Fresh advisory from Centre enhances dread of eviction among Rohingyas

Pallavi Sareen. Dated: 6/5/2018 3:17:05 PM

’We will not protest but isn’t this country the most humane”

JAMMU, June 4: The central government’s fresh advisory pertaining to Rohingyas and communicated to various state governments including Jammu & Kashmir have evoked fear and panic among the Rohingyas residing in camps across Jammu region.
The Advisory, issued on June 2 last, has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government among others to ensure that the movements of Rohingyas are restricted to the pre-identified camps and a record is kept regarding their biometrics and personal information; and also to ensure that no Aadhar or identification document is issued to them.
According to sources in the state’s home department, such advisories have been issued in the past as well and the only novelty is the addition of biometrics.
"The advisory has been issued by Union Home Ministry on June 2, 2018. Home department of J&K has received the advisory which would now be shared with the DGP of J&K police. CID department along with the police of the respective districts where Rohingyas are living would be tasked for implementing this advisory," said an official of the Home department.
On being asked whether some work has been done or not, he said that CID and police are already keeping constant vigil on refugees since the last advisory was issued and as far as implementing this advisory, the work is yet to begin.
The advisory is similar to the advisory issued by the Centre in 2017 which was challenged in the Supreme Court which directed the government to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya community are not violated.
The news has been received with dread in the Rohingya camps where inmates fear this would be followed by word of their extradition.
The Rohingyas living in camps in Kiryani Talab, Jammu were hesitant to talk, but asked repeatedly whether it was finally the time to leave. They have been expecting a timeline within which they will be extradited for over a year now. They were reluctant to talk to the press, asking this correspondent for her identity card and wanted to know if I belonged to any government agency. They were cautious with the words they were using because they are not too well versed with Hindi or Urdu language.
In a conversation with Kashmir Times, Mohammad Yusuf, one of the Rohingyas who has been living in Kiryani Talab since past four years said, “This is not our country. So what if they throw us out? We hear the news and it does scare us when they talk about hurting or killing us, but we are not here because of our own will. But if they evict us, we are not going to protest. They have a right to ask for our ouster.”
The people seemed to have no sense of belongingness to the state of Jammu despite living here for years and this comes as a contradiction to the myths created by certain political interests and fuelled by sections of media that the Rohingyas are Muslims who are in the state to bring demographic change.
The Rohingyas run a full-fledged market in the region of Kiryani talab where both locals and people of their own community buy essentials. They earn their livelihood from labour and construction work and one of them commented, “You will never see our people begging or asking for things. Even though there is less work right now, we make ends meet. Some of us, who do get work, do it. The others have to sit idle for a while but we make do.”
He talked about how the camps still had water scarcity and electricity issues despite people paying their landlords for it. There was just one tap in the whole plot and one common bathroom. Battling the heat and the unhygienic conditions, they wished for the government to do something since the children were bearing the burden of the most of it.
Arafat Ahmad, a Rohingya who earlier worked withDevelopment And Justice Initiative (DAJI), an organization working for welfare of Rohingyas and co-ordinating with UNHCR, commented that since most of the Rohingya population staying here is uneducated, their words are often taken out of context and projected negatively by media.
Cautioning against the stereo-types and false projections created by social media on the Rohingya issue, he further remarked, “If someone came to talk to us, they would realize, from the tones, from the way we have been living what the truth is. But today it is a time of social media, so people believe what they read about us. I am willing to talk to you. If I had something to hide, I would have never talked to you. Why isn’t Myanmar government doing the same? Why haven’t they let journalists and media channels in?”
He and many other people of the community believe that the recent news about Myanmar taking back 700000 Rohingyas was a lie and even if it wasn’t, they believed that once they return, they will be persecuted.
Altaf Ahmad, another Rohingya, said, “We people think that if India gets Myanmar in a stronghold and makes efforts to deliver us our rights, then the extradition would be successful and easy. I was studying in 12th when I came here. Even my education is incomplete. Who wants to leave their homeland and come to a different country and live with the stateless status, in a shelter? Who wants that? No one does. We don’t want fights. We want Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists to all live together. All we want is equality and our rights. If this happens in Rakhine only then we want to go. Otherwise, we don’t wish to call death to our doors.”
The community which is surviving against many odds in dilapidated dwellings, just managing to get bare minimal for their daily existence, is constantly in fear of being extradited. They know nothing about the fearful image of them in public perception.
They mentioned that they had experienced no real issues of physical violence in Jammu apart from the threats that they heard in news. They were of the belief that the atmosphere of Jammu was better than Myanmar as Jammu had not prevented them from earning livelihood here. If they were proficient in one line of work, no one discriminated against them for being Rohingyas. They have blatantly said that if the decision comes for their extradition, they will have to follow it but pose a question: “isn’t this country the most humane?”
As far as they are concerned, they have heard no official word on their extradition as yet. Their records and data, they maintained, had already been submitted when they got the UNHCR card which recognizes them as refugees of India.
India is not a signatory to 1951 UN Convention on Refugees but in the case of many refugees from different parts of Asia, Indian government has respected the UN definition of refugees and recognized the UNHCR cards given to the refugees as a valid document. Many observers feel that despite not being a signatory to Convention on refugees, Indian government cannot deport Rohingyas because certain rules of customary international law like this one cannot be violated by the government.



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