Financial Chronicle - - FUNDAMENTALS, POLITICS -

De­scribed by the United Na­tions in 2013 as one of the most per­se­cuted mi­nori­ties in the world, Ro­hingyas are an eth­nic com­mu­nity from Myan­mar’s western Rakhine state. Though they trace their his­tory to the 8th cen­tury, Bud­dhist Myan­mar con­sid­ers them il­le­gal set­tlers from Bangladesh and does not recog­nise them as a na­tional race. The 1982 Burmese cit­i­zen­ship law de­nies them cit­i­zen­ship while also re­strict­ing them from free­dom of move­ment, state ed­u­ca­tion and civil ser­vice jobs. The Ro­hingyas have faced mil­i­tary crack­downs in 1978, 1991–1992, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

In the lat­est crack­down by Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces af­ter co­or­di­nated at­tacks on po­lice posts and an at­tempted at­tack on an army base in Au­gust 2017, an es­ti­mated 270,000 Ro­hingyas have fled Rakhine state that bor­ders Bangladesh. The state­sanc­tioned per­se­cu­tion of the com­mu­nity is be­ing de­scribed by the UN and Hu­man Rights Watch as eth­nic cleans­ing, with warn­ings of an un­fold­ing geno­cide. Yanghee Lee, the UN spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor on Myan­mar, be­lieves it wants to ex­pel its en­tire Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Home min­istry es­ti­mates, there are around 40,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims liv­ing as un­doc­u­mented refugees in var­i­ous parts of In­dia, like Delhi, Nuh (Haryana), Jaipur (Ra­jasthan), Hy­der­abad, UP and Jammu. More than 10,000 are said to be in Jammu, where their pres­ence is the sub­ject of hot de­bate.

In­dia, how­ever, does not of­fi­cially recog­nised Ro­hingya Mus­lims as refugees. In­dia is one of the few democ­ra­cies that has not rat­i­fied the Refugee Con­ven­tion, which gov­erns how dis­tressed refugees are treated in na­tions where they seek asy­lum. Iron­i­cally how­ever, In­dia has been grant­ing cit­i­zen­ship to Hindu refugees from Bangladesh and Pak­istan for years. More than 1,20,000 Ti­betans, 30 lakh to 2 crore Bangladeshis and about 10,000 Sri Lankans live in In­dia as refugees.

On April 3, Home min­istry re­port­edly dis­cussed plans to iden­tify “il­le­gal” Ro­hingya set­tlers, for pos­si­ble ar­rest and de­por­ta­tion un­der the For­eign­ers Act.

Fol­low­ing this, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional called upon In­dia to sign and rat­ify the in­ter­na­tional Refugee Con­ven­tion of 1951, as well as the 1967 Pro­to­col Re­lated to the Sta­tus of Refugees, which the govern­ment re­fused.

In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity fears are based on in­tel­li­gence re­ports link­ing the rad­i­cal Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Al-Qaeda off­shoots. Key in­di­vid­u­als in ARSA, and its front or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Ro­hingya Sol­i­dar­ity Or­gan­i­sa­tion, are al­legedly close to Hafiz Saeed. RSO also has a Pak­istan chap­ter, and the Ja­maat-ud-Dawa front Falah-eIn­saniyat has a pres­ence in Ro­hingya refugee camps since 2012. Myan­mar it­self says that ter­ror out­fits have in­fil­trated Ro­hingyas and that it is dif­fi­cult to sift mil­i­tants from gen­uine cases.

The signs are ev­i­dent in In­dia too. In 2015, Ch­hota Burmi, a mil­i­tant of Ro­hingya eth­nic group was killed in an en­counter in Kash­mir. To­day, both Kash­miri sep­a­ratists and mil­i­tants favour Ro­hingyas liv­ing in Jammu. Early this year, head of An­sar Gaza­wat-ulHind in Kash­mir, Zakir Musa in a 10-minute-long au­dio clip, ex­pressed sol­i­dar­ity with Ro­hingyas of Jammu and warned the govern­ment against de­port­ing them from In­dia.

The sup­port to Ro­hingyas from ter­ror out­fits has made the govern­ment’s case for de­por­ta­tion of the il­le­gal refugees stronger. It says that the pres­ence of such a vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in In­dia poses se­cu­rity risks to the coun­try.

Be­sides cop­ing with nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion refugees can be tough even for the biggest of economies.

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