Five Assam men visit Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar for 'study tour', security agencies on edge

Security agencies found themselves on edge after five middle-aged men from central Assam visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar for a "study tour."

The visit prompted a series of meetings to assess the fallout of the unfolding crisis in the neighbouring country.

Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Rajeev Bhattacharyya

Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Image courtesy: Rajeev Bhattacharyya

The group, Assam Sankhya Laghu Sangram Parishad, comprises former members of a Muslim students’ association. It was formed in 2012 and led by Mohammad Adi Khalifa from Dalgaon in Assam’s Darrang district, which witnessed repeated communal clashes between the indigenous and migrant communities over the past few decades.

On being quizzed by the police, the group said they went to Bangladesh on a "study tour".

The incident comes close on the heels of increasing activities in Assam by some Muslim organisations in South India, prompting intelligence agencies to hold a series of meetings in Guwahati and New Delhi.

Pallab Bhattacharyya, Additional Director General of Assam Police, who also heads the Special Branch, confirmed that some Muslim organisations in South India and Uttar Pradesh are under the scanner and that several "frontal groups" formed by these outfits were working to expand their support base in colleges and universities.

It is estimated that more than six lakh Rohingya refugees have migrated to Bangladesh after fleeing their homes in Myanmar's Rakhine State. This is just the latest wave of a migration that began in 1978, after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the community. However, this time, Hindus and Buddhists have also been forced to seek refuge elsewhere.

The visit by the five-member group from Assam to Bangladesh was followed by the arrest of six Rohingya migrants in September after they crossed the border in Tripura. Two “middlemen” in Tripura who helped the Rohingya migrants were also arrested by the police.

Sources said the group in Assam’s Dalgaon had also planned to organise a meeting in Morigan, which is located around 50 kilometres east of Guwahati, and in some other districts inhabited by migrant Bangladeshi Muslims, but the police prevented them from doing so.

Intelligence agencies have identified three zones along the borders of the Northeast which could allow the entry of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh: Dhubri and Karimganj in Assam and Sonamura in Tripura.

The district police have been alerted and surveillance has been stepped up along vulnerable stretches.

“One organisation among them had been quite active during the riots at Kokrajhar in 2012 when thousands were rendered homeless. We are suspicious of their motives,” an official said, adding that a senior student at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital has been found to be actively associated with these groups.

The government’s concern also stems from the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam which began a few years ago to identify foreign nationals. It is estimated that many millions—both Hindus and Muslims who migrated from Bangladesh—would lose their citizenship after the final list is published.

Some officials feel that there are many organisations and agencies waiting to take advantage of the situation in Assam which could lead to law and order problems.

The government has declared that people whose names are deleted from the register can appeal to the Foreigners’ Tribunals for rectification.

Rajeev Bhattacharyya is a senior journalist based in Guwahati and author of Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey to Meet India’s Most Wanted Men

Updated Date: Nov 01, 2017 21:42 PM

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