I believed that, then why would I bother with writing about this issue in Indian media, or urge AL supporters to speak up to their leaders so that the Bangladesh government puts pressure on the Indian government?

  9. Fugstar said, on February 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    i didnt know brac operated in kashmir.

    • tacit said, on February 18, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Lol. Good one.

  10. উদয়ন said, on February 20, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Couple of thoughts in no particular oder. And let me frame these points by emphasizing that I 100% condemn the shoot-to-kill policy, that I think BSF is a corrupt and indisciplined force that needs to be exposed, reformed and perhaps disbanded as the only way out of the mess that we have with them – of which the Bangladesh situation is only a small though important part, and I don’t agree that they are beyond the control of the govt if the govt actually wanted to act on this.

    1. AL is in power now and so an easy target while social media and activism is raising awareness of the issue on an unprecedented scale. But I don’t think the current situation is something that they are particularly responsible for. A BNP govt in the future will have the same difficulties (as they did in the past). Within Bangladesh, it is easy to have a closed door debate glossing over some key technicalities (illegal migration, smuggling etc), but this becomes harder at an international negotiating table or forum, either with India or the outside world. Even if BSF and Indians are involved as equal or instigating partners in illegal migration or cattle smuggling, that doesn’t help at the Home Secy level closed door conversations, especially when the official policy of Bangladesh remains that not a single Bangladeshi is crossing over illegally. As far as i am aware, this is a stance (“no illegal BDs in India”) that BNP is actually stronger on, whereas AL has undertaken quiet pragmatic diplomacy on, for instance, retrieving BD nationals who were languishing in Indian jails (BNP govt woudln’t accept them as there are no illegal BDs in India etc), and the whole push-in/push-back dramas.

    2. We may detest the shoot-to-kill policy and the ability of BSF to torture with impunity, but the solution to that, until India changes its laws or reforms BSF or the border is demarcated – none of which are likely in the near future – is for Bangladeshis not to go into India without the right papers, and not to engage in an illegal trade of which a crucial component seems to be corruption involving that very same BSF. All the arguments about fair trade, Indian investment to reduce trade balance etc are all well and good, but even if each of those were implemented right this minute, that won’t stop the traffic at the border any time soon. Should the Indian govt and civil society take on a more proactive role to put an end to this situation ASAP from the BSF lever – absolutely – both for moral and strategic reasons. But until that happens, shouldn’t BD govt and civil society take more of a proactive role to protect its citizens by stopping them from crossing illegally or engaging in “trading”? I’m not blaming the victim. But saying, there are lives at stake here, how can we prevent their loss. The Himu activism is all well and good – but shouldn’t some activism be directed in this direction as well? Rather than restrict diatribes against blood-thirsty Indians to middle class drawing rooms and the blogosphere, how about reminding those at the border who may actually be affected by this of how devastatingly evil the Indians can be to them and their loved ones.

    3. I think Indian civil society is an untapped ally for BD. Think of the HINDU editorial. Think of the outrage when NDTV broadcast the torture footage, or when the Felani picture was published (which I believe was taken by an Indian journalist for Anandabazar – and without which the world wouldn’t know about it). Think of the national disgust and exasperation with corruption (which is a huge part of the BSF situation). Barring the Indian govt coming to its senses on how, the basic moral issues aside, a dangerous a situation this is for bilateral relations (think ULFA and ISI and the prospect of a BNP govt in 2 years time), I think this is the only way to move out of the stalemate in the immediate term.

    4. A caveat. A strong voice supporting the BSF’s ability to act with impunity comes from Indians across the social and economic classes in the border districts. Both in West Bengal and Meghalaya (where there is another dimension of ethnic conflict). The border smuggling trade has significantly affected law and order, particularly at night. Yes, Indians are involved in that situation. But they are not alone. And while BSF actions affect Indian citizens as well (a morbid part of the story is the process of working out which nation a body belongs to when, unsurprisingly, there are no papers to be found on a corpse), there is a significant lobby that says BSF needs to have that fear factor in order to control a worsening situation that includes petty crimes and more serious issues such as extortion, vandalism, armed robbery and murder. When they hear that a smuggler from across the border was shot in India after gunshots were exchanged or a BSF jawan was attacked by a group of smugglers with knives and fired in self defence, they probbly breathe a sigh of relief. I am reminded of a fiery election speech from a Muslim League candidate that I heard in Murshidabad last year calling for the death penalty for all smugglers from Bangladesh who were destroying the local social fabric and destroying local youths, for instance. How do we address this aspect if we are going to ask BSF to be restrained?

    • tacit said, on February 20, 2012 at 4:36 am

      “Bangladeshis not to go into India without the right papers, and not to engage in an illegal trade of which a crucial component seems to be corruption involving that very same BSF”

      I respect the sentiment from which you are writing, but the unemployed youth in a Bangladeshi border district won’t be able to afford the papers or the repeated visits it will take to one of our major cities to get visas every time he wants to get items from India. And he wants to get items from India because the money he will make off the smuggling gig will feed his family for the next seven days.

      We are trapped in a vicious stalemate that has quite a lot to do with economic forces. But if activism and greater sensitivity on part of either governments can make even marginal improvements, then that is what needs to be done.

      • Diganta said, on February 20, 2012 at 5:48 am

        This is what average Indians think and somehow gives me a feeling that the problem is not going to get settled soon. However, Indian Govt protests whenever an Indian fisherman gets killed after intruding Sri lankan waters.

