Modi government accused of ignoring international obligations as 40,000 face return to uncertain future in Myanmar
Supporters of the ruling pro-Hindu party BJP demonstrate on March 23 in the West Bengal state capital Kolkata against what they call the infiltration of Rohingya Muslim minorities into India. (Photo by IANS)
October 18, 2018
The damp earth gives off a putrid stench as swarms of mosquitoes buzz around a cluster of huts at a camp for displaced Rohingya on the outskirts of New Delhi.
In a dusty hut sits Abdul Rahman, a Rohingya who fled Myanmar in 2012 when the ethnic Muslims were violently targeted by the military of the Buddhist nation.
Like thousands of others, Rahman, who collects scrap for a living, is a worried man after India early this month began deporting Rohingya to Myanmar.
“I am sure that I will be killed. A child can be taken away from his mother’s bosom and mercilessly killed. Such is the height of cruelty. I have seen all this happening,” Rahman told ucanews.com.
Despite earning only 150 rupees (US$2.50) a day, and not having adequate food or shelter Rahman says “it’s still better here” than going back Myanmar with his three children.
His worries began when India’s federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party announced it was determined to deport 40,000 Rohingya Refugees back to Myanmar.
India’s foreign affairs ministry declared Oct. 4 that the government had handed over seven Rohingya men to Myanmar authorities at the border town of Moreh in Manipur state after “reconfirming their willingness to be repatriated.”
The seven Rohingya had been detained by the Indian government since 2012 on charges of illegal entry, the Time of India reported.
“What do you think? Will they be welcomed? They will be killed, and you can be sure the world won’t find their traces,” Rahman said.
He fears the process to deport Rohingya will gather momentum.
In August 2017, the Indian government announced its policy to deport all Rohingya migrants, including the 16,500 registered with the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) to Myanmar, saying it viewed them all as illegal migrants.
The federal government also labelled them “a national security threat” saying they could be used by Muslim militants opposed to Indian interests, particularly in border areas with Pakistan.
However, the forced repatriation has invited sharp criticism from rights activists and international rights organizations.
The United Nations Oct. 5 criticized the plan warning that the repatriated could face violence in Myanmar.
The U.N. refugee agency said it was greatly concerned over the safety of the seven men who were returned to Myanmar from India.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement that by deporting the Rohingyas, the government had disregarded its long tradition of protecting those seeking refuge in the country.
The rights group wants India join other governments in demanding Myanmar end the atrocities and cooperate with the U.N. to advance justice for the Rohingya.
Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty India, said that the Indian government had been conducting a smear campaign against the Rohingya refugees for over two years.
“The decision to deport Rohingya refugees sets a dangerous precedent for all asylum seekers and refugees in India,” Patel said.
Violation of international law
India’s decision to forcibly deport the Rohingya violates international law, according to Tendayi Achiume, the U.N. special rapporteur on racism.
“Given the ethnic identity of the men, this is a flagrant denial of their right to protection and could amount to refoulement,” said Achiume.
“The Indian government has an international legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalized discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection,” Achiume said.
Abdul Karim, another Rohingya Muslim in New Delhi, said going back to Myanmar would only be possible if there is peace in the country.
“The government must understand why we left our homes. Had there been any assurance that we would not be persecuted, we would not have left. We are sure to face similar violence that we have been facing there for years,” Karim said.
Mohammad Shakeel, a Rohingya Muslim, yearns to go back home every day.
“Who wants a life of a refugee? But I cannot put my children in the beast’s belly,” he said.
A majority of the Rohingya in India are living in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan.
For the past two years, BJP-supporting Hindu groups have been targeting the refugees in India’s Northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.