Rohingya: A Facile, Communal Stand


India can earn global kudos and even generate wealth by settling these unfortunate escapees

Among the many problems that the Modi government is creating for itself is its intransigent stand on the unfortunate Rohingya escapees from the tyrannical Myanmarese regime, some 44,000 of who have taken shelter in India and are pleading: Drown us in the Yamuna, but do not send us back.

When the Supreme Court questioned the government’s stand, it was ‘advised’ that it is not within the jurisdiction of the court, but was a matter of governance. Why? The only plausible answer seems to be that the far rightist Hindutvavadi Bharatiya Janata Party regime under the mentorship of the even more rabid Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh feels that its Hindu extremists will turn against them. It is naked communal vote-bank politics: Vision 2019!

Who are the Rohingya, by the way? They are largely Muslim community – albeit there are Hindus among them too – who have been living in Myanmar for centuries. Historically, they have been termed ‘Arakanese Indians’. There are 1.1 million of them settled in Myanmar.

According to a 2015 report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, the Rohingya were not included in the list of communities entitled to citizenship. The law, however, did allow those whose families had lived in Myanmar for at least two generations to apply for identity cards. Interestingly, during this time, several Rohingya also served in the country’s parliament.

The Rohingya live in Rakhine province in conditions that could shame some of the worst poverty-ridden sub-Saharan African nations. The United Nations have termed them as historically the ‘most persecuted community’: Rohingya have been forced to seek official permission even to marry within their community!

Across the media and more so, the social media in India, there has been outrage with the government taking a stand that these penniless, starved refugees have terrorist connection and are being controlled by Pakistan. Where is the evidence? The government does not need to give evidence: it has told the apex court this is none of its business.

In all my readings on the issue, I found one article that defended Aung San Suu Kiy’s silence, saying, that she cannot be blamed because the Rohingya have militia who gone footloose in Myanmar. Yes, they have several militia outfits there. Not just that. Mohammad Omar, a former cigarette smuggler-turned-militant, told Agence France-Presse that the militia is growing by the day and time is not far when “we shall be liberated”.

Now, that is a bigger threat for India: already India’s far eastern region is plagued by militancy and there is little doubt that the Rohingya militia will mingle with them to build safe bases within India. This is what the Indian government’s stand makes it look completely facile.

But have we not extended warm welcome to refugees from Pakistan, East and West, after Partition, and after the Bangladesh war of 1971? Why? Because they were Hindus? Must be, otherwise why is the Indian government going against world opinion and the comments of the UN against it, just to cater to the extreme Hindu cadre?

Okay, fine, if that is the case, we have to ask what the government has done in Assam, where one of the major poll planks in 2014, as well as in the subsequent state assembly elections, was what is best described in Sanskrit as its “hunkaar”, that brought to power, the BJP would simply throw out the illegal (read Muslim) immigrants from Bangladesh. And here lies the second instance of fatuousness of the Modi government: nothing has been done about it. The Assamese are mightily upset with this. So while the government on the one hand is denying settlement rights to Muslim Rohingyas, it is quite cool with the illegal (read Muslim) Bangladeshi immigrants, because thousands of them are already listed voters, and the BJP will have to keep every single voter happy till the 2019 polls.

In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata’s honeymoon with the minority community is well documented, in reports and photographs, offering namaz; her party’s nominated Rajya Sabha member had fostered a terrorist outfit in West Bengal. Why is Mamata doing this? Because the Muslim community in the state today comprise close to 54 per cent, albeit not shown on the state census. In districts like Malda, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, it is much higher. Is the Modi government doing anything about this? No. For the same reason as in Assam: a vast majority of these are already voters. It is a fact that the now vanquished CPIM had first allowed this, but it has continued with vigour by Mamata’s Trinamul Congress, and the same vote bank is being eyed by the BJP. Hypocrisy!

Internal poll compulsions apart, the Modi government has some Myanmarese debts to pay off. That country, which has been promoting some of the most dreaded anti-India terrorist outfits, needs to help us, and not just that. It is now Modi’s new-found bulwark against China. Do not forget that Myanmar was Modi’s first port of call on his way back from China recently.

It is a matter of conjecture that the Rohingyas now stationed in India have terrorist connections. So what can the government do?

These unfortunate people can actually be settled in India to the country’s and their mutual benefit. Please do not forget that the post-Independence and post-Bangladesh war immigrants from East Pakistan/Bangladesh had been settled in the once inhabitable Sunderbans, and today, Sunderbans is a well defined and booming economy.

There are enough wastelands in the country where these people can be settled and helped with financial measure to turn them into green economic pockets. There are examples of this in Chhattisgarh, where unsettled Sikh migrant farmers have turned such wastelands into gold! And once these people are settled, the government can keep a close watch and take out those elements among them – if there are any – who are proved to be terrorists.

That is the way… it is not in India’s DNA to worsen a massive humanitarian crisis


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