        A soft border can be implemented only if there’s an equal eagerness on both sides of the border. After years in India, I understand that most of Indian population is seldom interested to have a soft border with Bangladesh, which, ironically is not a natural border. People in border are paying price of the same.

      • উদয়ন said, on February 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

        In which case, boycotting Indian goods – even at a symbolic level – doesn’t seem to be a practical solution since it ignores the push-pull factors.

        Witholding something that cuts to the core of what India needs from Bangladesh – positive things, like transit (rather than negative things, like no ULFA camps) would be far more effective, in both practical and symbolic terms. A one hour stoppage by all people involved in transit, for instance. A traffic jam at Benapole or Akhaura would make news in Delhi and Mumbai, and people may start asking why.

      • tacit said, on February 20, 2012 at 10:12 am

        The government would not take kindly, to put it mildly, of any stoppage of their signature foreign-policy, or rather, signature policy accomplishment.

        The utility of talking about boycotting Indian goods is the same as the utility of this blog post: it gets people thinking. Maybe the actual boycott won’t achieve anything, but it will lead to more awareness and activism in both sides of the border.

    • jrahman said, on February 21, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Udayan and others, 1 and 4 are very good points that I’ll take up in the follow up post. The 3rd one is something I’ve been saying for a while.

      I read your 2nd point a number of times. The idea of ‘educating’ the people at the border about the dangers has a ‘let them eat cake’ kind of quality to it — they know what the score is. Why do they take the risk? Same reason why you and I (and all the commenters in this thread and most my readers) live in cities other than our birth, away from our parents. It may be a nice tit-for-tat in your debate with Kgazi, but hardly worth serious analysis.

  11. kgazi said, on February 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Boycott of Indian goods will indeed be most effective, it will pierce the heart of Indian takdir. India salivates at the thought of exporting to Bangladesh (BD), and Indian govt SUBSIDISES Indian exporters (gives them money) for exporting to BD, making Indian products cheaper then BD’s. Net result of this is NOT better quality goods from India – but a destruction of BD enterprise & industry growth prospects. BD remains handicapped and dependent on India, bcos of India’s subsidized exports to BD. The notion that without Indian products BD would drown, is a total fallacy, which ultimately feeds India the frenzy of brahminic swagger at the borders.

    Who says the Indian govt has no control over BSF ? Boycott Indian goods today, and even Mamata Bannerjee will rush to Dhaka with a Teesta flag. A cowering tail-down stance will not motivate Indian govt to warn BSF, but a Boycott of $4Billion of Indian goods will.

    However, dont let India play the game of take one brick, and give one house !! Indian Govt will say “OK we will stop BSF killings, but you must import $12 Billion instead of $4B, and also give us this port, that road, etc.” BD must develop their OWN agri & industry and stop relying on Indian inferior imports, so that India cannot dare to torture and hang BD in trade.

    • উদয়ন said, on February 21, 2012 at 12:15 am

      I love going round in circles.

      If you don’t like the “Brahminic swagger” (oh those pesky caste warriors on the frontier in Murshidabad and Shillong, remote controlled by the turbaned Prime Minister and his Catholic puppet master salivating at the unraveling of Bangladesh which is all they and everyone in India ever think about), there’s a very simple solution. Just don’t cross the border. And close yours. Easy.

      • kgazi said, on February 21, 2012 at 7:02 am

        What if the story was reverse? What if BD border forces were killing Indian citizens, or BD destroying Indian ecology with dams, or mass dumping BD goods to India, or smuggling drugs and banned items into in massive scale ? Would India invite BD businessmen into India and allow them free money transfer and massive incentives in India ? NO !

        The very first thing India would do is BAN BD goods into India, without even blinking an eyelid.

      • kgazi said, on February 22, 2012 at 9:21 pm

        Since Indians believe they have the right to SHOOT people at their border, then:

        1) Why shouldn’t BD have the right to ban Indian goods ?
        2) then, Indians also believe they have a right to destroy BD industry & trade to their advantage, &
        3) lack of Indian goods will not destroy BD industry, but the import & mass smuggling & dumping will.

  12. Rumi said, on February 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Nice discussion going on here. It is a very precious thread because of inclusion of some (Diganta/ Udayan) critical voices of counter-reasoning in the avalanche of emotion. From this side of the border among the relatively more enlightened class, the reasons to get angry at India or ask India questions include,

    1. Although Bangladesh is India’s largest border, India has significant length borders with China, Pakistan, Nepal etc. May be borders with China, Pakistan are remote barren terrains and human movement/ cross border illegal trade is very low and BSF does not have a major problem at hand. Hence BSF does not have much smuggling operation there. But India-Nepal border, at places, may be as busy trade hotspot as Indo-Bangla border. How many people are shot and killed in those borders?
    2. While India is worried about nuisance of poor Bangladeshi migrants crowding their lands, they should look at themselves in the mirror – thinks some educated Bangladeshis. Indian migrants changed the demographics in many African, South American and pacific island countries like Uganda, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Fiji. The entire gulf region is full of Indian poor laborers and India grabs the largest piece of US skilled market pie. And in this region, India is not the only recipient of Bangladesh’s surplus human energy. Arguably there are more illegal Bangladeshis in Pakistan (in fact Bangalees did change the demographics in Karachi) than India. Bangladeshis are also going in throngs to Maldives, legally-illegally. But all the hue and cry comes out of India only. None of us recall hearing any nagging, complaint from a Pakistani or a negative report in Pakistani media. And because we are majority Muslims, never think Bangladeshis as a particularly Pakistan friendly race.
    3. What goes on Indo-Bangla border is nothing but extrajudicial killing. Even if some concerned Indians in border regions may be adversely affected by Bangladeshi smugglers, death penalty without any verification or due process (remember Felani?) is something that sickens many otherwise India loving folks in Bangladesh.
    4. This point is more of a question. On macro and microeconomic point of view who benefits and who loses from all these illegal cross border trading?

