Govt acts on Rohingyas: GoM set up, first meeting today

JAMMU, May 9: Acting on directions of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the State Government has set up a high-level Group of Ministers (GoMs) on the issue of illegal settlement of foreigner immigrants in Jammu and Samba districts, which has become a major issue in Jammu region with several political parties, social and religious organizations demanding their immediate deportation on the ground that they could become potential security risk here and also lead to change of demographic character in the region.

A protester holds a placard as Aung San Suu Kyi visits the Guildhall in London, Britain May 8, 2017. Source: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
A protester holds a placard as Aung San Suu Kyi visits the Guildhall in London, Britain May 8, 2017. Source: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Official sources told the Excelsior that the GoM comprised four Cabinet Ministers-two each from ruling coalition partners-PDP and BJP including Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, Health and Medical Education Minister Bali Bhagat (both BJP), Rural Development Minister

Abdul Haq Khan and Consumer Affairs, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution Minister Choudhary Zulfikar (both PDP).

Dr Nirmal Singh would head the GoM, whose first meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow, sources said.

The State Government has mandated the GoM to go into the settlement of illegal migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh and examine all relevant aspects related to them. The GoM would be free to debate and discuss every issue pertaining to illegal settlement of foreign immigrants in Jammu and Samba districts, repercussions of their settlement and all other issues connected to them.

While the BJP, despite being in the power, has been openly gunning for Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals settled in some particular localities at Jammu and Samba districts, ruling PDP has maintained distance from the BJP’s demand. However, the BJP was under intense pressure on deportation of illegal immigrants from Jammu following regular protests by various parties and organizations.

Sources said the GoM would also go into the reservations voiced from several quarters that the Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals could be exploited by the ‘anti-national elements’ and their settlement here could lead to demographic change of Jammu region.

“All related issues could be taken up in the GoM,” sources said, adding that the GoM would submit its report to the State Government in next couple of months after which a strategy would be devised on the fate of foreign nationals, who have illegally settled on outskirts of Jammu and Samba districts.
Simultaneously, the State administration has also been conducting Security Audit of the foreign nationals. Security and Intelligence agencies have been maintaining strict surveillance on the Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals by monitoring their activities in view of reports that attempts could be made by ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-social’ elements to exploit them and rope them into the militancy, though no such incident of their involvement has been reported so far.
On March 4, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had sought from the State Government the steps being taken to check any further flow of Rohingyas in Jammu and to ensure that they don’t fall into the hands of militants and anti-national elements. Besides, the Home Ministry wanted the State Government to formulate a roadmap on the illegal foreign settlers.
The Government has reports that at the time of settlement of Rohingyas in Jammu, it was UPA Government at the Centre and National Conference-Congress coalition Government at the State.
In response to BJP MLA Sat Sharma’s query in the Assembly during budget session here in January, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had disclosed that there are 5743 Burmese residing in the State, where they had entered on their own and are staying at various places in the districts of Jammu and Samba.
The Government had named a number of NGOs, which have been funding stay of Rohingyas in Jammu and Samba districts.
The Government reply had said apart from 5,700 Rohingya Muslims, 322 other foreigners are presently living in Jammu and Samba districts. The reply had also stated that 17 FIRs have been registered against 38 Rohingyas for various offences including those related to illegal border crossing.
Sources said the Centre Government was also concerned about the settlement of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Jammu and Samba districts as it was a matter of security concern also in view of the situation developing in the State as well as the borders.