Muslim women participate in a protest rally against CAA, NRC and NPR, in Kolkata

KOLKATA: The spurt in infiltration arrests in Bangladesh over the past couple of months - around 450 since mid-November - is the tip of the iceberg. The actual number of Bangladeshis who have returned illegally to their homeland in the wake of the NRC scare could be in the thousands, indicate intelligence and other sources. A process of regular low-key push backs is also on, they said.

According to state intelligence sources, over the past few weeks around 200 people have infiltrated into Bangladesh every day through North 24 Parganas alone. People are crossing over in large numbers through the porous border in South 24 Parganas, too, and through Nadia, sources said. An official in Bangladesh said most of those arrested for illegally entering Bangladesh came from Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. Many of them were carrying Indian ration cards and Aadhaar cards, and some even had Indian voter ID cards, he added.

A North 24 Parganas-based tout, who is part of a racket that sends people without passports to Bangladesh, told TOI that in the past two months they had sent around 5,000 people across the border, several times the usual number.

And the "fee" that Ghatmaliks (Touts) charge each Dhur (Client) has also risen. Till a couple of months ago, the charge for sending a person to Bangladesh was around Rs 4,000. "Then people started pouring in from Bangalore. The charge has now increased to Rs 5,000 and, if the border is 'bad' (if there's strict vigil), Rs 6,000. But these days, the border is rarely bad," he added.

Bangladesh administration has formed resistance committees involving border villagers to keep vigil and prevent infiltration. Alamgir Hossain, a member of one such committee in Bangladesh's Jhinaidaha district, said: "We are on alert. We are trying our best to stop infiltration."

The Border Security Force would not officially comment on the reverse migration. Sources, however, said Bangladeshis illegally staying in India are being pushed back. On December 29, at a joint press briefing by the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh, the BGB DG, Shafeenul Islam, said: "We regularly apprehend people who cross the border. These are Bangladeshis who came into India inadvertently or for work." In all, 446 people were arrested by the BGB since November, Islam said."But since they are originally from Bangladesh, the charges being made against them are very light so that they can easily get bail," a Bangladeshi official told TOI.

"They told us their horror stories - of being threatened and slapped, of midnight knocks on doors by members of a particular political party. They claimed they didn't get any help from the administration or police," said the official.

TOI tried to contact the Bangladeshi deputy high commissioner regarding the issue but there was no response.