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Rohingya Refugee Situation

Rohingya Refugee Situation

By Vidhi Sharma

‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their humanity’[1]

The Rohingya as we know them now are today the world’s most ill-treated minority group, they were termed as people who fled burning homes, and their belonging. By nature, they cannot be termed as illegal immigrants but should be termed as a group under the meaning of refugees[2]. The Constitution of India gives basic rights to its citizens as well as non-citizens. Thus no person could be denied of life and liberty except according to the Laws.

The deporting of these groups could be challenged under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India as well as many international treaties to which India is a signatory, The general principle of right to asylum and right not to be deported is contained in the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Article 6 and Article 7) & under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article l4), to which India is a signatory.

The displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of Myanmar’s Rohingya community can only be described as ethnic cleansing[3]

Migrations in the form of refugees have been an emerging issue for peace and security in the world. The situation arises mainly when a state does not treat its society equally as it should. The same has been the case of the Rohingya: A Muslim ethnic group, living in the western side of Myanmar, which is Rakhine, previously called as Arkan. This group, comprises of about 4% population in Myanmar. The group has been having to live in miserable situations, they have been completely deprived and live in a state of poverty. The plight doesn’t end there, these people have no legal documents and the government of the state refuses to accept them as a part of the state. 

Every clash with the Buddhists lead to violence, deaths, injuries and hate. The gap of trust between the Rohingya and the Buddhist have been increasing over the years. The most recent spark of direst was in 2017 when about 60,000 of them fled to Bangladesh.

The main cause of such violence still remains a question. The Myanmar government has refused to accept this group as their citizens or nationals. The government believes that Rohingya are illegal immigrants, living in the country from years ago. They are often classified as Bangladeshis since they believe that they share similar features. The Bangladesh government refutes such claims at the same time.

The regime of Ne Win (former Prime Minister and later President of Burma now Myanmar) enacted the Emergency Immigration Act in 1974 because of which these groups lost their national identity all together. The Buddhist community of          Myanmar regards the Rohingya community as a threat. They have come to believe that these groups are responsible for terror attacks in the country as many such organisations for instance the RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization) have taken up responsibilities of the same, they believe that such groups promote Jihad and thus based on such baseless fears the forces have been against this group.

India’s response to the situation

One could clearly say there have been three phases to India’s response to the situation, mainly being:

The first where in 2012 , the centre believed it to be an internal affair and announced a US$  1-million package  of relief to Myanmar but also allowed the refugees to enter the country but not making it a political affair. Here the critics stated that India looked away from the refugees on calls of help so as to not affect relations with Myanmar.

In mid-2017 when the government announced to deport the Rohingya as they were illegal immigrants. At the same time Modi visited Myanmar and condemned about the terrorist attacks on the state but spoke nil about the refugees. On the launch of Operation Insaniyat to provide relief in Bangladesh, it showed the efforts on part of government to deincentivise the refugees. The WB government on the other hand proposed to extend support to this  group but the decision on part of the state government had no effect on the centre.

In the third and final phase, the centre realised it needed a role to find in the phase of crisis. Miss Swaraj on her visit to Myanmar stressed on the importance of speedy and safe return of the people to the state.

It is thus needless to say that the handling of the situation part of India has been disgraceful and some serious considerations must be made for the same, the government must ensure that no Rohingya is deported till the state is safe for them. Also it must ensure that basic requirements of the people here are fulfilled. It does not mean that the government must put humanitarian grounds above national security but however it must take its steps diligently and take steps that protects the refugees from politics driven issues.

Due to conservatism and politicos brainwashing the Rohingya effectively, a lot of the times they fail to underscore the importance of their legal validation, right to life and safety, coupled with a basic expectation of community standards, hygiene, education, social security and the like. For the past few decades, the legal imbroglio seems to have compounded their situation to being looked down upon as outsiders and people who "falsify their existence" in a land that does not belong to them. NGOs such as ADRA and the Indian Crescent have tried their level best to ensure that these huge groups are made aware of their rights, but to little avail.

As the crisis unfolds a lot seems to have been in stored for India, thus it must help to find long term solutions and remain an active member in helping to rehabilitate these groups to where they belong safely. The human rights framework can be an effective tool to discuss about Rohingyas’ rights in Myanmar in order for Rohingya refugees to go back to their home country and live a dignified life. However, human rights approach is limited when it comes to practice and a legal obligation. Although Myanmar clearly violates human rights of Rohingyas and international communities have been condemning Myanmar for ethnic cleansing, no one has been able to actually stop these atrocities yet. Although UDHR provides a mechanism of international human rights, it is merely a declaration. To that extent, legislators in India need to be more empathetic and come up with a hands on solution in the form of international arbitration, discussions and bilateral agreements to address the grievances and help propel the Rohingyas cause under the international aegis of the UDHR.





[1] Nelson Mandela

[2] Convention of Refugees,1951

[3] Antonio Guterres

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