Let not religious bias come in the way of India deporting Rohingyas

We must help all refugees to meet its commitment to human rights.

 |  3-minute read |   05-09-2017
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Humanity must take precedence over religious biases in dealing with Rohingya refugees.

According to the United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) data, 20,000 Rohingya migrants from Myanmar live in different cities of India. India, however, claims the number is 40,000.

Going by UNHCR figures, four per cent out of more than 5,00,000 registered Rohingya migrants across the world live in India. The ethnic minority group that comprises mostly Muslims have faced persecution at the hands of the powerful military and extremist groups in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. The continued persecution has forced Rohingyas to become one of the largest internally displaced communities across the world.

Forced to flee the country through maritime routes into neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, Rohingyas have come to be known as the boat people. Most Rohingyas entered India through Bangladesh.

Since India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it can't be forced to allow the entry of any displaced person or community, however, India has selectively allowed entry to refugees such as Tamils from Sri Lanka, Tibetans from Tibet and China and Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Despite a large-scale displacement due to the recent violence in the Rakhine state, India hasn't officially recognised Rohingyas as refugees.

Migration into India from other countries is not a new problem. India is confronted with an influx from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and China and now also from Myanmar.

A large number of Nepali nationals also live in India. It is difficult to estimate their number since people from India and Nepal and can enter each others' territory without visa and passport. Many migrants have overstayed their visas and many are trespassers.

rohingya1690_090517065703.jpgIndia hasn't officially recognised Rohingyas as refugees.

Two major policy changes towards foreign nationals and refugees have been observed over the last few years which seem religiously biased in granting citizenship and dealing with the refugee.

Firstly, the government is planning to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and intends to grant citizenships based on religion. The amendment would make illegal migrants who belong to minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. Rohingyas from Myanmar or persecuted Muslims from the aforementioned countries will not have the luck.

The second aspect relates to dealing with refugees. On the one hand, the government is planning to deport Rohingya Muslims living in the slums of India without any government support. On the other hand, the Indian government has sanctioned a package of ?2,000 crore for 36,000 displaced families of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) now sheltered in India. The government has also formulated schemes to provide relief and rehabilitation to Tamils and Tibetans.

Vulnerable minority populations fleeing either from Pakistan or Myanmar - both parts of undivided India - must be treated equally or at least should be allowed to live in peace till the normalisation of circumstances in their home countries.

Before deporting Rohingyas, India must initiate multilateral talks with the Myanmar government and other countries for a peaceful resolution of their internal conflicts so that refugees can return home safely.

In a declared secular country such as India, governments should refrain from dealing with the refugees on the basis of their religious affiliations.

Such a move violates India's commitment to human rights and presents it as a weaker power on the global stage.

Also read: Centre’s hypocrisy on Rohingyas lays bare its anti-Muslim refugee policy

Writer

Shafeeq Rahman, PhD Shafeeq Rahman, PhD @shafeeqrahman

A New Delhi based researcher. Comments & Tweets reflect my personal view, not linked to any of my association.

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