    • Diganta said, on February 23, 2012 at 4:45 am

      1. India-Nepal border is open, i.e. no documents are required to pass into India at any point. So, BSF has no extortion rackets on that border. Nepalese people gets to live/work/trade in India without any issues. India has a different relationship with Nepal and Bhutan.

      2. Accept your point partially, I support legal migration but not the illegal one. Let me break down by the countries you mentioned. US takes legal migrants from India because they don’t produce as many skilled laborers as they need. This is true for Gulf also, and this time the need is for semi-skilled professionals. So, in both cases Indians moved as part of perceived mutual gain, approved by Govts. In case of other countries (African and South American), the migration was forced (sometimes voluntary too) by the British empire, who were interested to take Indian obedient labors to cultivate those lands.
      At the same time US Immigration department reports that majority of people trying to intrude illegally through Mexico border are actually Indians (after Mexicans of course). I strongly condemn this. If I find Indian Govt by some means promoting this human-racket, I’ll condemn our Govt too.

      Now coming back to our discussion, I am always supportive of Bangladesh Govt if they lobby to legitimize cow-trading across the border. How many times does this issue has been discussed in media or in a Indo-Bangladesh joint talk? How many media articles have focused on legitimizing cattle-trade? I saw only one in the Daily Star a few days back and that should be the only one.

      3. Absolutely agreed. I probably commented in Jyoti’s one of previous articles that BSF killing people is the single largest barrier between Indo-Bangladesh peace process.

      4. This is relative as I discussed in details in my personal blog. Cattle is a “raw material” in terms of industry. There’s not much benefit that India has from exporting cattle, than exporting beef and leather goods (for similar reasons, Bangladesh doesn’t get profit if they export gas to India). On the other hand, given the draconian cow-slaughter-ban in most states of India, they don’t have much option but to sale surplus cows to Bangladesh. If it goes as per Indian next fifth year plan, ban on cow slaughter should be abolished from a lot of states. After that, there’s a chance that border-cow-trade may not be worth to risk life, i.e. would become even less profitable for India (link given below). On the other hand, if India walks backward and imposes more draconian cow-slaughter bans, it would become more profitable to export to Bangladesh.

      If you think the trade-balance is the single indicator of profit and gain, India was doing better in early colonial days that it does today. That’s definitely not true.

  13. উদয়ন said, on February 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Rumi bhai, always enlightening discussing these issues on forums such as this.

    To the points you raised:

    1. As Diganta says, there have never been border controls with Nepal. Why does India not have an open border with Bangladesh? I’m sure there are many reasons. But I understand that in 1972, Indira proposed it to Mujib, and he rejected it, apparently because the fear then was that East Bengali Hindus who had abandoned property over the years from 1947 onwards would return en masse and the new bankrupt devastated country would not be able to deal with it, not to mention, the scale of this problem would be exposed, and, well, I’m sure there was a fear about what it might do to demographics.

    2. I don’t agree that Pakistan has more illegal Bangladeshis than India (just multiplying up the number of Indian cities with significant BD presence, not to mention every district in West Bengal, Assam and the north-east), or that their tolerance is greater. Besides, it is irrelevant whether other countries complain or not. The bigger point is the difference between illegal and legal migration. The example you give of skilled Indian labor in the US is actually of legal migration (though of course US and many other countries have huge numbers of illegal Indian migrants). Each country should have the right to define this as they see fit as long as they enforce border controls humanely. So, no to border shooting and torture, but are border controls themselves a violation of human rights?

    3. Can’t disagree. It’s a matter of national shame, among many others. Your point about the extra-judicial nature aside, my personal position is against any capital punishment, under any circumstances. I would welcome Bangladeshi perspectives on how to make the border more manageable, certainly from a law and order standpoint, as unless that improves, BSF as a theoretical concept (which exists in practice with all its warts) will have many supporters in India. Just as, I understand, RAB once did and still does among many Bangladeshis.

    4. Who benefits? Well, India obviously benefits at some level, otherwise they really would put a stop to it. As appalling as the border incidents are, they affect only a small proportion of those crossing, for cattle smuggling or other purposes. The BSF certainly benefits as they run a corruption racket from it, and they’re the ones manning the border. And apart from the cows (or other goods) that are stolen and taken across, I assume the Indians selling the goods or acting as dalals are making a hefty share of the eventual money that the Bangladeshi smuggler makes. But, that is only half the equation. Bangladeshis are also benefiting hugely, otherwise they would not be risking life and limb to make the crossing. And Bangladesh benefits at a macro level, as there is an outlet for, as you describe, “surplus human energy” and relieved pressure on resources, social services etc. Call it symbiosis if you like.

