“Repetition of what happened in Myanmar”: India detains 160 Rohingya | Rohingya News
New Delhi, India – Indian authorities have detained more than 160 Rohingya in the Indian-administered Kashmir region of Jammu, with members of the persecuted minority claiming the move was a “repeat of what happened with them in Myanmar.”
Detentions in Jammu began on Saturday after the region’s administration ordered police to identify “illegal” Rohingya people living in the city’s slums.
About 5,000 Rohingya, mostly Muslims, had fled to Jammu in recent years after large numbers of the ethnic group fled a deadly 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar, their predominantly Buddhist homeland.
India hosts around 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps and slums in different cities and regions, including Jammu, Hyderabad, Nuh and the capital New Delhi – many of whom are reportedly undocumented.
The detained Rohingya were taken to Hiranagar Prison, 59 km (36 miles) from Jammu, which has been turned into a “detention center” for inmates.
Officials said they would be deported to crisis-ridden Myanmar as security forces cracked down, killing more than 50 to quell protests against the military’s February 1 coup. .
“After verification of the nationality of these illegal immigrants, details will be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to be discussed with Myanmar for their deportation,” said a senior police official, according to Indian media.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government abolished the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir in August 2019, splitting it into two federally administered territories managed from New Delhi.
Shock waves within the community
Saturday’s detentions in Jammu shocked the community.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a Rohingya man living in the Jammu Narwal area, said a large police team arrived at their camp on Saturday morning and asked community leaders to send refugees, in groups, to a nearby sports stadium. for a “general verification” process and COVID- 19 tests.
He said more than 300 Rohingya lined up at the stadium, where they were subjected to coronavirus tests and biometric scans after being shown the ID cards issued to them by the UN agency. for refugees, UNHCR.
“They were given a slice of bread each and asked to wait,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.
“The stadium gates were closed and no one was allowed to leave,” he said. “In the afternoon, officials announced the names of some refugees and asked them to separate from the others. Then they were taken away on buses.
Anonymous officials quoted in several local reports said the refugees had been detained for not having the required documents, adding that a process to deport them had been initiated.
“They separated wives from their husbands, mothers from sons, sisters from brothers… and grandfathers and grandmothers from their families,” said Siddiq, another Rohingya.
The Rohingya said police raided their camps again on Saturday evening and started putting more refugees on buses.
“We don’t know why the authorities took them to prison,” said Abdul Rohin, whose 26-year-old son and daughter-in-law were among the detainees.
‘We are not at peace here’
Last month, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir asked the local government to explain the steps taken to identify and deport refugees staying in Jammu within a month.
The leaders and activists of the Rohingya community in India are dismayed by this decision and fear that it is a sign of hostility on the part of the Hindu nationalist government towards the Rohingyas.
“Rohingya refugees are innocent people who have committed no crime and yet are imprisoned,” said Sabbr Kyaw Min, who heads a Rohingya rights group based in New Delhi.
“If the authorities are considering deporting us, they should deport us all together. And where are they going to deport? The situation in Myanmar worsened after the military coup. It’s hell over there.
Min said the Rohingya should be allowed to live in India until the situation in Myanmar improves. “We should be treated the same as other refugees,” he said.
A UNHCR official in India, who declined to be named, said he was following the issue but had not been able to contact authorities.
Indian legal experts also criticized the detention, saying the decision violated national and international laws.
“The administration is mimicking the actions of authoritarian dictatorial governments,” Ravi Nair, a human rights lawyer in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.
Nair said a petition he filed against the expulsion of the Rohingya was pending in India’s Supreme Court. “I need their affidavits so that we ask the Supreme Court to stop the detention and release all those who are already in prison,” he said.
“They are not illegal migrants. They are refugees with valid UNHCR cards and, according to the memorandum of understanding between India and the United Nations refugee agency, all urban refugees can be recognized as legal and they are urban refugees in Jammu ” , Nair added.
In recent months, Indian police have arrested dozens of Rohingya for not having valid documents. Activists claim that there are more than 300 Rohingya detained in various Indian prisons without trial for years.
“If the Indian government is considering deporting us, why are these refugees jailed for years? They should kick them out first, ”Min said.
Meanwhile, refugees in Jammu camps continue to live in fear. “They can come anytime and take us,” Salah said. “It’s a repeat of what happened with us in Myanmar.”
He said they decided to pack their bags and flee the camp, but the police arrested them and pushed them back.
“Our family members have been separated from us,” said one refugee, carrying a bag of clothes on his head. “We will walk towards Myanmar on foot. We are not at peace here.