Hailing the decisions of the Narendra Modi government for the people of Jammu, Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said that the next move of the Union Government will be the deportation of Rohingya refugees settled in the city. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of a three-day workshop on General Financial rules in Jammu, Singh said, “The CAA has been implemented in Jammu and Kashmir the day it was passed (by Parliament). There are no 'ifs' and 'buts', by implementation (of the CAA in Jammu and Kashmir), what would happen here is that the next move would be in relation to (the deportation) of Rohingyas,” adding that by no means Rohingya refugees will be able to secure citizenship.
This is not the first time. In 2018, advertisements demanding eviction of Rohingyas refugees had appeared in the local newspapers. “Rohingyas: A ticking time bomb. Evict them to save Jammu,” said one of these advertisements. As per the government estimate quoted by Hindustan Times, “Around 5,700 Rohingyas are living in Jammu and Kashmir while a 2017 estimate by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suggests a figure of 7,000.”
Thousands of Rohingyas fleeing persecution by the Myanmar military have settled in different parts of India. In Jammu, they live in makeshift tenements and work in unorganised labour sector to provide sustenance to their families.
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Commenting on Jitendra Singh’s statement, executive editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, said, “These are BJP’s Islamophobic policies in action because Rohingyas are mostly Muslims displaced from Mayanmar. It reflects their anti-Muslim ideology. This statement by Jitendra Singh exposes the contradiction in their own government’s stand on CAA. On the one hand, they are saying that CAA will not lead to deportation of people. Its only about giving citizenship to certain minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Rohingyas, of course, don’t fall into that. But it is their own statement that within the existing rules others can apply. They have not given fair chance for them to apply.”
“The other thing is that Indian position on refugees is still not very clear. Though India has been respecting international treaty on refugees, will it violate international humanitarian laws by deporting Rohingyas?” she questioned.
Raising serious concerns over the Union Minister’s statement, senior advocate Sheikh Shakeel said, “First, Rohingya refugees’ matter is sub judice before the Supreme Court of India. But I want to ask and we should ask: Have Rohingyas not been persecuted in their country? Have their families not being slaughtered? Or whether Rohingyas are animals? They should be deported to their country so that they are killed by the Burmese army? Why is central government not sympathetic towards Rohingyas? Is it because they belong to a particular sect? Has Government of India no mercy on the basis of humanitarian law with regard to Rohingyas. Why so much of animosity?”
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“As far as CAA is concerned, the act has been made with regard to immigrants coming from three countries. You are welcoming those immigrants on the basis of persecution. Then what Rohingyas are? They are also persecuted. We need to think and answer these questions. Everyone knows the answer in their hearts. They want to play politics on this. They have no sympathy,” Shakeel added.
Meanwhile, the statement by Jitendra Singh has invoked fear among Rohingyas who are staring at their dark future. A Rohingya refugee, on the basis of anonymity, told NewsClick, “We are working hard to survive. We want to live a better life. We know we can’t. At least don’t snatch our shelter. We came to know about this statement through one of our fellow refugees who was told this while he was at work. Since yesterday, we are under fear. We don’t know what will happen next. We are stateless, homeless. We don’t want to go back. We will be killed.”