    Incidentally, in November, I had the opportunity to visit Myanmar. It was partly a personal trip – my mother’s family used to be based there and I was retracing steps. So I spent time interacting with people outside of the regular tourist circuit. Almost everywhere I went, I would come into contact with Bengalis / Rohingyas (visible minorities in the big cities, and in certain regions) who would be keen to make conversation, particularly now that political restrictions are rapidly easing meaning that it is easier for them to speak with foreigners. I noticed a pattern after a while; the first question would be, was I from Bangladesh. Once I established that I was not, the conversation would typically move to peoples’ experience with Bangladesh either directly or through hearsay – I heard Bangladesh described as the country which has tortured so many of their people, kept them locked in inhumane conditions when they were seeking refuge, sent them back to a desperate situation in Myanmar against their will, the border guarded by corrupt and violent guards who have abused their women and tortured those not willing to pay bribes when they or their families or friends have tried to enter or were begging to avoid deportation, who stole UN refugee rations etc etc. Two people showed me scars that they said they received from Bangladeshi police or army. One teary lady said I was the age her son would have been had he not been shot dead by the Bangladesh army at the border in the 90s. “Why couldn’t they be generous to us?” she asked me.

    • tacit said, on February 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      I would like to push back against the claim that “US takes legal migrants from India because they don’t produce as many skilled laborers as they need.”

      “[American] universities are producing far more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workers than allegedly worker-starved tech companies are willing to employ. Indeed, a generation of jobless engineers exists not because, as tech CEOs insist, they don’t possess the skills to fill open jobs, but because those tech CEOs aren’t looking for domestic workers. On the contrary, they are looking for foreign workers who will simply accept lower wages and fewer workplace rights than Americans.

      In early 2009, Microsoft announced it would lay off 5,000 workers. After meeting that target by late 2009 it announced another round of 800 layoffs. Yet it continued to import H-1B workers, ranking fifth in FY08 and moving up to second in FY09 on the top H-1B employers list. It received 2,355 H-1Bs in those two years alone. Microsoft also extensively contracts with leading offshore outsourcing firms like Infosys and Satyam, which provide on-site personnel on guest worker visas.”

      All migrants cross borders for the same reason: to seek a better life for themselves and their family. What makes a Bangladeshi migrant illegal but a Nepalese one legal? Or, for that matter, a Mexican immigrant illegal but a Canadian immigrant legal? Intrinsic differences between them? Or policies and prejudices over which they have little control?

      • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:10 am

        H1B related push backs with some anti-immigration websites is purely imaginary. Interestingly I was a Microsoft employee in 2008-09 when Microsoft laid off 5000 employees.

        First point is America produces enough skilled professionals to meet its demand. It’s false, because even having a very low unemployment rate in skilled labor section, US companies imports H1Bs and outsources significant amount of work to other countries. This data tells you that unemployment rate in IT sector is 3.2% (has gone below 1.5% now) instead of 9.2% (is 8.3% now) at that time. So, definitely there are not as many skilled IT professionals as US needs.

        The second point is specific to Microsoft. They have a huge office in India and China too. In case they are obstructed by US Govt to import H1Bs, Microsoft will export those jobs to India and China directly and US Govt will lose out on the entire flow of tax revenue. Which one is beneficial to US economy? So, US allows immigration with restrictions and get people settled in USA. You must also remember that US is a nation built on immigrants and hence any anti-immigration law is bound to be declared unconstitutional by courts.

        Coming to the last point, I agree that there is no point not to allow Bangladeshi migrants when we do it for Nepalese ones. But if you don’t know, Nepalese are opposing that “free-work” as they complain that their country is facing huge brain-drain because of that. So, there are issues with free migration also. On the other hand, Nepal had this “free-to-work” treaty with India back in 1950s, when India was not that closed. I believe people from today’s Bangladesh used to come to India on a regular basis from Bangladesh. So, now it will be extremely difficult to face labor unions against free migration from Bangladesh. You can easily understand that India is a democratic country and majority opinion counts. So, the trade unions will always block these agreements, unless it is approved in a larger scale by WTO within free trade of services.

      • tacit said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:57 am

        I don’t want to get side-tracked into another debate, so will only note two things:

        1.Salon is not an anti-immigration website, as even a very cursory reading will show.

        2. The myth that US has to import tech workers from India because it does not educate enough STEM workers of its own has been thoroughly denounced. Please see this Georgetown study:

        “Analysis of the flow of students up through the [STEM] pipeline, when it reaches the labor market,
        suggests the education system produces qualified graduates far in excess of demand: [STEM]occupations make up only about one-twentieth of all workers, and each year there are more than three times as many [STEM] four-year college graduates as [STEM] job openings.”

        Click to access 411562_salzman_Science.pdf

  14. উদয়ন said, on February 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    FYI, here’s a piece I wrote in FORUM almost five years ago on cross border migration. Seems very naive when I re-read it but it touches on some of the issues we have discussed here.

  15. Rumi said, on February 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I feel legality or illegality of a migration is the least important factor in an analysis/ discussion on migrations. As tacit states above, legal-illegal are mere means of giving political correctness to some sort of deeper objection or prejudice. The most high Profile migrant in India is Dalai Lama. I don’t see anybody cares with what visa or by what legal means Dalai entered India. What matters in Dalai Lama’s migration and stay in India is Chinese Policy in India. And nobody even pretends to hide that fact.

    I don’t with what document millions of Indians migrated to Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Uganda or Fiji etc. When one tyrant Idi Amin raises the issue of legality and issue of demographic integrity of that African nation as excuse to forcefully expel thousands of Indians – no one in the world buys his logic. I don’t understand if Idi Amin is wrong, how one can justify current average Indian attitude towards Bangladeshi migrants as ‘understandable’. Whole sky breaks lose when Indian students gets assaulted by racists in Australia. But the treatment on that cattle trader (? Smuggler) or the hanging body of Felani does not generate any comparable emotion except for a select minority of liberal souls.

