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Mainstream, VOL LV No 40 New Delhi September 23, 2017

Rohingya Crisis and BJP Government

Saturday 23 September 2017, by SC


Speaking at a seminar in New Delhi today Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated: “Rohingyas are not refugees... No Rohingya has applied for asylum. They are illegal immigrants.” This was his clear-cut position with regard to the Myanmarese Rohingyas who had lately entered Bangladesh while some of them had come to India earlier.

Meanwhile Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina has strongly countered Myanmar’s attempts to label the Rohingyas as “illegal immigrants”, something Rajnath was parroting without comprehending the nature and magnitude of the catastrophe that has befallen the Rohingya community. According to Hasina, historical records clearly suggested that the Rohingyas were living in the Rakhine State of Myanmar for centuries. She also affirmed on the basis of the ground reality in Myanmar that the government there was “forcibly driving out the Rohingya Muslims through a planned and organised process”.

Following her visit to the refugee camps in Chittagong’s Cox’s Bazar, she drew a clear analogy with the situation in 1971. According to her, “when the Pakistani forces burned down our houses and killed our people, around 10 million people crossed the border into India. Now they (the Rohingyas) are in danger and we definitely need to give them shelter.”

It is in this context that Rajnath Singh’s words need to be measured. Without saying so Hasina wants India to do for the Rohingyas today what it did for the Bangladeshis in 1971. Did the Government of India delay help to the Bangladeshis entering this country at that time on the plea that it had to ascertain how many were legal refugees and how many illegal immigrants? Then why this double-standard in the case of the Rohingyas now?

Basically the answer lies in the fact that the Rohingyas are Muslims for whom the BJP/RSS members and activists have little or no sympathy. One would have witnessed a totally different attitude from the representatives of the Union Government had they been overwhelmingly Hindu in their religious persuasion.

No doubt security concerns must be addressed. But should those concerns override humanitarian considerations? And can all the civilians leaving Myanmar be described as militants?

Against this overall backdrop democratic opinion in our country must assert and force the Narendra Modi Government to adopt a humanitarian approach to this humanitarian problem without resorting to any attempt to compel the asylum-seekers back to Myanmar (where they fear they would be liquidated).

September 21 S.C.   

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