The Hon’ble Supreme Court has asked for a detailed answer from the Government of India on a petition filed against its move on deporting the illegal Rohingyas Muslims who had to flee to India following the Rakhine state of Myanmar. The petition was filed by two Rohingya refugees, plea stated that “this act (deportation) would also be in contradiction with the Principle of Non-Refoulement, which has been widely recognized as a principle of Customary International Law”.
The Principle of Non-Refoulement prohibits states from sending back refugees to a country where their life may be in danger.
Who are these Rohingyas
Rohingyas are the ethnic community who have been living from centuries in the Rakhine( formerly known as Arakan) state of Buddhist majority Myanmar. Out of 1.3 million Majority are Muslims and rest are Hindus.
According to many historians and Rohingyas groups, Muslims have been living in this region from as early as 12th century. When in 1784 the Burman king Bodawpaya conquered the Arakan( Rakhine state of modern Myanmar) hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to the then Bengal.
During the British rule of 100 years (1824-1948), Burma was a province of British India and many workers were sent from rest of British India(majorly from the Bengal province) to Burma for the different projects.
This migration was taken negatively by the majority Buddhist of the country and was consider them as a menace. After their independence in 1948, many of the Rohingyas wanted Arakan to join Muslim-majority Pakistan. The government retaliated by ostracizing the Rohingya, including removing Rohingya civil servants. The Burmese government considers the migration that happened during British Rule illegal and hence, it is on this basis of that they refuse citizenship to the majority of Rohingya,” HRW said in a 2000 report.
At one point in time, Rohingyas were also the citizens of Myanmar
After the Burmese independence in 1948, the Union Citizenship Act was passed defining, which ethnicities can be the citizens of Myanmar and the Rohingyas were not included in them. However, as per the act, those people can apply for the identity cards who were living in Myanmar for at least two generations. Initially, Rohingyas got the identification and also citizenship under that generational act and during this time their representative were also in Parliament.
But why Rohingya are persecuted and facing identity crisis
But victimization of the Rohingyas started after the military coup of 1962. After that, it was made compulsory for all the citizens to obtain the national registration card, but the Rohingyas were provided with foreign identity cards which limited their opportunity to get jobs and education.
In 1982, new citizenship law was passed, under this law, there were three levels of the citizenship and to get the most basic level of citizenship it was necessary that one should have the proof that he/she had lived in Myanmar prior to 1948 and should know one of the national languages. Due to lack of such documents, Rohingyas were not able to apply for citizenship and became stateless.
As they are no longer the citizens of Myanmar their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and access health services have been and continue to be restricted. They are not considered in 135 ethnic groups of the Myanmar, rather becomes the victims of ongoing ethnic cleansing and human right abuses by majority Buddhists and the Burmese army.
Why Rohingyas have been compelled to flee
Since 1970 many army crackdowns have happened on Rohingyas, which bound thousands of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, as well as Malaysia, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries.
The story of atrocities of 21st century started in 2012, soon after the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl, riots broke between Rohingyas and Rakhine Buddhists which led to the death of more than 100 people, mostly Rohingya due to lakhs of people were driven into Bangladesh. Nearly 150,000 were forced into camps in Rakhine.
The recent atrocities started when Rohingya militant group Harakah-al-Yaqin attacked border police station and killed 9 soldiers in 2016. After this military crackdown started in the villages of Rakhine state where Rohingyas were living, forcing 2,50,000 Rohingyas to flee from Myanmar.
Myanmar’s state councilor Aung San Suu Kyi denies the ongoing atrocities on Rohingyas whereas more than 90,000 Rohingya have already left the country in past 10 days.
Why India is deporting the Rohingyas
Indian MoS home, Kiren Rijiju, announced that India would deport its entire Rohingya population, thought to be numbered about 40,000. This number, he said, would include some 16,000 Rohingyas who have been registered as refugees by the UN. “The UNHCR registration means nothing. For us, all of them remain, illegal migrants,” he said.
The first thing we need to be clear about the fact that central government said that we will identify the illegal migrants and deport them. So who so ever is thinking that the government is deporting them just because they are Muslims is not correct as per my understanding is not correct.
Here we also need to know that:
- India is neither the signatory of 1951 UN refugee convention nor of its 1967 extension protocol.
- This means that there is no refugee law in India, but there is a standard operating procedure in India from December 29, 2011, according to which if a person maintains regular travel document of home country and request for shelter in India and if the government finds that the request is valid then that person can live in India for 5 years and maximum 6 years.
- Long-term visa gives them the right to work in private sector and access to education and banking.
Along with the above reasons, India also wants to deport these people because
- As per the report of Economic times, intelligence agencies said that these people are vulnerable and can be recruited by terrorist organizations and can be involved in terrorist activity against India.
- They “not only infringe on rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges”.
- The influx of migrants also leads to social, political and cultural problems like we see in Assam in form of unrest for Bodoland. The main reason why the demand of Bodoland arises is due to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
- One such attack already happened in July 2013. A series of 10 bomb blasts happened in and around Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya for avenging of killing Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, according to arrested SIMI and Indian Mujahideen suspect Mohammed Umair Siddiqui.
- On 11th July 2012, a protest organized in Azad Maidan to condemn the Rakhine riots and Assam riots, which later turned into riots, known as Azad Maidan riots.
- Their settlement in different regions like Jammu and Kashmir can impact the demography of the region, and we are already facing the issue of Bodo people in Assam due to demographic changes which happened because of illegal migration from Bangladesh.
I also want to address those people in India who are raising the question that “if India can provide the asylum to refugees from Tibet, SriLanka, Pakistani Hindus, and Sikhs then why only these Rohingyas can’t live in India”. My answer to this question is the condition and the reason due to which the citizens of many countries seek asylum in India is completely different from the situation of the Rohingyas.
These people are considered as the terrorist in their own homeland due to their activities. So, for a country like India who is fighting from terrorism for such a long time, ignoring the warning from different agencies on the name of the image of a kind hearted nation can be very dangerous.