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The Rohingya in Myanmar being virtually disenfranchised. This ethnic cleansing has adversely affected Aung San Suu Kyi’s image
Should India adopt a hardline approach of deporting the Rohigya refugees from Myanmar? That is the poser amid voices that New Delhi should adopt a sympathetic approach. Sending these refugees back to Myanmar runs counter to the country’s obligations under the domestic and international law. Being part of the troubled state of Rakhine in Western Myanmar, the Rohingya are on the run with the army firing bullets on the villagers and burning down their dwellings. Despite living centuries in Myanmar the Rohingya being mostly Muslims have been denied citizenship and rendered stateless.
There are an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslim immigrants in this country who are viewed as a security risk. If and when a decision is taken to deport these illegal immigrants it will be in public interest as well as national security.
There is also the disturbing aspect that some of the Rohingya refugees have terror links. It is believed the Islamic State and extremist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh might use these immigrants from Myanmar to whip up sectarian violence in this country. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj telephoned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assuring all assistance in the wake of the influx of Rohingya refugees in the neighbouring country.
Fifty tonnes of relief supplies have already been airlifted to the relief camps in Bangladesh. Prior to that such relief had been despatched to the home province occupied by the Rohingya in Myanmar. However, New Delhi cannot address the cause of the crisis or reduce the poverty in the Rakhine province. The crisis is driven by racism and religious intolerance.
New Delhi has not only rendered humanitarian aid in India’s neighbourhood including Nepal struck by a devastating earthquake but also undertaken evacuation of Indians and foreign nationals from the trouble torn Arab world like Syria, Libya and Somalia among other countries.
Impartial observers maintain that the Rohingya need full international support so that they do not get entangled with the radicals. Simultaneously, Myanmar needs to introspect buying fighter aircraft from Pakistan which is fuelling unrest in that country.
The Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh seeking refuge there fearing persecution in their own land. The Arakan Road which connects Bangladesh’s southernmost tip to the town of Cox Bazar has become the lifeline not for Bangladeshis alone but the fleeing Rohingya refugees as well. Earlier this week on Monday, the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Myanmar to put an end to this “brutal security operation”. He described the state’s actions against the Rohingya as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. Union minister of state for Home Kiren Rijuju had spoken about deporting the illegal Rohingya refugees in the face of political persecution and terror. This led to serious concern being expressed within the country and abroad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Myanmar came after the BRICS summit in China at a time when the Rohingya crisis was at its peak. The ethnic cleansing was more as a reprisal for a Rohingya militant group attacking and killing policemen and troops in attempts to overcome their own frustration.
The military and police retaliation was swift and telling. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who shares power with the military, emphasised she could not be held responsible for trying to resolve a highly contentious issue in the last 18 months that she has been in power.
Left with no option, Hundreds and thousands of Rohingya had to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. The all out attack against the Rohingya has adversely affected the image of Suu Kyi having waged a long struggle against her country’s military rulers.
What is sad is that Myanmar should disenfranchise millions of people who have lived in that country away from the mainstream for centuries.
(The views are personal)