Rohingya refuse to budge from Delhi-NCR, say coming to India brought freedom
Mail Today speaks to immigrants near Gurugram who say they won't return to Myanmar despite Centre's deportation plan.
Mohamad Tahir, a 24-year-old Rohingya Muslim man who left Myanmar's violence-wrecked Rakhine province in 2012, considers himself lucky to be living in the backyard of Delhi.
Tahir, his wife and their daughter are in a special camp at Siddiq Nagar in Haryana's Nuh town, about 100km from Delhi.
They, like hundreds of refugees from the community settled in the National Capital Region, do not want to return to their native country. The Supreme Court would next month hear the plea of two Rohingya refugees who have approached it against the Centre's decision to deport Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar.
"We would not even dream of going back to Myanmar. We are not treated as human in a state ruled by Buddhist people. We did not know what freedom is since childhood. We have experienced it only after reaching the soil of India," Tahir said.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar following a military crackdown, which the UN has described as ethnic cleansing, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh and some then crossing a porous border into India.
Myanmar says its forces are carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order after guerrilla attacks in August on security posts and an army camp in which about a dozen people were killed. There are 63 families at the Siddiq Nagar camp and all of them echo the same view.
Mohamad Shadik, head of the shelter, said the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has been simmering for years but it boiled over in 2010 and later.
"The number of people from our community in Bangladesh went up to over 10 lakhs, and many crossed the border to reach Kolkata," Shadik said.
The Centre sees the Rohingya refugees as a security threat, arguing that the illegal migrants are vulnerable to getting recruited by terrorist organisations and are also a burden on the country's limited resources.
According to government data, there are 1,360 Rohingya Muslims, or 400 families, living in Mewat, which is a cultural region that spans Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The Siddiq Nagar area has two camps: the second one called Nangli 2 or Siddiq Nagar 2 where 100 families live in hutments. Besides, 55 families live in Ferozepur Namak, 60 in Chandni village and 23 families in Punhana area.
"Buddhist people along with local police and military (in Myanmar) gang-rape our women and girls, behead youths, torch our houses and madrasas, and throw our children in the fire," Shadik said.
"The laws of human rights do not apply there, so how can we live in such a situation?" Shadik told Mail Today that members of the community living in Delhi's Uttam Nagar, Faridabad in Haryana and Rajasthan's Jaipur city have also contacted him.
The refugees in Mewat claimed that 15,500 Rohingyas are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India and have obtained smart cards. Sources say over 40,000 Rohingyas are living in various parts of India.
Taiyab Mohammad, who owns a small grocery shop at the Siddiq Nagar camp, said the Buddhists do not consider the Rohingyas Myanmar nationals.
"I crossed the border (into Bangladesh) alone and sent a message to my family members to come over due to the threat to their lives," he said.
"My wife, three sons and two daughters crossed the border a day later to reach Chittagong. After living there for four months and earning some money, we were forced by local police to leave Bangladesh too.
"We finally decided to cross into India. Crossing India-Bangladesh border is not easy in daylight and therefore we did it in the night as there is hardly any patrolling of border security personnel then." His daughter, Rashida, said they do not have any passport or other documents to be identified as Myanmar nationals.
"We just have the UNHCR card issued from New Delhi," she said.
Experts say India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and is therefore not bound by the principle of "nonrefoulment". Non-refoulment, a principle in international law, stops a country from returning refugees to a place where they could be at risk of persecution.
"We are continuously monitoring activities of Rohingyas in the camps of Nuh," Vipin Kumar, the SHO of Nuh police station, told Mail Today.
"The police personnel along with CID visit camps every 10 to 15 days and check with the camp heads about who left the place and if any new people came in. We cannot allow any Rohingyas to live in the camp without having a UNHCR card."