    Whatever we say, the editorial policy that prints Felani photo, or airs the BSF footage, represents minority viewpoint in India. Our company in this discussion also belongs to that elite minority class.

    My fear, India is changing. Like those “gung ho – Nuke SaaDDaam, Nuke Eye-Raq, Nuek Eye-Raan, Nuke this Nuke that…” enemy obsessed blue collar red America, India middle class also is turning into an asylum of bollywood inspired ‘enemy obsessed’ ultra-nationalists. What is happening in Bangladesh border may be an expression that undercurrent. If Pakistan did not have her own Nukes, I guess similar thing would have happened in Indo-Pak border also.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:25 am

      Legality of migration is definitely a high priority topic. Dalai Lama came to India as a refugee (which is true and legal) and this is the same way my family came to India in 1971 along with millions of Bangladeshis. I don’t think discussing economic migration and refugee at the same scale is beneficial.

      Idi Amin or Srilanka tries to drive immigrants out of their countries they are wrong in the same way when ULFA talks about ethnic cleansing Assamese Muslims (who mostly migrated to Assam from today’s Bangladesh during undivided Bengal) because they were legal settlers. I explained you before why they were legal settlers. In Australia, students are definitely legal migrants/visa holders.

      I don’t know why Pakistan border comes to the question. Pakistan border is well-militarized and anyone trying to cross the border to the either side has a high chance of getting killed. However, population living in borders is very low (deserts in Gujarat-Rajasthan and mountains in Kashmir) and that’s why people seldom gets killed there.

      I can repeat this, there are Indians who try to cross borders illegally but I have absolutely no reason to support them.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:35 am

      Indian enemy-obsession is not untrue but the point is – Is Bangladesh is viewed as enemy? I didn’t find any such trend in Indian media reports. If you do an alternative study, please let me know. Bangladesh is rarely mentioned in Indian media reports and most average Indians (other than North-East and West Bengal) doesn’t know anything about Bangladesh. India’s projected enemies are Pakistan and China and middle class are truly obsessed with them.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:35 am

      US unemployment rate details –
      You can search and get the latest reports.

    • Frustrated said, on February 26, 2012 at 1:13 am

      And Bangladesh is the land of tolerant oasis, right? That’s why we hear “mosjider bhetore uludhoni” coming out of voice of former Prime Minister. How many Bangladeshis kill each other because of BNP-Awami dwondo? How many million people you have thrown out of your country in last 60 years because of communal identity. You are hardly peace loving, tolerant, generous, all welcoming people. Yet you think you have right to bypass all law and break international protocol to come into India to do whatever you want, yet, you also wish to burn our flag in Dacca.

      • dhakashohor said, on February 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

        So to sum up you are saying, “Bangladeshis have it so bad in their own country that if they are killed at the border without trial for supposed wrongdoing there’s nothing to complain about?”

        Great. Sounds a bit like Churchill during the Bengal Famine. Y’know, the one that affected both sides of Bengal.

        Says a lot about the kind of work needed between Bangladeshi and Indian citizens when enlightened readers of an enlightened blog make the sort of arguments made here.

  16. Rumi said, on February 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Please correct the last lines in the para of my above comment, ”
    The most high Profile migrant in India is Dalai Lama. I don’t see anybody cares with what visa or by what legal means Dalai Lama entered India. What matters in Dalai Lama’s migration and stay in India is Chinese Policy in Tibet. And nobody even pretends to hide that fact.

  17. Rumi said, on February 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    “What Bangladesh can do or is doing to stop people from crossing India border illegally?” — A valid question.
    But I do not know the answer, i.e. don’t know what Bangladesh can do about it. Erect another taller barbed wire fence on its side of the border? Order BGB/ BDR to shoot to kill any Bangladeshi walking towards India? Or PM going on the media and give a clarion call ( Udatto Ahban) to Bangladeshis not to cross border illegally?
    Or negotiate with India to open the border between India and Bangladesh? If there is an economic demand of human energy inside India and if there is surplus human energy in Bangladesh—let connectivity benefit both the countries. If there is no demand of Bangladeshi manpower, there will be no migration. In 1920s, 30s, 40s a popular port of Bangladeshi migration was Rangoon, Burma. Many of my distant grandparents spent some part of their life in Rangoon, making money. Some of them returned home with a Burmese wife too. Now as there is no need of Bangladeshi labor in Burma, no one bothers going to Burma for job (Rather Burmese Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh and changing the demographics in Cox’s Bazaar/ Teknaf area and committing all sort of crimes including obtaining BD passport and BD voter ID etc. !!!!    ) .

    At the same token Bangladesh may also follow steps Indian Government is taking to stop illegal Indian migration to Gulf countries, Singapore, Australia or USA.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:31 am

      “What Bangladesh can do or is doing to stop people from crossing India border illegally?”
      – There are multiple answers but Bangladesh media is shy about discussing this. There are legal Bangladeshis working in Srilanka, Maldives, Bhutan and many other nearby countries. So, they can consider to send some to India also.
      – Talk to legitimize cow trade in border, I raised this point but didn’t see any reaction.
      – Talk to reduce restrictions in bilateral trade to discourage illegal trade. This is probably not going to help Bangladesh in short term.

