Rohingiyas: Hiding behind "hyper-security" jingoism, India refuses to recognize refugees as legal category

By Our Representative
In a sharp critique of the Indian position on the Rohingiya crisis, a recent workshop organised by the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), in collaboration with Development and Justice Initiative, India International Centre and Euro-Burma office, reached the conclusion that India has refused the recognise the ethnic group as refugees, making them ineligible for the protection under the international refugee law.
The workshop, in which about 80 leading activists from civil society in Myanmar, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh and India, exile groups in UK, official representatives from Bangladesh, diplomats, lawyers, academics, social justice and women’s groups activists, participated, suggested that they are "deliberately called ‘migrants’, putting their protection in the hands of the International Organisation of Migration."
A note on the workshop, held in Delhi on May 11, quoted Tapan Bose, secretary-general, SAFHR, as saying that, what India does not seem to understand is that Rohingyas are an impoverished and a stateless ethnic minority community, which settled predominantly in the Rakhine province as the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, coexisting peacefully alongside Buddhists for decades.
"The latest cycle of violence carried out by Myanmar security forces compelled more than a million Rohingyas to flee extrajudicial killings, rape, abuses, communal violence, persecution and terror to neighbouring Bangladesh for refuge and security", Bose said, quoting UNHRC body describing their mass exodus as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Pointing out that 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in Hyderabad, Jammu, West Bengal, Northeast India and Delhi are classifies as illegal immigrants and a threat to national security on the basis of unsubstantiated links with ‘terrorist’ organisations, Bose said, "The Supreme Court of India has provided a temporary reprieve. There are reports of the Border Security Force using 'rude and crude methods' to block new comers."
Sahana Basavapatna
Sahana Basavapatna, lawyer, researcher and human rights defender of the rights of refugees, speaking at the workshop, sought to demystify what she called "the hyper-security jingoism which is at the root of fostering an anti-refugee/migration sentiment", insisting, "It is undermining India’s historical record of an accommodative ‘host’ country."
She underlined, "The country’s lack of recognition of the legal category of ‘refugee’ resulting in the clubbing of all as ‘illegal foreigners’ has resulted in arrests of several Rohingya who have crossed into Manipur", regretting, "The insecurity pathology is giving popular legitimacy to the government’s decision to deport the 40,000 Rohingya refugees."
Speaking at the workshop, four Rohingya asylum seekers, who came from Jammu, Haryana and Delhi, and had made their way from Bangladesh to India "hearing that there was possibility of schooling children finding some job", pointed towards how they applied for the asylum status to UNHCR.
"We got a card categorizing as a refugee, no other assistance. For 41 days we protested in front of UNHCR office. The police dispersed us and forced us to stay at a railway station for two days. Eventually we were ‘settled’ on government land property, a 'no construction area', a makeshift camp constructed out of scraps of recycled wood and plastic, which we bought ourselves. That is home", said one.
“We are called dirty”, said one of them, adding, "A small number of NGOs have been engaged in supporting some residents in camps. The children have received 47 scholarships for free education in primary school. UNICEF also provides facilities for education, but the schools are too far for the children to reach, and public transport is unaffordable."
One of them, who came from Jammu, lamented that, while male refugees have monopolised the digging works required by the city and the railways, women are busy shelling walnuts but at Rs 100 -- it is bare subsistence. "Even that could be jeopardized by the xenophobic jingoism stoked by allegations of the ‘Muslim’ Rohingya being a security threat", it was pointed out.

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Is 'refugee' a legal category anywhere in the world? Refugee or migrant, they are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and care.