While the Government is of the view that Rohingyas are a security threat and not a religious problem, the top court has repeatedly deferred their deportation. A solution to the problem is imperative
In an interview with Russia Today on the crisis in Europe, French politician Marine le Pen said, “Immigration is an organised replacement of our population. This threatens our very survival.” Syria’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, supports New Delhi’s view that Rohingyas are a security threat and not a religious problem. Yet, the Supreme Court has repeatedly deferred the deportation of thousands of illegal Rohingyas and is even hearing their petition against expulsion.
In Jammu, the demographic and security threat posed by illegal Rohingyas and Bangladeshis has reached a boiling point. local ‘permanent residents’ (hereditary State citizens) allege a well-funded and politically-backed conspiracy to settle them across the Province and trigger Hindu migration, as already reported from some villages. In November 2017, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees visited at least five Rohingya habitations in Jammu and urged them to leave, promising funds to settle elsewhere. They refused, saying, “We are used to Jammu, we know everyone over here, why would we leaveIJ” That, in a nutshell, sums up their comfort levels in Hindu-majority Jammu, as opposed to living with their co-religionists in Kashmir.
Perhaps this is why Jammu led the campaign to deport Rohingyas from India. As is well-known, Hindus who fled West Pakistan in 1947-48 and landed in Jammu & Kashmir were treated shabbily by Sheikh Abdullah and are languishing without official recognition (identity certificates) needed for Government jobs, education in State institutions and other benefits. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised to address this seven-decade-old injustice during the 2014 election, but met with fierce resistance from Kashmiri separatists, the National Conference and the Congress; and also the People’s Democratic Party.
At the Union Home Minister’s nudging, the State Government set up a Group of Ministers in May 2017, to examine illegal Rohingya and Bangladeshi settlements in Jammu and Samba districts. But it was non-serious. The attack on the Army camp at Sunjwan in February this year increased the clamour to evict the Rohingyas, who have even settled near the camp. A senior police official said there are “consultation camps” on the border, which direct the groups to settle at a particular place or city. Jammu is preferred due to proximity with Pakistan and to “strengthen” its Muslim minority.
The infiltrators are given mobile phone, I-cards, Aadhaar cards, even ‘permanent resident’ cards, illegal power and water connections, and allowed to grab State lands and build houses on them. Funds for them are raised through hawala channels and routed through local NGOs, such as Jamaat Ahle Haider, Yateem Trust and Kashmiri Welfare Trust. The National Conference regime had forced schools in some localities to admit Bangladeshi and Rohingya children, who comprise 80 percent of the student body.
Rohingyas are active in Tablighi activities through local mosques in Jammu (as in Chennai and Hyderabad). Security agencies suspect them of having links with the Islamic State, lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. In fact, Rakhine (Arakan) is becoming an important node of the global jihadist movement and is being funded by organisations in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Rohingyas are linked to the Bangladesh Islami Chhatrashibir of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. They are involved in unsavoury activities such as trafficking girls from Myanmar and selling drugs.
Given the inexcusable sympathy for the infiltrators in some well-heeled sections of society, it is worth recollecting how they burst into the international limelight. Strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney observes that Rohingyas were among the first groups in Asia to be radicalised by the British Raj and to demand partition; they tried to expel Burma’s Buddhist population north of Arakan (170-odd miles) to join East Pakistan.
The current crisis began on August 25, 2017, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police posts in Maungdaw, Myanmar; over 100 people died. The jihadis also attacked the Hindu minority in Rakhine; over 500 were slaughtered; the Army later found mass graves with Hindu bodies.
Many Hindu families fled to Bangladesh to escape, but were again persecuted by the 4.5 lakh Rohingya Muslims fleeing the Myanmar Army. In the refugee camps, Hindu women were forced to break their bangles, read namaz, wear burqas, and convert. They sought shelter near two temples at Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar. The Hindus said they were attacked by Rohingyas and feared to return to Myanmar as several members of their families had been slaughtered and their homes burnt down. In October 2017, Bangladesh arrested 22 Rohingya Muslims posing as refugees, but who were linked to the massacre of Hindus in Myanmar. They were reportedly trained by Pakistan’s ISI.
The Jerusalem Post was the only international media to assert that while it was true that the Myanmar Army had begun ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas after the ARSA assault on police posts, the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Arakan (‘Rohingya Hindus’) could not be ignored. Even while fighting the Army, jihadi groups were entering Hindu areas and “stabbing, shooting and raping the residents”. One survivor reported that the terrorists would dig three holes — one to dump the bodies of women, one for children and one for men; all overflowed. The paper noted that while conditions in Bangladesh refugee camps were tough, Hindu refugees were worst hit. Many wanted refuge in India.
By the end of September 2017, when matters subsided, the Myanmar Government urged Hindu refugees who fled to Bangladesh to return, and assured that they would be taken care of in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State. So far, there has been no response to this plea and it seems unlikely that Hindus would return to Rakhine. The enmity between Myanmar’s majority Buddhists and Rohingyas, most of whom are denied citizenship on grounds of being British imports from the region now known as Bangladesh, has flared up intermittently since 1948 when Burma (Myanmar) became independent. But what happened to the miniscule Hindu community was genocide.
Rohingyas are known to have settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan. However, in April, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung alleged that Rohingyas were being settled in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of the Gorkhaland region of West Bengal, as part of a sinister conspiracy to alter the demography and marginalise the native Gorkhas, superseding national interests for vote-bank politics. Gorkhaland, which borders Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Bangladesh, is politically sensitive and any “replacement” of the population, as warned by Marine le Pen, could have a deleterious impact on the nation. A solution to the Rohingya threat is an urgent imperative.
(The writer is Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and library; the views expressed are personal)