As many as 170 Rohingya refugees in India have been detained in detention centers and told they will be forcibly repatriated to Myanmar, where they have already escaped genocide-related human rights abuses.
The mass arrests that began over the weekend in the Kashmir city of Jammu are part of a nationwide crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, numbering 40,000 in India. Many people have a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee identity card, which is thought to protect them from arbitrary detention.
On Saturday, hundreds of Rohingya, including women and children, were summoned by police as part of a “verification” exercise, and others were picked up during raids on camps on the outskirts of Jammu city. About 5,000 Rohingya live.
He was taken by bus to a jail in nearby Hira Nagar, which police described as a “holding center”. Proceedings for their deportation have begun in Myanmar, which is in the midst of an uprising and where the Rohingya are a much-oppressed minority.
Akram Mohammad was among those detained on Saturday when he, his wife, Amna, and their three children were called to a local stadium by police. Police and paramilitary forces barred him from leaving, and he began naming in the afternoon.
His wife, 28-year-old Amna, said: “I have young children: where will I go? What crime has my husband committed? We fled the brutal violence in our country in 2012. My husband is a laborer here. We all have UNHCR ID cards.
Izo Rehman, a refugee from Jammu, said his uncle, son and brother’s wife had been sent to jail for failing to produce a Myanmar passport or an Indian visa. “The police said, ‘You are an illegal immigrant’ and arrested them,” Rehman said. Almost all Rohingya, including my three relatives, showed their refugee ID cards issued by the UNHCR. But the police told us that those cards could not save the Rohingya. They have no advantage in India.
Eyewitnesses allege that during raids on camps, a Rohingya refugee was beaten by police as he tried to resist arrest.
Many refugees have been living in India since 2008, following a brutal outbreak of violence by Myanmar’s military. In 2012 and again in 2017, the number of Rohingya in India increased again after further campaigns of violence.
Most ended up in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, but in the last decade, tens of thousands of people have also sought protection in India, where they have established a community.
Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, negative sentiments and violence against Rohingya Muslims have increased. In Jammu, in 2017, local BJP leaders launched a campaign calling for the expulsion of all Rohingya from the area.
The latest crackdown began earlier this year in the state of West Bengal when authorities claimed that the Rohingya were becoming Indian citizens illegally. West Bengal will hold state elections this month, and the BJP has promised to deport the Rohingya if they win.
Hundreds of desperate Rohingyas in Jammu on Sunday, many carrying water bottles, cloth sacks and food stalls, began marching out of the city in search of safety. However, they were surrounded by police and paramilitary forces and pushed back into the camps. Others fled to the forest.
“After verifying the nationalities of these illegal immigrants, the details will be sent to the Foreign Ministry in Delhi, so that their deportation can be discussed with Myanmar,” said Mukesh Singh, local police inspector general.
Rohingya activists say deporting people back to Myanmar is tantamount to “putting us in hell.”
Ayatollah, a 35-year-old refugee living in a camp in the Narowal area of Jammu, said: “We have been living here for a decade. We have UNHCR cards. I have set up a garment shop for accommodation. How did it suddenly become illegal? Our people are working hard to earn a living. We are not a burden to anyone. Then why this inhuman treatment? ”
Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer, said the crackdown violated international law because the Rohingya had fled the genocide.
“These are refugees here. The government cannot detain or deport them. They should be allowed to live as refugees. “They intend to file a petition in the Supreme Court of India for the release of the detained refugees,” Bashan said.
The arrests sent shockwaves through the Rohingya communities scattered across India. Since January, all of the nearly 400 Rohingya refugees in West Bengal have disappeared from their villages, many crossing the border.
Among them was Muhammad Najam, a Rohingya refugee living in a village in West Bengal, who went to Bangladesh with his wife and three children in February.
“India has become insecure for all Rohingyas,” he said. “I think all Rohingyas living in India will soon have to leave the country for Bangladesh or other countries.”
Sheikh Aziz-ur-Rehman assisted the reporters from West Bengal
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