      Any steps to stop illegal immigration to any country is always welcome. This will provide more incentive to make migrations legal.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 4:07 am

      “Rather Burmese Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh and changing the demographics in Cox’s Bazaar/ Teknaf area and committing all sort of crimes including obtaining BD passport and BD voter ID etc. !!!!”

      – Nice to see that you also don’t like immigration when it is directed into your country.

      • Rumi said, on February 24, 2012 at 4:52 am

        You missed my sarcastic tone in this line. Three smileys turned Into three boxes.

  18. kgazi said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:41 am

    Diganta’s example is classic. Indias treatment of BD tv is not an airwave issue, it is essentially a Boycott of bd tv. No amount of activism or blogs will change it, India has decided that’s it. But India doesn’t call it their “boycott”, they just quietly make BD tv illegal. Same approach needs to be taken on Indian goods, silently ban them. If only the arrogance of border killings is a lesson to bd’s silly politburo.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:52 am

      BD TVs are neither banned nor illegal in India. It requires license to stream in India and BD TV channels (who are unsure of their returns on investment because of low viewership) are not interested to get through the legal process. If Bangladesh introduces similar licensing, I would be happy to see Bangladesh cable owners to go by that.
      Why Bangladesh channels are not popular in India is a different story and could be discussed in a different thread.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 2:56 am

      You can read this article –

      “Thus on pen and paper there is no restriction from the Indian government in allowing the entry of Bangladeshi channels in India. ”

      It also details the licensing requirements.

      • kgazi said, on February 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

        That is exactly how India Boycotts BD goods- silently. “On pen and paper there is no restriction from the Indian government”, everything is legal and open. But try taking your goods to India and you will face skinny financial barriers, hidden under slumdog gangster policies, that will make your idea totally un-attractive in millions of ways. OTOH Indian goods & Indian TV enter Bangladesh not only free, but BD channel operators actually PAY Indians 2000 crore per year just to see Indian TV.

        BD needs to reciprocate Indian policies to level the field. Silently, underground, with barrier policies make them pay, better still – stay away !!

  19. Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Let me sum up my comments. BSF killing people in borders is an unacceptable crime that India needs to fix. Any activism in either side of border to force this to happen is welcome. However, both sides of the border also needs to think about these people who risk their life to cross the border on a regular basis. We need to work to enable these people with legal alternatives for living. I see the first one to be the higher priority but the second one should not be left behind.

    • Rumi said, on February 24, 2012 at 5:34 am

      In solidarity.

  20. Nipun said, on February 24, 2012 at 4:00 am

    There had been continuous indian killing and barbarism on Bangladeshis which been patronized from all levels of indian govt. So it is imperative that Bangladeshis stand up and protest and try to protect interest of our citizens. As such Bangladeshis need to boycott indian products and services that are marketed in Bangladesh.

    Friend we started a campaign to boycott Indian product in facebook. Please visit this page-

  21. Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 4:31 am

    “[STEM]occupations make up only about one-twentieth of all workers, and each year there are more than three times as many [STEM] four-year college graduates as [STEM] job openings.”

    Good, then rest two thirds go unemployed? Then how come only 2% US Tech professionals are unemployed? All that Microsoft (also a product of US) says (shortage of Tech professionals etc etc) are wrong?
    I do recruit here in USA too and from my perspective, immigrants are very small part of US Software labor force. There are no guidance from management to provide preferential treatment to immigrants or citizens.

    Currently I am working for Expedia, who just decided to open up a large facility in India and hire 350 employees there. If US is restrictive about Indians and Chinese coming to US, then companies would go to those.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 4:47 am

      Of course I must add that American workers are free to exercise their voting rights to stop bringing in employees from outside of USA. But the perception of profit/loss with respect to migration might vary but the legality aspect is (irrespective of that) always true. I will not be supportive of Indian migration in US once the country amends laws to stop it (as it was before 1965, Indians were banned in US till then).

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 5:39 am

      The study was a good one and explained a lot of things. It never advocated stopping immigration policy of US, the only thing it points to – is the immigration is not due to a shortage. The conclusion part is interesting –

      “As the physical infrastructure of emerging nations improves, the location of innovation and R&D
      is likely to follow rather than determine the location of human capital. Investing in domestic
      human capital can provide longer-term benefits to the United States and a collaborative approach
      with those countries will capture the benefits of their human capital development rather than
      trying to absorb it through short-term immigration to address short-term hiring needs (Lynn and
      Salzman 2006, 2007). The characteristics of human capital development and employment are
      qualitatively different from that of prior periods, and we should not fall back on past approaches
      to policy. Instead, evidence-based policy is necessary for developing effective programs for the
      emerging global economy. “

  22. Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 5:03 am

    “You missed my sarcastic tone in this line. Three smileys turned Into three boxes.”

    Thanks for this update. I didn’t think it goes with your stance, that’s why I mentioned it in a separate stance. On another note, don’t you think Myanmar Govt is responsible for Rohingya’s being in Bangladesh?

