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Jammu Kashmir
Caught in the centre of a political battle, Rohingyas face the brunt
Pallavi Sareen
JAMMU, June 9: The two coalition partners in power in Jammu and Kashmir are at logger heads with each other on the issue of Rohingyas. While the PDP wants to take a humanitarian view of their flight from Myanmar owing to their persecution in that country, the BJP sees them as a potential threat to peace and security of the region. The stands of both parties are inspired by their respective regional constituencies on the faultlines of which religious identities lay.

The PDP opines that the Rohingyas are the unfortunate people who have come all the way from Myanmar because of the persecution they were facing there. The BJP, on the other hand, working on a pro-Hindutva agenda, wants these Rohingyas to be thrown out of Jammu contending that they have terrorist links, an allegation that is not substantiated with facts.

Rafi Mir, spokesperson of PDP said, “They should be allowed to live peacefully here.” He further commented regarding the militancy and terror involvement allegations that “Haalat ke mare log hai, inhone kya karna hai. (They are victims of circumstance. What are they going to do?)”

Ravinder Raina, State President of BJP told Kashmir Times, “Rohingyas all over the country should be gathered and put in camps, in a safe zone near Indo-Myanmar Border and given the facilities there. The state of J&K is already in turmoil and anti-national forces may take advantage of the situation by using these Rohingyas.” He made those remarks in the context of the alleged drug mafia allegations regarding Rohingyas.

The politicisation of the issue has pushed various other political and social groups to take hardened positions on the question of their stay in Jammu city and its outskirts. This has both political and communal ramifications with the religious identity of majority of the Rohingyas at play. Though the vast majority of Rohingyas are Muslims, a section of them belong to Hindu community. Both have faced constant persecution in Myanmar and fled from there.

National Conference wants the government to take a sensitive view of the plight of Rohingyas and is seeking humanitarian aid for them. Surinder Singh Bunty, Additional Spokesman of National Conference in Jammu said, “Legal action should be taken in this sensitive case. We are against communalism and polarization of this issue just for vote-bank politics.”

The Congress has adopted a middle path on the issue of Rohingyas and expects the court to take a final call on the issue. While the party recognizes them as helpless refugees, it is at the same time open to their relocation to some other part of the country on grounds of creating a peaceful atmosphere in the region. The Congress also uses the Rohingya narrative to take a dig at the coalition partners pulling in two different directions.

Ravinder Sharma, spokesman of Congress in conversation with Kashmir Times said, “Both the Central government and J&K government must work on the same page, but both parties of the coalition government are taking contradictory stands on this sensitive issue. As for the Rohingyas, they are foreigners, but they are human beings and they are refugees. They have settled here over a period of time temporarily. But BJP has been crying hoax that they are a threat to the security of the state, which is an issue created by BJP to create panic and a pretentious feeling of insecurity among people of Jammu. Why don’t they address this issue? Why does the government want people to fight against each other? When the matter gets settled in Supreme Court, they should be deported. In lieu of this, until they are deported out of the country they could be relocated out of Jammu and Kashmir which would settle the atmosphere here.”

The sole regional party from Jammu region, Panthers Party, is competing with the BJP in calling for ouster of Rohingyas.

Harsh Dev Singh, Chairman of Panthers Party who has been quite vocal about shifting the Rohingyas out of Jammu and Kashmir using public speeches and even hoardings to communicate to the public that they want the Rohingyas out of Jammu, in a conversation with Kashmir times said, “They should be deported. It is still a security concern since they are foreign nationals. There is a public sentiment attached to this as well and there are insecurities in the mind of people.”

These polarised opinions have exacerbated the voices in Jammu for ousting Rohingyas and many social and professional organizations too have jumped into the arena to back BJP’s claims.

Rakesh Gupta, President of J&K Chamber of Commerce and Industry who last year made a comment about launching a ‘Catch and Kill’ Operation against these Rohingyas said, “That was just a threat to pressurize the government. Jammu sees them as a great threat since they are creating communal tensions in the region. And with the cases of drug trafficking and human trafficking coming to light, we demand that they should be relocated.” The police records, however, reveal no such cases against the Rohingya community members.

B S Slathia, President of Bar Association Jammu echoes a similar sentiment as Gupta’s. “They are a security threat in Jammu and this is believed by the coalition partner of the ruling government BJP as well. With writ petition pending in Supreme Court, they cannot be deported but they should be relocated somewhere else in India. Practically, nothing is happening. We believe that their presence amounts to demographic change. Their illegal settlement here and government not taking any actions is politics of these people,” he averred.

When asked whether there was a legal legitimacy of this demand in view of the situation in Myanmar and their vulnerability there, he said, “I do not want to discuss with you. I am just putting our views forward. They should be relocated because they are a security threat. Relocate them to a coastal area where they should not come in contact with any local public. They want to mix here. If one girl from Rohingya community is married to a local Muslim or Hindu whoever, she becomes ultimately state subject.”


News Updated at : Sunday, June 10, 2018
 
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