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Rohingyas: A threat to Indian security

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In a recent petition, before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, Mohammed Salimullah – a Rohingya requested the court that considering the plight of Rohingya Muslims residing in India as refugees, release them from the government detention. The petition further asked the court to issue directions to the Centre to not deport refugees detained in Jammu and Kashmir to Myanmar. He contended that they will be subjected to genocide if deported back to Myanmar. However, this petition was dismissed by the Apex Court. It is not the first time that such a petition is filed before the court. Earlier in 2018, a similar petition was filed in the court to restrain the deportation of the Rohingya Muslims detained in Assam. Then too, the court had dismissed the petition.

Such petitions point towards some serious issues in the Indian policy to tackle the refugee crisis. It is important to understand the contentions raised in the case. It was submitted before the court that Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution are available to all persons and not just citizens. Moreover, it was stated in the petition that the non-refoulment policy derives its roots from Article 21 of the Constitution of India. However, the Apex Court ordered the deportation of the Rohingya Muslims under the Foreigners Act, 1946.

The larger issue in the Indian context is that though India has been accepting refugees in the past, it has no legislation or any binding authority to deal with the situation of refugees. India is neither a signatory to the UN Convention of Status of Refugees nor has any domestic refugee law or a strict policy. It creates a legal lacuna in the entire process. Thus, considering these issues, the article attempts to delve into the background of the crisis. It also attempts to state how Rohingya crisis has exacerbated the situation of India political, economic, and social system. Further, it also provides some solutions to cope up with such challenges.

BACKGROUND OF THE ISSUE

Rohingyas are a Muslim minority group that resides on the western coast of Myanmar mostly – Rakhine State. They practice a Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam and claim that they are the natives of that place. Rohingyas are also not recognized under the Myanmar Citizenship Act, 1982, as citizens of Myanmar. It is claimed that before 2017, they used to account for nearly one million population i.e. one-third of Rakhine State. However, the severe persecution of Rohingyas after 2017 by the Myanmar army decreased their population drastically as well as compelled them to flee to other nations to get refuge. Rohingya flee from Rakhine to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, and various other nations.

The persecution dates back to 1977 when Operation Dragon King (Naga Min) was launched by the Burmese Army to ethnically cleanse the Rohingyas, thus giving a start to a cycle of forced displacement. The operation included violence, arson, rape, and various other brutal acts. However, by 1979 most of the Rohingya repatriated. A similar wave again engulfed Rohingya in 1989. Further, in 1992, Bangladesh acted as a refuge to most of the Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar, signed an agreement with Myanmar, and began its forced repatriation missions to send back Rohingyas to Myanmar.

In 2017, the Rohingya militia attacked Myanmar police and army posts, which acted as an immediate cause. Myanmar security forces immediately launched a campaign against such Rohingya militia groups that ultimately driven more than 5,30,000 Rohingyas out of Myanmar. Rohingyas get subjected to rape, mass killings, arsons, physical torture, and various other brutal acts by the Myanmar army. The operation caused a mass exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar to other nations, including India. Thus, since then, this issue became a huge concern for neighboring various nations of Myanmar as Rohingyas, after all, migrate to these nations and disbalance the political, economic, social system as well as demography of these countries.

HOW ROHIGYAS MIGHT EXACERBATE THE SITUATION OF INDIA?

In India, Rohingya mostly reside in camps as refugees in various states such as Assam, West Bengal, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and other states. Already India accounts for 17.7 % of the world’s population, at just 2.4% of the world’s land. The addition of such a considerable population to the already booming population of India would definitely lead to chaos among the members of society. As India already has very insufficient means and other issues to cope with up such as poverty, unemployment, etc., an increase in population would exacerbate these issues. The government also has to look after these migrants flown from Myanmar, which would cause grave injustice to the residing citizens.

Though India is not a signatory to any international pact, it has rescued provided shelter to people fleeing from their countries due to persecution, conflicts, and disasters for decades. There are nearly 40,000 Rohingyas that reside in Jammu, Hyderabad, Delhi, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan. Before this crisis, India has opened its doors to communities such as Chakmas of Bangladesh, Tibetans of Tibet, Uighurs of China, Tamils of Sri Lanka, etc., in the past. However, India does not want to provide shelter to Rohingyas as they are susceptible to radicalization and recruitment by terror outfits. Rohingyas not only pose internal conflicts like murders, rapes, etc. but also might pose a huge security threat to the entire nation.

It is already a well-known fact that Rohingyas are related to a terror group known as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Further, the influx of Rohingya might give rise to this terror group in India as well. Moreover, recently in 2018, a case was reported in Kerala where Rohingya Muslims get arrested for dacoity. Gradually sooner, or later we can see an increase in such instances, thus there is a need to prevent further influx of Rohingyas in India and deport them to their nation as soon as possible to maintain peace and stability within our nation.

STEPS TO BE TAKEN BY INDIA TO PREVENT THE CRISIS

After the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2020 that aims to provide citizenship to six ‘persecuted’ and ostracized religions of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan in an easy manner, several Rohingya Muslims get converted to Christianity to get access to the citizenship in India. The government has to keep a check on such situations and formulate a plan to deal with them. Although Home Minister Amit Shah has various times stated that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would get the roll out all over India to detect illegal aliens, the government is lagging behind due to coronavirus pandemic, in giving effect to its words. NRC is the need of the hour so that such illegal immigrants might get detected and deported. India, out of humanity, cannot serve such illegal migrants keeping its internal as well as external security at stake.

A study stated that the exponential increase of mainly Muslim asylum seekers to the European Union between 2014 and 2016 raised numerous security concerns and countless questions about the link between refugees and terrorism. Recent terror attacks in France by refugees is an apt example to explain how these Rohingya refugees might become a problem for the internal and external security of India.

The government should try to sort out the crisis with its diplomatic channels at the international level. It should muck in with Myanmar, Bangladesh in dealing with Rohingyas and came out with a plan to repatriate them in Rakhine state peacefully. Without repatriation, the Rohingya crisis won’t get resolved. Thus, India must assist at the international level as well as roll out a plan at the national level to sort out the crisis and prevent the dangers that might arise in near future.

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