India moves to deport Rohingya Muslims

Author: 
SANJAY KUMAR
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00
ID: 
1504212210647318100

DELHI: “Kill us, but don’t send us back to Myanmar,” pleaded 29-year-old Sabber, a Rohingya refugee living in India since 2005.
Sabber, who was known as Kyaw Min in his home country, has lived in constant fear of deportation since the Indian government asked state governments to identify and deport all Rohingya Muslims.
“This is absolutely wrong, very inhumane,” said Sabber, who lives with family members in a shanty in New Delhi.
“The community came to India seeking shelter from the atrocities taking place in their own country. How can you turn them back when you know that the situation in Myanmar is so dangerous for us?”
In January, he formed the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), an NGO, to take up the issue of the community’s suffering with the Indian government.
But Kiren Rijiju, union minister of state for home affairs, told Reuters: “They are all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Any illegal immigrants will be deported.”
Some 16,500 Rohingya are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.
“We can’t stop them from registering. But we are not signatory to the accord on refugees,” Rijiju said.
But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom.”
Raghu Menon, media and advocacy manager at Amnesty International India, told Arab News: “Considering how dangerous the situation is in Myanmar, sending them back against their wishes is not only a violation of international law but also morally questionable.”
HRW has come down heavily on the Indian government’s decision to deport the minority. “Indian authorities should abide by India’s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW.
Despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, India has a healthy tradition of giving asylum to persecuted minorities, including Tibetans, Afghans, ethnic Kachins from Myanmar, Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladesh, and Tamils from Sri Lanka.
MP Shashi Tharoor, a prominent leader of the Congress Party, tweeted: “Shocked by Govt’s decision to deport Rohingya refugees. Ancient humanitarian tradition being sacrificed purely because Rohingyas are Muslim?”
But the Indian government says deportation is due to security reasons. The Week magazine quoted a Home Affairs Ministry official as saying: “Illegal migrants are more vulnerable to getting recruited by terrorist organizations.”
Dr. Nafees Ahmad, assistant professor at the Faculty of Legal Studies at the South Asian University (SAU), told Arab News that such an argument is unconstitutional.
“Constitutional protection of the right to life and personal liberty is also available to people who aren’t citizens of India. No one can be forcefully deported and expelled,” he said.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in various cities in northern India. They have come from Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar.
Sabber said hundreds of Rohingya are languishing in jails in Kolkata and Tripura after being caught crossing the India-Bangladesh border. He has asked the Indian government to release them.
Meanwhile, he plans to buy goats to slaughter for Eid Al-Adha on Saturday and throw a feast for his community, because “in our life there’s hardly any moment of enjoyment. It’s a constant struggle.”

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