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Demography survey on eastern border

New Delhi, Feb. 12: The intelligence agencies are conducting a discreet survey to verify the extent of change in the demographic profile of areas bordering Nepal and the Northeast.

According to highly placed sources, the survey is going hand-in-hand with a fresh study to find out if the number of madarsas and mosques along the borders has gone up.

“There have been reports that more madarsas and mosques are sprouting along the borders, which in itself is an indication of increased Muslim population in the area,” disclosed an intelligence official.

The study is using the 2001 census as its benchmark and has a clear political edge to it.

With the BJP making a big issue of national security — a political euphemism to beat the minorities with — the government wants to equip itself with the latest data and analysis on demographic changes in border areas, especially in relation to illegal migration from Bangladesh.

It has accordingly ordered the survey completed in advance of the 2009 polls.

“The government wants to be armed with the fresh data, and also its analysis, to counter any attack or propaganda on the issue. The BJP is all set to make national security an issue, and this is bound to come up,” the official said.

The last such study was done by the Intelligence Bureau and the home ministry in 1992, and their report kept a secret in view of the sensitive findings. It was ultimately leaked and the estimated number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh was anywhere between 1.5 crore and 2 crore. It’s time for a fresh survey, according to sources.

There have been renewed intelligence reports that militants are using madarsas and mosques as safe havens, and also for storing arms and ammunition.

“In themselves, the madarsas are not a threat to security. There is hardly any militant who is the product of a madarsa. It’s just that the madarsas and mosques have the potential to be used by extremists to hide and store weapons. There are innumerable instances of places of worship being misused by militants, both in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir,” the official said.

Sources added that most of the madarsas and mosques in border areas were on the radar of intelligence outfits. The reports of new ones having come up were worrying the intelligence agencies since they were not being monitored.

“The new survey will help us keep an eye on the new ones, too,” he said.

According to reports, the largest number of madarsas and mosques has come up in bordering areas with Nepal, lower Assam and Bengal. This complements another secret survey that has revealed that nearly 40 per cent villages in the border districts of Bengal are predominantly Muslim.

There are reports that concentration of the minority community, including the Bangladeshi immigrants in the villages, has resulted in the majority community moving to urban areas.

Along with madarsas and mosques, a large number of Muslim NGOs have sprung up in the area bordering Nepal.

According to the last survey, there are nearly 70 madarsas along the Indo-Nepal border, the largest number being in Saptari and Sunsari. There are several madarsas in Morang, Siraha, Dhanusha and Kapilbastu.

“Most of these madarsas are used for anti-India activities by Pakistan-backed terrorists. The NGOs ostensibly work for the social and educational uplift of the Muslim community and receive substantial and completely unregulated funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya and other Islamic countries,” an intelligence report said.

“The NGOs have also been promoting ill-will against India among the Nepalese Muslim community by circulating propaganda material received from Pakistan and elsewhere, criticising India’s treatment of its minorities.”

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