New Delhi: Jasmine, 20, dreads going back to Myanmar where she says people of her community are treated like pariah and subjected to atrocities. She is among the 195 Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar who are languishing in a deplorable state in in the Jaitpur shantytown in the southeastern periphery of the capital for the past year.
"We would die but won't go back to Burma (Myanmar). Life is a virtual hell there. Though life is not easy here, it is much better than in Burma. No one harasses us here," Jasmine told IANS.
"I don't know the future of my three-year-old daughter. How will she grow up? Where will she study?" a worried Jasmine said while her daughter was playing in a muddy pool of water outside her hut.
In May 2012, this group of Rohingyas had crossed over into India from Bangladesh. They had fled Myanmar fearing attacks on them from Buddhists in the violence that spread through Myanmar's Rakhine province (also known as Arakan).
Rohingyas are not recognised among the 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar and they are treated as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh rejects them, saying they are Myanmarese, with the result that they are living without any civil rights or citizenship.
The temporary settlement of Rohingyas in Jaitpur, comprising a cluster of dirty plastic sheet-covered bamboo huts, is devoid of any basic amenities and the lives of their children and women are pitiable.
"We are looted, exploited and beaten there. No one employs us because we are Muslims," 44-year old Haroon, who is from Busidung in Myanmar, told IANS.
P. Kalam, 20, a daily wage labour who earns Rs.200 a day, said: "Only I know how I am living away from my parents. They don't want me to return to them in Myanmar," said Kalam, who is from the Mongdu area in Myanmar.
The Rohingyas are demanding full refugee status with rights before the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. In May last year, hundreds of them demonstrated outside the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar in south Delhi. Most of the Rohingyas who arrived in New Delhi last year spread out to other parts of India, including Jammu and Kashmir.
"We want refugee status in India or another country," said Mohammad Jakaria, a rickshaw puller.
Kalam fled his country thinking that things would get worse. He married Taslima in New Delhi who is also from Myanmar.
Taslima's parents were killed in an attack by local goons in one of the districts of Myanmar.
According to Alana Golmei, a project manager in Burma Center, Delhi, the Burma-Rohingya conflict is very complicated. It needs proper documentation in solving the issue.
"If media reports are to be believed, they are being persecuted. India being a neighbour country can help them by providing shelter for some time," she said.
She said an estimated 3,000 Rohingyas have taken shelter in other Indian cities like Hyderabad, Aligarh, Saharanpur and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Mewat in Haryana.
Outside India, Rohingyas have found themselves as asylum seekers in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
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