Of late, we have seen disturbing scenes of helpless Rohingyas, an ethnic Muslim minority community in Myanmar, fleeing the country and taking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. All this started when ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army), a Rohingya militant outfit, attacked police posts killing many, and which further invited swift military crackdown on the outfit.
This not the first time that the community is persecuted and forced to flee. In fact, this has been happening since long and the only thing new about this is the sheer number of refugees and the wide media attention.
It is well known that Myanmar does not recognise Rohingyas as its citizens (the authorities classify them as illegal Bengalis from Bangladesh) and they are even deprived of basic public services. But since Myanmar did not occupy a high place in world geopolitics, the issue did not receive much attention. It is ironical that when European countries were facing serious refugee crisis in 2016, the media showed extreme concern about the situation, but the issue of Rohingyas, who have been suffering since long, got much attention only now.
India has been criticised for not taking a clear stand on the issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Myanmar and his strong support to the Government of Myanmar for taking on the “terrorists” who killed security personnel is an indication of which side the Indian government is. Moreover, the central government has also asked state governments to prepare a list of all the illegal immigrants (Rohingyas included) so that they can be deported.
Govt has made it clear that it is not in a position to accept any more refugees given the constraints on the already limited resources of the country. However, human rights organisations continue to ask the government to do its bit to ameliorate the condition of the refugees.
Politically, the issue can be exploited by campaigning in their favour to rehabilitate them on humanitarian grounds, thereby creating a dedicated votebank, but this will have its own consequences as is evident from how the refugees from Bangladesh (1971 Indo-Pak War) vote for a particular political party. It also created a national security issue besides eating the country’s resources. So when we already have a precedent, then one must use one’s wisdom to arrive at any decision. Temporary emotions can temporarily satisfy us, but can have a long-lasting (read permanent) impact.
Questions must also be asked to the Myanmar Government about how they want to find a solution to this problem. They continue to deny citizenship to Rohingyas and ask them to go to Bangladesh. The latter, inturn, says that Myanmar must shed its hardline stand and accept them as its citizens. United Nations has also been pressurising the government to genuinely address the concerns of the community. So, the question is, if the Government of the country where Rohingyas belong to is not doing enough to improve their condition, then what can India do.?
The least India can do is to provide necessary aid in the form of medicines, clothes, food, water, via the UN. That will be much appreciated.