India: Govt to identify, arrest and deport illegal Rohingya settlers

THE Union Home Ministry in India is working on a proposal to identify, arrest and deport members of the Rohingya community seeking refuge in the country after fleeing their homes in neighbouring Burma.

Rohingya refugee women wait to collect relief vouchers at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, February 27, 2017. Source: Reuters/Stringer
Rohingya refugee women wait to collect relief vouchers at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, February 27, 2017. Source: Reuters/Stringer

According to Times of India, Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi chaired a meeting on Monday to make an assessment of the illegal Rohingya settlers in the country, with a focus on Jammu and Kashmir.

“The ministry is exploring ways and means to identify and deport the Rohingya from the State,” an official said after the meet, as reported by The New Indian Express.

The Home Ministry estimates there are 40,000 Rohingya across India with a high proportion of them residing in Jammu and Kashmir, the only state that shares a border with neighbouring Burma.

Rohingya fleeing Burma are known to take three routes to escape across the border; many come through Bangladesh where an estimated 400,000 stay in refugee camps, they also come via the Chin area on the Burma border, and by sea.

SEE ALSO: Burma: UN to investigate crimes against Rohingya Muslims

Though the United Nations has recognised the Rohingya living in India as ‘refugees’, a government official has claimed India does not accept this status and instead views them as foreigners who have come to the country illegally.

Recognised as ‘illegal immigrants’ by the state, the Rohingya are in violation of the Foreigners Act that allows for their capture and deportation.

While nothing has been set in stone as yet, deciding on actionable policy for deportation could prove difficult given Burma’s refusal to recognise the Rohingya as citizens.

“Bengali” is a derogatory term used by many in Burma to refer to the Rohingya that suggests they come from Bangladesh, even though many have lived in the country for generations.

Many were forced from their homes when a military operation was launched in Rakhine state after nine policemen were killed in attacks on security posts near the Bangladesh border in October last year. An estimated 75,000 people are believed to have fled to Bangladesh since then.

In India, rumours have spread of Rohingya involvement in terror attacks and affiliations with leading Pakistani terror groups.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Army defends Rohingya crackdown, denies abuses

According to The New Indian Express, founder of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, has expressed sympathy for the plight of the Rohingya, referring to them as “brothers” and speaking out against their persecution in Burma.

This has led Indian intelligence agencies to warn of a possible link between the community and the terror group, with analysts speculating that Lashkar-e-Taiba has been exploiting Rohingya people to carry out terror activities and raise funding for their cause.

According to one official, Hafiz has been instrumental in creating an umbrella organisation to radicalise more people from the Rohingya community.

Despite these conjectures, Rohingya Muslims living in India have not been found to be linked to any terror activity according to India Times.