  23. jrahman said, on February 24, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Great to see the comment section on fire. 🙂

    One quick note about the visa restrictions between India and Bangladesh. I have read / heard anecdotes along the lines that Udayan suggests — that Indira Gandhi offered an open border but Sheikh Mujib asked for visas, and the ‘return of partition Hindus’ played a big part in his calculations. But I don’t think that’s the full story. At the time of partition, there was no visa restrictions between India and Pakistan. Muslim League leaders like Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Chaudury Khaliquzzaman or HS Suhrawardy all had propertis in India, and none of them wanted a visa system. In West Pakistan / North India, the communal violence was so strong that within months of partition, there was effective communal cleansing, and visa system became an irrelevant concern — Pakistani Muslims didn’t want to go to Delhi, and Indian Hindus / Sikhs didn’t want to go to Lahore, period. In the east things were different. Not only were there sizeable minorities in both side of the border, there were also much border crossing, and Bengali migration into North East India. The pressure on Calcutta from East Bengali Hindus was particularly accute. After a major communal riot in 1950, West Bengal leaders pushed the Nehru government for visa restrictions, primarily to keep the East Bengali Hindus out. Without visas, there was no way to know who was a Calcutta resident returning from his ‘desher bari’ in Barisal, and who was a Barisal resident fleeing communal violence to Calcutta. Under the visa system worked out by the treaties between Nehru and Liaquat in early 1950s and Feroze Khan Noon in late 1950s, both countries agreed that East Bengali Hindus were citizens of Pakistan, and had no right to migrate to India (and Indian Muslims couldn’t migrate to Pakistan automatically).

    This had important implications in 1971. India insisted that any political outcome in Bangladesh would have to involve return of all the (mostly Hindu) refugees. What Mujib asked for in 1972 was a continuation of the arrangements Nehru signed with the Pakistanis.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

      I would love to read these in documents … any minutes-of-meeting?

      • jrahman said, on February 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

        Unfortunately, documenting history isn’t something we Bengalis (regardless of religion or nationality) are good at — see the furore over Bose’s book? You’ll notice that both Udayan and I used words like ‘our understanding’ / ‘we heard or read’ / ‘we think’ / ‘apparently’ etc. That’s because these views are not in any well researched history book that could be referred to. A lot of it is oral history. Some comes from contemporaneous magazine or newspaper reporting (which is not always accurate, but usually gives the general story). Others come from memoirs or non-formal writings by people like Annada Shankar Roy or Abul Mansur Ahmed.

    • Diganta said, on February 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      I verified that visa system between India and East Pakistan was introduced in 1952. However, India/Pakistan did not have resources to implement closed border and that led to implicit open-border other than in wartime.

  24. tacit said, on February 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Unemployment rate amongst recent U.S. college grads majoring in Computer/Math = 8.2%

    Unemployment rate amongst recent U.S. college grads majoring in Engineering = 7.5%

    • Diganta said, on February 25, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Microsoft/Amazon/Expedia (companies I worked/recruited for) rarely recruits college-degree holders unless they are experienced enough. See the column for Graduate degree holders 4.1% (avg salary 91,000$) and 3.4% (avg salary 100,000$). Moreover, H1B is generally issued to a graduate degree holder of a foreign country.
      Adding one more to my list of unanswered questions – why these students ended up as a college degree holder and not being a graduate degree holder?

      • tacit said, on February 25, 2012 at 4:13 am

        Obviously, more advanced degrees generally equate to better odds of getting hired. However, this should conclusively refute the notion that unemployment rate in STEM field is 1.5% or anywhere near that.

        Speaking exclusively about Bangladeshi societal norms, it is very common to find a hierarchy in Bangladeshi communities in foreign countries where skilled legal immigrants look down on unskilled legal immigrants, and unskilled illegal immigrants are almost relegated to a sub-human category. It would be rare to find a decision-maker in our country who knows or is related to an illegal immigrant.

  25. Diganta said, on February 25, 2012 at 5:14 am

    “that unemployment rate in STEM field is 1.5% or anywhere near that.”
    – Data published by Bureau of Labor Statistics is the best one, so the unemployment rate of IT PROFESSIONALS (not STEM graduates) is around 1.5%. Please understand that there’s a difference between “IT Professional” and “STEM Graduates”. If a STEM graduate works in the field of IT (where most of the H1B hirings happen), then he becomes a IT professional. STEM includes basic sciences, construction or many other field where getting an H1B is rare.

    Also, the ACS unemployment rate is computed in a different way than BLS. Community Survey data of 2009 is always inferior to BLS statistics of 2011. If you wait for a couple of weeks, I can provide you with latest stats for 2012 from BLS.

    You can see BLS statistics (2010) in WSJ site – (enter Computer/Software in Search occupations field). You can see Computer Software Engineers have an unemployment rate –
    2007 – 1.8%
    2008 – 1.7%
    2009 – 4.5%
    2010 – 4.6%

  26. […] responds in a comment in the above post: BSF has built up what I can call world’s largest extortion racket. Only way to […]

  27. […] Mukti blog does not think that such boycott is really going to work up the Indian businesses enough to lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF. However, the blogger adds: Hmm, I suppose some folks will still believe that, just as others will continue to believe that Indian foreign policy establishment is always scheming to subjugate Bangladesh. But to the more reality-based-people, I submit that boycotting Indian goods has limited effectiveness beyond symbolism. […]

  28. […] Mukti blog does not think that such boycott is really going to work up the Indian businesses enough to lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF. However, the blogger adds: Hmm, I suppose some folks will still believe that, just as others will continue to believe that Indian foreign policy establishment is always scheming to subjugate Bangladesh. But to the more reality-based-people, I submit that boycotting Indian goods has limited effectiveness beyond symbolism. […]

