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Editorial :: Don’t Deport, But Support

Don’t Deport, But Support

The sheer numbers say it all. More than 4,20,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and flooded refugee camps in Bangladesh; over 200 of their villages were burnt down; at least 1000 people were reportedly killed by the marauding Myanmar Army. It is nothing less than genocide. No other word will bring out the horrors witnessed in the killing fields of Myanmar.

Rohingya are predominantly a Muslim ethnic group in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. This is not the first time they have been subjected to horrendous torture. Intermittent bid to cleanse Myanmar of Rohingya had been going on for decades. Their tragedy will numb any sane person. They have been residing in Myanmar (previously Burma) for centuries. But they are denied citizenship. They stay in their land as aliens. They are not in the list of 135 ethnic groups in the country. Two years back, even the temporary residence permits given to them were cancelled, pushing them to a sea of uncertainty.  

The trigger for the present crisis came from Rohingya themselves. On August 25, Arakan Rohongya Salvan Army, a belligerent group of the community, attacked police stations, government offices and even the army.  They claim that they have done it in the wake of raids conducted by army men in several villages. They rest is history. Myanmar army went on a killing and torching spree, leading to unprecedented refugee crisis.

In the whole episode, initially the voice of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was not heard. The Nobel laureate, who was the voice of democracy in Myanmar during the rule of military junta, kept a studied silence inviting world criticism. In the end, she spoke, but it brought little hope to the hapless. The only assurance she gave was that ‘refugees’ will be taken back after due verification. It is just a façade. Not many will be able to get back to Myanmar as very few will have the required documents to prove their identity.

At another end, the stand of Indian government has invited criticism from various quarters. There are about 40,000 Rohingya in the country of which only 16,500 have been registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The government says it does not recognize any Rohingya, whether registered with UNHCR or not, as refugee. It wants them to be deported to Myanmar as they pose a security threat to the country. It is argued that Rohingya have links with IS and other terrorist organisations. The Central government, after much dilly-dallying, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that Rohingya are illegal immigrants.

The government’s stand has drawn flak from various sections in the society. They say that if the government can spend crores to take care of Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees, the Rohingya could not be treated differently, merely because they are Muslims. India’s record of treatment of refugees has always been exemplary, and deporting Rohingya will tarnish that image. Even within the ruling party there are murmurs against the apathetic attitude of the government. Rohingya need our support, not deportation to a country where their lives will be in danger.

(Published on 03rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 40)