The Centre has directed the state governments to start identifying Rohingyas for deportation.
Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju has repeatedly said that Rohingyas are “illegal immigrants” who should face deportation regardless of their registration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. India has accommodated refugees such as Sri Lankan Tamils, Tibetan Buddhists, Afghans, and Bangladeshis over the years. But Rohingyas have not been as fortunate as the Centre has directed the state governments to start identifying them for deportation.
Rohingya deportation and SC case
The Supreme Court has asked the government to explain why it wanted to deport Rohingya Muslim refugees who flew to Bangladesh and India after violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state over the last fortnight.
A recent draft submission of the government’s reply stated that Rohingyas were a threat to national security as they were vulnerable to be recruited by terrorist groups and thus, stand to be deported. The final reply is likely to be filed next week.
Around 14,000 Rohingyas in India are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while over 40,000 are said to be staying illegally.
The United Nations has declared Rohingyas as "the most persecuted minority in the world". Myanmar does not grant Rohingyas citizenship because it considers them as immigrants from Bangladesh, even though the community has lived in Myanmar for generations.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan has filed a petition representing two Rohingya refugees who challlenged the Centre’s decision to deport them back to Myanmar.
Both UN and human rights activists argue that despite India not being a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, it is bound by international principles of non-refoulement which holds that no nation should deport a refugee to territories where his life or freedom would be under threat based on his race, religion, nationality, or membership of a social or political group.
Why are Rohingyas a threat?
The draft reply of the government has cited intelligence reports saying some groups among the Rohingyas are in touch with terrorist groups and they could be used by ISIS to turn against India and breach national security, NDTV reported. The government claimed these groups to be operating in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mewat in north India.
The draft also mentions Rohingyas have involvement in “illegal/anti-national activities i.e mobilisation of funds through hundi/hawala channels, procuring fake/fabricated Indian identity documents for other Rohingyas/Bangladeshis, and also indulging in human trafficking”, as per the Hindustan Times.
Recently, PM Narendra Modi, on his bilateral visit to Myanmar, expressed solidarity with the country following attacks on police posts near Rakhine. The attacks were carried out by a little known militant group called Arakan Salavation Army.
They have been linked with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Jamaat-ud Daw by security agencies, media reports say.
But they have to distance themselves from terror outfits. “ARSA feels that it is necessary to make it clear that it has no links with Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Lashkar-e-Taiba or any transnational terrorist group,” the group said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.
The Jammu question
The thousands of Rohingyas living in Jammu have previously faced the threats of being thrown out by some groups, such as The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party and the traders of Jammu Chamber, before the government decided to deport them.
Following this, advocate Hunar Gupta, a member of the state BJP’s legal cell, filed a PIL in the High Court asking for deportation of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees from Jammu and Kashmir. During the case, concerns were also raised about the refugees staying in a sensitive border state that is prone to terrorist activities. The matter is still sub-judice.
Mohammad Yusuf, the head of a Rohingya refugee camp in Jammu told PTI that they were staying in the region out of compulsion and they did not know they were going to Jammu when they fled and entered India.
Rohingya refugees living in Kelambakkam of Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu told Moneycontrol that they were previously living in Jammu where life was harder as there were less opportunities to earn a living and moreoever, they had to pay rent for they shanties they spent days in. In Kelambakkam, UNHCR had given them a two-story building to live in without rent.
This group of refugees had reached India through Bangladesh, and then entered India through border area of West Bengal, finally ending up in Jammu. They had been told that more Rohingyas were already living there.Earlier this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government disclosed that they have not found any Rohingya involved in militancy-related incidents. Although, 17 FIRs had been registered against 38 of them, the offences are mostly related t0 illegal border crossings, the New Indian Express reported.