New Delhi, 'The day they broke into my house, the day they barged into me, my world became dark and gloomy -- slipping into oblivion forever,' says...
New Delhi, "The day they broke into my house, the day they barged into me, my world became dark and gloomy -- slipping into oblivion forever," says Salma, a 28-year-old Rohingya Muslim woman from Myanmar now living in the Delhi-NCR area. "Today, I have no place which I can claim to be my own. My whole world is shattered," Salma recounts with shrill in her voice and pain in the eyes. "The Myanmar Military people broke into my house and began to torture my family. It was night time when they came to our village," she adds. "I was raped in front of my father-in-law, my husband and my three daughters. When my husband and daughters tried to intervene, they shot dead my husband and raped my eldest daughter. I was abducted to shallow land where I was raped repeatedly for a week by three men," tells an anguished Salma. "Then, they left me all alone there. I was like a vegetable, like a lifeless creature, unable to move around. For next seven days, I had no hope, until Usman, fellow Rohingya who was escaping, found me." "My family covered my injuries with clothes and we hid in the jungle. After a few days, I was able to walk with the stick. We left our village and I had to cross two big hills, a big river and a walk for 15 days to arrive in Bangladesh. From there, my family took me to India." This is just one story.
There are thousands and thousands of such women languishing in the refugee camps in Bangladesh or elsewhere. In fact, the Rohingya genocide is one of the most heart-wrenching horror story today! Some 235 Rohingya refugees are staying in South Delhi's Kalindi Kunj area and they simply refuse to return to "their own country" despite the fact that they continue to live in horrendous conditions. These women are helpless and the atrocities committed on them back home continue to haunt them and give them pain. The deep scars are more psychological than physical! But, Bangladesh has been a great hope for them. The country's response in receiving millions of Rohingya refugees and providing them safety has been one of the perceptible gestures of humanity of our time. However, the needs are endless and sufferings are immeasurable. This is not the first storm of massacre, forced displacement of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. In 1978 and 1992, the Rohingyas witnessed a similar "ethnic cleansing" and Bangladesh provided the safest haven to them. On September 4, 2017, the Indian Supreme Court deferred a plea made by two Rohingya refugees who challenged the court decision to deport them back to Myanmar. In August, the Home Ministry asked all the states to begin the process of identifying Rohingyas and deporting them back. The reason stated by the Centre was that they were likely to get recruited by terrorist organisations, and that may pose a threat to the "national security". Little did they know that Rohingyas were a minority ethnic group that belongs to Rakhine state in Myanmar. Most of these people are Muslims, but some of them are Hindus as well. India doesn't have a law pertaining to the refugees. It has not signed the 1951 UN convention on refugees or 1967 protocol, which barred the co-signers from expelling refugees, but the principle of non-refoulement which says refugees can't be sent back to a country where their life is under threat is an international law. It is applicable to all states regardless they have signed refugee's convention or not.
The Indian Constitution grants refugees in Article 14 right to equality, and right to liberty under Article 21 and 51(c). So, by deporting Rohingya refugees, India would be violating international law and its own constitution. Despite not signing the Refugees Convention, India has generally not sent refugees back home if they are expected to be persecuted on return nor has it discriminated refugee on the basis of religion. For centuries, India has offered refuge to Tibetans, Afghans, Pakistani Hindus, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan Tamils. Our present government in 2016 adopted rules which made it easier for the religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to stay in India without proper documents. So, did it exclude Myanmar because it knows that those minorities are Muslims? According to a report by The Wire, "the RSS leader Rakesh Sinha claims that all Rohingya are associated with Islamic terrorism. The Right-wing activist accused Rohingyas for crime but a report published in The Wire in April 2017, that police has no such records". Today, there are more Rohingyas living in immigrant base camps across the world than in Myanmar. The denial of basic rights like clear citizenship, clean water, sanitation, secure shelter, education and safety for women makes them the most vulnerable people on earth. They need a future. With the great efforts of Bangladeshi government, communities, UN agencies, lifesaving efforts have endured the Rohingya refugees. "I want to ask people in power in India, why are they so shady on Indian ethics and Indian history? Isn't it our responsibility to provide these people rudimentary needs when they are seeking shelters in India? As a nation who is guilty of the utmost embarrassing event of past which witnessed largest transfer populations across the borders in 1947, is failing to comprehend the Rohingya cause. Before a Muslim, a refugee, a Rohingya, they are human beings with ill-fate," argues Namra Ali, an activist working among the Rohingya women in the Delhi-NCR.