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Rohingyans are also human beings with flesh and blood

Rohingyans are also human beings with flesh and blood

Who among the refugee populations in the world has the most tormented lives? Without a doubt, it is the Rohingya Muslims. On last International Refugee Day, those Rohingyans who were driven out of Myanmar under the guise of genocide had protested with the slogan 'Give us a chance to return home'. There is only one reason for that: life in the refugee camps is worse than the instability they faced in Myanmar. Their tragedy has become so overwhelming that they think it is better to be killed in their own country than to live an agonizing life in concentration camps that are functioning without any regard for humanity and in fragile tents. It is in this painful context that Union Minister for Urban Development, Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced the plan to resettle Rohingya refugees in India through social media. He added that 1,100 Rohingyas living in slums would be shifted to flats set up for the poor and they would be provided with police facilities and protection from attacks, words that reflected the attitude of dignity and equality that the world shows toward these refugees. The minister's statement was heartening, but more than that, surprising. The reason for the surprise was the doubt if the Modi government has decided to end its disdain for the Rohingya community and to adopt a compassionate approach.

However, within hours, a response came out from the Home Minister's office snubbing the Urban Development Minister's announcement and affirming the belief that no one need have any hope about any such approach from this government. While Hardeep Puri proudly evokes the thought that accommodating vulnerable refugees is part of India's noble tradition, the Home Ministry's statement makes it clear that Hindutva Bharat belongs to those who believe refugees are dangerous termites in the country. It reiterated the position that the Rohingya would be deported to Myanmar immediately and until then they would be housed only in the current detention camps or temporary camps. Although the Rohingyas in India have a UN identity, the Union government is yet to accept it and give them basic rights. As its foreign policy and domestic political approach are steeped in extreme anti-Muslim sentiment, the government treats them not as human beings with rights, but as dangerous 'termites' who need to be evicted as soon as possible. The fact that the Aam Aadmi Party came out with hateful statements comparable to any Hindutva organization, even as a statement sympathetic to the Rohingyas came out, reveals the deep-rooted anti-refugee sentiment in India - especially towards Muslim refugees.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj in a press conference said that Rohingyas are a security threat to the country and they should be resettled in BJP-ruled states. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia took a still tougher stand that they would not be allowed to resettle in Delhi. There were only a few like Congress leaders Manish Tiwari and Dr Shashi Tharoor who voiced views against BJP and AAP's statements. About 40,000 Rohingya who fled the ethnic cleansing of 2012 and 2017 are currently residing in the country. As well recognized by the world, any refugee needs to be recognized as a self-respecting human being like any citizen. India must remain steadfast in its plan to improve the lives of Rohingya refugees and provide them with safe accommodation until the time they can return peacefully. India can strengthen the Bangladesh-led remedial efforts and exert pressure to end human rights violations in Myanmar. But for that, what the Centre should do is to follow Hardeep Singh Puri's stand, not the Home Ministry's.

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TAGS:Hardeep Singh PuriManish SisodiaRohingya refugeesRoghingya
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