Unhelpful and hostile neighbors have thrust the enormous burden of looking after 400,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on the slender shoulders of Bangladesh when the latter is just beginning to make progress on the economic front.
After telling Bangladesh that it is fully with it on the Rohingya issue (to assuage anger in that country over India’s statement that the Rohingya problem is a terrorist one), the Indian government told the Supreme Court on Monday, that the Rohingyas are a “serious threat” to India’s security and that the court must not interfere with plans to deport 40,000 “illegal immigrants”.
It is not clear if the Rohingyas will be shipped to Myanmar or pushed into Bangladesh from where they entered India. If Myanmar refuses to take them, as they well might, the hapless refugees may have to be pushed into Bangladesh to add to the lakhs already there. In fact, The Hindu has reported that the BJP-ruled Indian state bordering Bangladesh like Assam and Manipur have already told their police to “push back” incoming Rohingyas.
Myanmar’s stand is even more unhelpful than India’s. Myanmar seems to be determined to push the entire population of one million Rohingyas out of the country because they are not considered to be native to Myanmar, but as Bengali Muslim immigrants.
The entire Myanmarese nation, military and civilian, has joined together to support State Counselor Aun San Suu Kyi’s tough military line against the Rohingyas.
China and Russia Back Myanmar
While Russia has said that outside intervention will only further divide the communities in Myanmar and that the Suu Kyi government is doing its best to look after the Rohingyas, China like Myanmar and India, sees the Rohingya issue as a terrorist one. And unlike India and Russia, China has forthrightly supported military action.
Thus, Bangladesh has been caught in a cleft stick, between an adamant Myanmar on the one hand and an unsympathetic and non-cooperative neighboring countries on the other.
All that India is willing to do is to send some relief material and make feeble attempts to persuade the Aung San Suu Kyi to keep civilian casualties and displacement to the minimum.
China, which believes in strong arm methods to quell rebellions, will do nothing of that sort. Russia, which has no direct stakes in Myanmar unlike India and China, will be silent.
Bangladesh’s ruling party, the Awami League, is to take up the Rohingya issue with Beijing during a forthcoming visit to China. But experience shows that the powers-that- be in Beijing rarely ever change policy on anybody’ appeal ignoring long term strategic and economic interests.
In this context, the UN’s role becomes significant. But since the Aung San Suu Kyi regime is opposed to UN intervention (Suu Kyi is boycotting the on-going UN General Assembly session), the world body cannot play a political role. All it can do is to be allowed to look after the displaced and suffering Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh to some extent with financial and other assistance.
Meanwhile, the Indian government told the Supreme Court on Monday that any decision to deport Rohingyas would be an “executive decision” over which the court has no jurisdiction, India Today website reported.
The Rohingyas are a “very serious potential threat to national security”. They are “indulging in anti-national activities and channeling funds through hawala (private non-banking and illegal) channels, the government said citing intelligence reports.
“The Rohingyas are also found to be very active in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mewat, and have been identified as having a very serious and potential threat to the internal/national security of India,” the government said.
Referring to “security agencies’ inputs and other authentic material”, the government said there were indications of “links between some of the Rohingyas with Pakistan-based terror organisations and similar organisations operating in other countries”.
Buddhists Under Threat
According to the centre, there is a “serious potential and possibility of eruption of violence by the radicalized Rohingyas” against Buddhists in India.
“The right to reside and settle in the country is available only to citizens and not to illegal immigrants,” the government argued, asserting that India is not bound by the UN convention on refugees, as it is not a signatory. It also said the influx of illegal immigrants had “a direct detrimental effect on the fundamental and basic human rights of country’s own citizens,” the government mentioned.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra posted the next hearing on October 3, and said: “We want to first see the legal position. What’s the jurisdiction of court and what kind of jurisdiction can we invoke.”
The Supreme Court is hearing the petition of two Rohingyas registered as refugees under the UN – Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir – who have said that their deportation is against their fundamental rights.
Around 40,000 Rohingyas have settled in India. About 16,000 are registered with the United Nation’s refugee agency. Last month, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told Parliament that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants and that the government aims to deport them.
The United Nations’ top human rights body criticised the government plan to deport Rohingyas, saying India “cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.”
The Indian government rebutted that sharply saying enforcing its laws to deal with possible security threats posed by illegal migrants cannot be seen as a lack of compassion. “This chorus of branding India as villain on Rohingya issue is a calibrated design to tarnish India’s image… It undermines India’s security,” Mr. Rijiju tweeted.
(The featured image at the top shows Rohingya man carrying his aged parents into Bangladesh)