Tension grips Rohingya community in Jammu as Centre contemplates deportation

Fear and tension has gripped the Rohingya settlements in the winter capital Jammu, after local newspapers reported that the Centre was exploring the possibility of deporting them back to Myanmar.

The news of New Delhi pondering over the deportation of this ethnic Muslim minority to Buddhist majority Myanmar comes after huge drama over the presence of Rohingya in Jammu. The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) had recently put up hoardings across the region threatening Rohingyas to leave Jammu immediately or face the consequences. Both mainstream and separatist politicians are in favour of their deportation from the state.

India has nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees, of which at least 20 per cent are presently staying in two districts of Jammu and Samba. All of them have crossed over to India illegally using a sea route via the porous Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Myanmar border or traveling through the Bay of Bengal.

A double bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court is already hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Hunur Gupta, member of the BJP legal cell. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, on Monday, held a high-level review meeting in Delhi with J&K Director General of Police SP Vaid and Chief Secretary BR Sharma on this issue.

Rohingya Muslims. AFP

Rohingya Muslims. AFP

Rohingya community leaders in Jammu say that if the government of India has any apprehension about their presence in Jammu and Kashmir, instead of deporting them back, they should be allowed to temporarily settle in any other state of the country.

“If the Indian government throws us back to Myanmar we will be killed,” Mohammad Johar, 35, who was among the first batch of refugees to arrive in Jammu, said, “We live here on private land, owned by Hindus and we pay monthly rent for that, everything was facilitated by UNHCR. Our coming here has nothing to do with we being Muslims, if that was the case we would have gone to Kashmir valley, not stayed in Jammu.”

Rohingyas were first denied citizenship in 1982 by General Ne Win’s government in the erstwhile Burma. Since then, this Muslim minority group has largely lived in the troubled state of Rakhine. In 2012 riots, more than 735,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee from Burma to live in ghettos and refugee camps in neighbouring countries, including India.

Mahfooza Jahan, was seven months pregnant when the soldiers allegedly burnt her villages and raped several women in Sittwe village in the Rakhine state. She left her village, without her husband who could not make it. The family landed in Bay of Bengal and from there on they went straight to Jammu. Leaving your home, which takes decade to build, she says, is a terrible felling. "For last four years that home was in these shanties and now it seems even this will go," she said.

“We are afraid not just of leaving this place but also for our children, they will slaughter us,” says Mahfooza, who works as a scrap collector and lives in Narwal Rohingya in Jammu.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said during the last budget session of the state assembly that 5,743 Burmese (Rohingyas) are staying in the state and no instance of radicalisation has been reported among them so far and they have been living peacefully since the past six years. They are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and also with the Union Home Ministry.

“No Rohingya has been found involved in militancy-related incidents. However, 17 FIRs have been registered against 38 Rohingyas for various offences,” Mehbooba, who holds the charge of the Home Department also, had said.

Security agencies had expressed apprehension that these people might fall prey to the jihadi groups but Mehbooba Mufti had said in the assembly that there was no report of radicalisation, although cases have been lodged against them for petty crimes.

“It is not that we are living a comfortable life here. Our children can’t go to schools because they are not allowed to. Most of the people are struggling to meet both ends. But we are not breaking any law and are threat to no one,” Idrees Ahmad, 37, who works in a local hotel, told Firstpost. “Is there a place in the world we call home now?” he asked.

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Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 13:29:03 IST

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