India has reiterated its determination to pack off Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar saying they were not refugees but illegal immigrants and questioned those opposing the move to evict them.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh stressed on the difference between refugees and illegal immigrants and claimed that nobody should have any objections as Myanmar was willing to take them back.
“They have not come here after following proper procedures. No Rohingya has applied for asylum. They are illegal immigrants," said the minister asserting that the centre will deport from than 40,000 Rohingyas living in the country even as he debunked criticism of the move. “When Myanmar is ready to accept them. I don't know what the objection is,” he said.
The minister made the remarks on the Rohingyas even as India is considering supplying arms to Myanmar’s government in a sign of strong support for a neighbour that faces criticism for its crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. A Reuters report said, the arms were discussed during a visit by the chief of Myanmar’s navy. On Wednesday, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar navy Admiral Tin Aung San met Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the chiefs of India’s army, navy and air force. “Myanmar is a pillar of our Look East policy and defence is a large part of the relationship,” said an official.
The issue is also being taken up by the Supreme Court where the centre has put across its position that Rohingyas pose a threat to national security. The centre said it was willing to share intelligence information with the judges exposing links between Rohingyas and Pakistan-based terrorists. The centre said this information can be shared confidentially with the judges who are hearing the appeal against the proposed deportation of Rohingyas.
The issue has already snowballed into a major political controversy with many Muslim groups and rights organisation opposing the deportation plan. One of the largest concentrations of Rohingyas is in Jammu where their numbers are said to be around 10,000, with most of the refugees staying in the Narwal camp.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said that if Rohingyas were a threat to national security it was not brought up in the meetings of security forces with the state government till three years ago highlighting that it was only a recent phenomenon. The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal is also opposed to the deportation.
The centre has refused to reconsider this position and continued to maintain that it cannot allow Rohingyas to stay in the country. Thousands more are fleeing Myanmar, entering Bangladesh and eventually crossing over into India. Myanmar is facing insurgency in Rakhine province leading to a strong military action against the rebels. The Buddhist-majority Myanmar has denied them citizenship.
The concentration of Rohingyas increased in India over the last five years. The Centre wants to share intelligence inputs to this affect with the court. Rajnath Singh’s remarks invited an immediate reaction with AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi describing the home minister’s statement as disingenuous. He countered the centre’s claim that Rohingyas were carrying cards issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and it would be wrong to call them illegal immigrants.
There seems to be a change in the Indian government stand which has now categorically termed Rohingyas as illegal immigrants. “Myanmar se Bharat ghus aaye, yeRohingya refugee nahi iss sachhai ko hume samajhna chahiye ( They have entered India from Myanmar. Rohingya are not refugees, we need to understand this reality),” he said.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, where Rohingyas on the run have been pouring into, steps are being taken to launch a birth control campaign among the Rohingya Muslims amid fears that the refugee population could rise sharply with their influx from Myanmar, a minister said today. "We have so far mobilised six medical teams to create awareness among Rohingyas about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control methods," Bangladesh's Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammed Nasim said, according to a PTI report.
Rohingyas are widely reviled in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are considered illegal 'Bengali' immigrants brought in from modern-day Bangladesh during British colonial rule.
Meanwhile, Facebook said it has banned a Rohingya militant group from its site, designating it a 'dangerous organisation' as information on the deepening crisis is muddied by claims, counter-claims and hate speech on social media, said an AFP report from Yangon. Rohingya activists have used the platform to post alleged scenes of brutality from the conflict zone, where humanitarian and media access is severely restricted, while the army and government deliver near-daily updates on the crisis.