India moves to deport Rohingya Muslims.
SANJAY KUMAR Members of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic
minority who were pushed back by Bangladeshi border guards earlier in
the day rush back to the Bangladeshi side upon hearing gun shots from
the Myanmar side in, Ghumdhum, Bangladesh, in this Aug. 28, 2017 photo.
(AP) DELHI: "Kill us, but don't send us back to Myanmar,"
pleaded 29-year-old Sabber, a Rohingya refugee living in India since
2005. Sabber, who was known as Kyaw Min in his home country, has lived
in constant fear of deportation since the Indian government asked state
governments to identify and deport all Rohingya Muslims. "This is
absolutely wrong, very inhumane," said Sabber, who lives with
family members in a shanty in New Delhi. "The community came to
India seeking shelter from the atrocities taking place in their own
country. How can you turn them back when you know that the situation in
Myanmar is so dangerous for us?" In January, he formed the Rohingya
Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), an NGO, to take up the issue of the
community's suffering with the Indian government. But Kiren Rijiju,
union minister of state for home affairs, told Reuters: "They are
all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Any illegal
immigrants will be deported." Some 16,500 Rohingya are registered
with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.
"We can't stop them from registering. But we are not signatory
to the accord on refugees," Rijiju said. But Human Rights Watch
(HRW) said: "While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee
Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary
international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they
face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or
freedom." Raghu Menon, media and advocacy manager at Amnesty
International India, told Arab News: "Considering how dangerous the
situation is in Myanmar, sending them back against their wishes is not
only a violation of international law but also morally
questionable." HRW has come down heavily on the Indian
government's decision to deport the minority. "Indian
authorities should abide by India's international legal obligations
and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly
evaluating their claims as refugees," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South
Asia director of HRW. Despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee
Convention, India has a healthy tradition of giving asylum to persecuted
minorities, including Tibetans, Afghans, ethnic Kachins from Myanmar,
Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladesh, and Tamils from Sri Lanka. MP Shashi
Tharoor, a prominent leader of the Congress Party, tweeted:
"Shocked by Govt's decision to deport Rohingya refugees.
Ancient humanitarian tradition being sacrificed purely because Rohingyas
are Muslim?" But the Indian government says deportation is due to
security reasons. The Week magazine quoted a Home Affairs Ministry
official as saying: "Illegal migrants are more vulnerable to
getting recruited by terrorist organizations." Dr. Nafees Ahmad,
assistant professor at the Faculty of Legal Studies at the South Asian
University (SAU), told Arab News that such an argument is
unconstitutional. "Constitutional protection of the right to life
and personal liberty is also available to people who aren't
citizens of India. No one can be forcefully deported and expelled,"
he said. An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in various cities in
northern India. They have come from Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar.
Sabber said hundreds of Rohingya are languishing in jails in Kolkata and
Tripura after being caught crossing the India-Bangladesh border. He has
asked the Indian government to release them. Meanwhile, he plans to buy
goats to slaughter for Eid Al-Adha on Saturday and throw a feast for his
community, because "in our life there's hardly any moment of
enjoyment. It's a constant struggle."
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