Mr. Modi, What Do You Think About The Rohingyas?
You know those Rohingyas dying near our borders? By landmines planted by their own country's army? What do you think, Mr. PM?
Since 2015, a word has popped up again and again. In India, among the many headlines in the newspaper, and the bold announcements in the channel tickers, it appeared; occupying the paradox of being a distant reality, and still a very present one. But all of us, had to face that word, again and again.
What the world also realized was that these people were not one uniform block; no, they were people from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Ukraine, from Nigeria. If there was something they shared, it was the fate of having to leave their own people and land behind.
Of course, ensconced in our own little pocket universes, we hardly have time to understand the little details present in our very own lives, let alone people in far-off Europe. Because, if you just look up, you will understand that these details owe their existence to people who came from beyond our borders.
The 80,000 Tibetans who fled from the Chinese in 1959, brought momos with them. The Zoroastrians from Iran gave India JRD Tata, and the eponymous corporate behemoth. The more than 10,000 Afghans who fled from the war there, are now self-sufficient enough that they can give a taste of their cuisine through restaurants and fair stalls. Close to 2 crore Bangladeshi immigrants and 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils also live in our country, not liked but tolerated (in the case of the Tamils: “even the third generation after being educated are working as daily wage labourers“).
So, what have the 40, 000 Rohingyas done that they stand to get deported?
Let’s assume-dispassionately, if you may-that this is just some routine policy decision. That the Cabinet sat and said ‘if we look at this from the legal perspective…’, and decided to announce deporting them.
Then, you see this.
(Above image & caption taken from The Guardian)
(A passing observation: how shaky is your faith if the presence of some recent migrants can threaten its existence?)
Then, you-the normal Indian-realize that there is an amendment being proposed to the Citizenship Act. As of now, the Citizenship Act 1955 denies citizenship to all illegal migrants; the 2016 Amendment proposes allowing Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Christians, Buddhists from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan to become citizens after living in India for 6 years. Spot the odd religion out.
For years, we tut-tutted at the West for failing to understand that all Muslims weren’t terrorists. Now? Now, our Home Ministry thinks it fit to say to issue an advisory [original PDF here], saying:
illegal migrants are more vulnerable for getting recruited by terrorist organizations. Infiltration from Rakhine state of Myanmar into Indian territory specially in the recent years besides being burden on the limited resources of the country…
And if there’s any confusion that who the notice is intended for, as the government is rumored to say that it applies to all illegal migrants, banish those doubts.
Detection & deportation of such illegal migrants from Rakhine state, also known as Rohingyas, is a continuous process.
Apparently, Hindu migrants just consume air and thrive.
What is more galling is our government calling this ‘infiltration’. The UN has acknowledged the risk of ethnic cleansing. An authoritative news agency, Reuters, calls it an exodus. Calls have been made for taking back the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But India…
Did the Rohingyas just start migrating this year? In 2009, the Coast Guard discovered 98 refugees, from an original number of more than 300, stranded on a boat near the Andamans. They were living in camps in Bangladesh, and had turned towards Thailand in the hope of a better future. Instead, Thai soldiers themselves sent these boats and refugees back.
Police found 90 Rohingya refugees, starved and dehydrated in one of the islands of Andaman & Nicobar, in February 2011.
In May 2012, the Indian government issued 3-year visas to the refugees. This too, came after sustained protests in the capital.
Sounding eerily similar to what would happen in some years in the Mediterranean, two boats, carrying 135 and 110 Rohingya passengers, sank in the span of two weeks in November 2012.
In 2013, Antonio Guterres, the then-UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) said:
It is important that the problems of citizenship are solved (referring to Myanmar) and the countries of the region follow the example of India that has opened its borders to the Rohingyas and granted them the same status as it has to the other refugees.
(Note: Antonio Guterres is the present Secretary-General of the UN. He is also the one who commented about the risk of ethnic cleansing above.)
What are they fleeing from, you ask. I can tell you about the requirement for the state’s approval for your marriage if you’re a Rohingya Muslim. About the denial of citizenship to them. About how back in 2009, the residents there refused to acknowledge the existence of the Rohingyas to a journalist. Or about the country’s first Census in 2014, which refused to include the Rohingyas. But it would be better if you watch the below video.
The above video is from 2014. 3 years ago, and this was their condition. In fact, set aside their condition. Just listen to what the Buddhist monks are saying; what they only prove is that the quality of being pig-headed and supporting violence truly transcends the barriers of religion.
The world’s media is looking at Myanmar now, and the country is going to be the proverbial deer in the front of their cameras. Landmines are being placed near the border, entire villages are being set on fire, and their biggest leader refuses to acknowledge this crisis and instead terms it as fake news.
As the wannabe elder brother, what indeed does India have to say for itself? What does the leader of this democracy have to say?