SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Rohingyas

By Humra Quraishi

Last week I watched a news channel program rather too attentively; after all, the channel anchor and his team of reporters were detailing that there are no signs of security threat from the Rohingya refugees taking refuge in our country. Each channel reporter, reporting from the four locales where the Rohingyas have been living in refuge for the last few years – Jammu, Faridabad, Rajasthan and New Delhi – was seen talking to police officials who seemed to give a clean chit to these refugees. Nah, none of the ISIS, Al – Qaeda, Indian Mujahedeen or Jihadists tags to any of the refugees!

To quote these details from NDTV’s website – ‘An NDTV multi-city investigation into key Rohingya settlements in India found little evidence of terrorist links, or of greater criminality. We focused on the four main centers where Rohingyas are based in India – Jammu, Delhi, Rajasthan and Haryana. Jammu has the highest number of Rohingyas – 5,743 in all. On January 20th this year, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the Assembly that “no Rohingya in Jammu and Kashmir has been found involved in militancy related incidents. No instance of radicalizing (of) these foreigners has been reported so far”.She said, “17 FIRs have been registered against Rohingyas for various offences, including those relating to illegal border crossing.”

That investigation found that of these 17 FIRs, the two cases are against Bangladeshis and one against a Pakistani. So effectively, there are only 14 FIRs against 5,743 Rohingya Muslims, a crime rate of 0.24%…’.We tracked down every single one of the 14 FIRs or first information reports to find the following: eight cases for lack of visa, two cases of rape, one case of cow slaughter, one case for causing injury, one case for selling goods in the black market and one for stealing railway property. These findings were matched by what the senior police officials in Jammu told NDTV.- “I haven’t seen anything alarming in terms of their (Rohingya Muslims) criminal records. They are involved in petty theft like other groups of that social economic situation. But we haven’t found anything alarming or their involvement in organized groups or very sensational nature cases so far,” said Dr SD Singh, Inspector General of Police, Jammu.’

‘In Delhi, home to approximately 1,000 Rohingya Muslims, police officials said that they had no data on FIRs registered against Rohingyas in the city, or any evidence of radicalization. Given the condition of the Rohingyas, they added, it seems highly unlikely that they will be drawn to extremism…In Jaipur, 350 Rohingya Muslims are spread over four police station areas. NDTV found that in these police stations, there was only one FIR, of a rape charge by a Rohingya woman against a Rohingya man….In Haryana, the Rohingyas are clustered in Faridabad and Mewat. Police in Faridabad told NDTV that no cases are registered against Rohingyas. Police officials in Chandigarh said they have no state-wide data on crimes by Rohingyas…’

It seems that this government has got hold of the ‘security scare’ alibi when it’s been unable to catch hold of any sane argument to deport these hapless refugees who have been living in India for the last few years and till date no one terror related case against them. As I have mentioned even the police officials interviewed in full public view have been seen giving a clean chit to these refugees; nah, no terror connection to them.

 Yet, suddenly there’s sprung up this surcharged frenzy to label these refugees as terrorists or as potential terrorists! Blatantly communal arguments in those government- backed television channels are taking off , where a bunch of experts have begun shrieking the terror links to these refugees. And if that isn’t enough, Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen is also making her presence felt to give her expert comments on these refugees! She is herself a refugee here yet she is asking for their deportation. Pathetic irony!

How smug can we sit in this atmosphere brimming with sorrow! How thick –skinned can we get! We are seeing these refugees dying in front of our eyes – dying of starvation and sub- human living conditions –and now those terror labels are to be pinned on their heads or foreheads before they are deported to be massacred in their home country!

 Aren’t we housing hundreds of Tibetan and Sri Lankan Tamils and Chakma refugees who also fled seeking refuge here? Why this allergy for the hapless Rohingyas?

Contrasts have begun to hit. Why is this government insensitive to the plight of these Rohingya when Tibetan refugees have been officially housed not just in the hills of Himachal Pradesh but even in the heart of Srinagar city …What had taken me by complete surprise was to see a well-planned basti of Tibetan refugees living in the heart of Srinagar—close to the Makhdoom Sahib dargah. ..When I’d asked the locals what they thought of these refugees living in their midst, they’d told me: ‘They live here but for them the Dalai Lama is their only leader. Even culturally they are different… they are not like us Kashmiris.’ That could perhaps explain why they lived huddled together in this colony, having little involvement with the local politics and people. Living safely in the Valley, their main source of economic survival seemed embroidery, tailoring and owning eateries…The Kashmir Valley has anyway a history of giving refuge to Sufis, fleeing from Central Asia and settling there in the Valley.

More than half of New Delhi’s men and women have been refugees at some stage of their lives yet this apathy for the Rohingya refugees. Why? Look at their plight .Look at their saddened faces and their withered forms. Look how destiny has reduced them to such helplessness …they are dying, perishing!

You never know destiny’s ways; someday you and I could get reduced to the refugee status!