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Rohingyas- Nowhere people
The Rohingya are a stateless people and India needs to look into humanitarian angle when dealing with them
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking extraordinary care to stay on Myanmar's right side last week resisting any show of sympathy to Rohingya people is both unfortunate and inhumane. Instead of taking up the question of these refugees, who have been facing violence and persecution in their home state, India sided with the official stand of Myanmar government on these people. During his first bilateral visit to Myanmar, Narendra Modi said that he shared the Myanmar government's concern about 'extremist violence' in Rakhine state, which has witnessed unprecedented violence over the past one fortnight. India's attitude towards the stateless people, Rohingyas, who have nowhere to go except for escaping the violence back home and take shelter in neighbouring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India has been disappointing. In fact, it amounts to show of insensivity and inhuman treatment of refugees who have been running away from persecution and have been declared as refugees by the United Nations Commission for Refugees. There has been uproar and anger was pouring in from all over the world in support Rohingyas and against the Myanmar rulers particularly the Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her fight against the military Junta. Even some of the Nobel laureates have gone to the extent of stripping her off her Nobel Prize if such violence and persecution of Rohigyas continues in Myanmar. On the other hand, at the World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan abstained from the Bali Declaration because of a reference to 'violence in Rakhine state'. New Delhi has traditionally been wary of internationalising the internal affairs of its neighbours; on Myanmar, it has concerns about keeping the country from spinning back into the Chinese influence. But India must adopt a humane position when dealing with a refugee population. This week, when the matter of Rohingyas now in India came up for hearing in the Supreme Court, the central government counsel refused to guarantee they would not be deported. This was in line with the government's indication to Parliament last month that all illegal immigrants, including the Rohingyas, who number only around 40,000, will be deported. The insensitivity of this plan is exposed by the unfolding crisis in Rakhine, where the Rohingya people had been living for generations.

The recent developments in Myanmar have been interesting and need to be followed from a humane angle in view of the fact that most of the Rohingyas have been fleeing their homes and hearths with nothing except the clothes,they were wearing to save their lives. In fact, there has been worldwide grief over the deaths of women and children when the country-made boats they were travelling in sank off the coast of Bangladesh. The Rohingyas have been fleeing in such unsafe boats, for years now. But this exodus has picked up pace since August 25 this year, when an attack on police posts by an extremist Rohingya group invited sustained reprisal from the army and local Buddhist mobs. The UN estimates that about 270,000 people, more than a quarter of the entire Muslim Rohingya population in Rakhine, have fled since then, mostly to Bangladesh. The Rohingyas have been the ultimate nowhere people since 1982, when a Burmese law rendered them stateless, with the government arguing that they are Bengalis. Violence has targeted them in phases, most notably beginning in 2012 when inter-religious conflict forced them out in the thousands. In 2014, the Burmese census refused to enumerate the Rohingyas, giving them only the option to identify themselves as Bengalis. It is an irony that the period of Myanmar's transition to democracy, that too on Aung Suu Kyi's watch, has coincided with the most heartless alienation of the Rohingyas. A UN report has called them victims of 'crimes against humanity', while Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has referred to the violence as 'ethnic cleansing'. This backdrop should worry Delhi, not just because its official stance is casting it on the wrong side of the humane position, but also because its deportation plans are perceived as being drawn by the sectarian pulls of domestic politics. And as a regional power, India must answer the question: if it is driving out a stateless people, where does it hope to send them? Are they being thrown back into the situation where they will face only violence and persecution?

News Updated at : Sunday, September 10, 2017
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