  29. […] Mukti blog does not think that such boycott is really going to work up the Indian businesses enough to lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF. However, the blogger adds: Hmm, I suppose some folks will still believe that, just as others will continue to believe that Indian foreign policy establishment is always scheming to subjugate Bangladesh. But to the more reality-based-people, I submit that boycotting Indian goods has limited effectiveness beyond symbolism. And yet, the energy and passion behind this activism shouldn’t be underestimated. This kind of citizens’ activism — initiated by bloggers — can actually make a difference. […]

  30. Murtadullah said, on March 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    the hate for India is due to the jealousy and the religious duty of jihad on hindus(Indians). the razakars are excited to slaughter hindus if not their cows. the moon god cult of pagan allah(shiva) has brainwashed humanity to wage war against prosperous,peaceful unbelievers,kafirs. I think, every Muslim must leave islam, the terror cult like ME, I am a murtad and I can assure You, this cult is dangerous one. blaming on India,USA or Israel don’t hide moon god cult’s terror.
    I think Faithfreedom(dot)org is a good site with lot of helpful bangladeshi murtads there who can make sense on brainwashed islamic fag3ots.
    good luck to apostacy.

    oh! India – it is the private jealousy of all south asian countries. like a dog frets when it sees a Elephant, pakis,bengolideshis out of jealousy feels very insecure. India is filled with slums of bangladeshis(muslims). it is not a propaganda. these small people wants to bring their women and relatives here and does absolute pityful jobs like prostitution,drug trafficking etc.
    many Bangladeshis see India’s biggest shame of eastern states bengal,bihar,up,jharkhand etc which are very poor. real India is not represented by said states. otoh, India is a country with very rich culture,heritage and peaceful people be it Hindus,Christians or Indian Muslims. the islam cult is the reason. world must destroy it. sadly, this islam cult is a shaivic(shiva) cult part of Hinduism! I am feeling sorry for muslims. we have inbreeding,suspicion and a cult which makes us go back to 7th century arabia! 😦 good luck again leaving moon god cult, bengolis – alisina(dot)org can be a good resource for the excited muslim whose brain cannot see sense.

  31. On the BSF atrocities « Mukti said, on March 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

    […] last post on this topic is now the most popular in this blog, showing how much people care about this issue. […]

  32. […] Mukti blog does not think that such boycott is really going to work up the Indian businesses enough to lobby the Indian government to discipline BSF. However, the blogger adds: […]

  33. F.A said, on January 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    You have some misconceptions about the global geo-political aspects between india and Bangladesh. One of your argument was about how Indian products are much cheaper compare to Bangladeshis. In economic term this sort of behavior by a foreign country is known as ‘dumping’. It is not that Indians are generating anything with a superior German quality. We have seen how their cars TATA break apart within few months of purchase and how their Saris has lower quality compare to Jamdani or any other Bangladeshi prints. Indians are selling their products at a cheaper price only because they want to destroy our internal market. Once that has been done, they will increase their price eventually. This is an economic concept known as predatory pricing. Hence, even though this may look like an awesome thing to general consumers, it is bad for years to come in the future.

    Now, as for 2010-11 fiscal years, Bangladeshi import looks dramatically highly in favor of India because in this year Sekh Hasina government even imported eggs from India! Since 1980s, this have never happened in this history of Bangladesh. Local poultry farmers has suffered a lot due to this immature decision by Hasina government, let along other unnecessary products (as you said consumption goods).

    And as for tariff, India only allows 53 Bangladeshi items (similar or mostly raw materials) to enter into India. The trade deficit between us is gigantic. Hence, it will not hurt Bangladesh as much as it does to India. However, it will certainly drive prices of various essential products inside our country, ie – onion, cotton. Unless we decide to increase our production domestically (which would create more jobs and preferable by a nationalist like me).

    But I agree with you in one aspect, it will not be wise to boycott Indians all of sudden, and it has no more significant other than symbolism. But, I also believe that it is necessary to turn that symbolism into power, and try out level best to reduce our dependency over Indians. And we should reduce this dependency within next 4/5 years.

    One this I highly disagree with you that we should tie our economy further with the Indians (who in all aspects has tried to demolish our nation, ie- Farakka, Tipaimukhi, their media policy). Instead I would rather create more jobs in our country and reduce foreign dependency, especially from India.

    One statistics showed if we encourage our farmers to produce cotton in the southern shore of Bangladesh (where land is too salty to produce crops), we can generate 50% cotton to support out national needs! But government is still importing a big chunk of it from China, India and Pakistan. I ask why? Answer: Inefficiency, and lack of intelligence. Similar with cattle issue. Why bring from India? Try to produce more cattle inside the country! If needed give farmers with better reputation interest free loans to produce more cows and dairy products. If India sells 800 million cattle a year, grow up another 500 million cattle industry inside the country.

    And finally, as for the TV channel issue. Type up in google why Bangladeshi channels can not enter into Indian market. It is mostly their politicians who does not allow it. There is nothing we can do really other than banning them once we have the right opportunity. However, we will have to keep in mind india is a giant nation, and dangerous enemy of ours. Hence, we should not provoke them rather simply introduce some policies that would refrain them from entering into our country.

    And once we achieve a strong economy by reducing foreign dependency, and develop our own. BSF will think twice before hurting any Bangladeshis in the border anyways. Because then India will have no other means to threaten our economy or create unfair political pressures other than the river water issue. In that case we can simply let them know, if you do not give us enough water, we will not help you keep West-bengal’s rebels under control.

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