Rohingya Crisis in India
The recent upheaval in Myanmar leaving thousands in the country without homes and a shelter, bore the brunt on its neighboring countries, including that of India. The internal conflict with the army on a mission of ‘ethnic cleansing’ witnessed major displacements of huge numbers in 2012, when a large number of them arrived in India. The UNHCR says approximately 14,000 Rohingya are spread across six locations in India — Jammu, Nuh – in Haryana’s Mewat district, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Chennai. It has given Refugee Status certificates to approximately 11,000 Rohingyas in India; the remaining 3,000 are “asylum seekers”. But more importantly, the Indian government has given Long Term Visas to 500 Rohingyas, which, according to an UNHCR official in Delhi, will help them open bank accounts and secure admission in schools etc.
India has largely maintained silence on the issue on public forums but has engaged in bilateral talks with Bangladesh on the issue of deportation of Rohingyas, living illegally in both the countries. Very recently, however, India has deported a number of Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar which has sparked concerns that the move could endanger their lives and violate international laws that protect refugees. The move comes as India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has escalated its rhetorical attacks on migrants who have entered the country illegally. The party’s powerful president, Amit Shah, has repeatedly promised to deport all such migrants, and portrayed them as a security threat.
Currently, in the state of Assam, a similar drive has begun this year for National Register of Citizens (NRC) for citizens to prove their authenticity and legitimacy of citizenship, in an effort to oust illegal migrants from the neighboring country of Bangladesh. This policy has been criticized as it potentially affects a great number of Muslims and persons of Bengali descent, as well as other minorities, who may be wrongfully excluded from the updated NRC because of their historical and continuing treatment as foreigners and illegal immigrants in Assam. The state has a long border with Bangladesh and huge migration flows, that many say, threatens Assamese jobs and culture. In July, 2018, the state of Assam released a list of its citizens, but excluded 4 million people. Many, especially Muslims who were left off the list, fear it could lead to detentions and deportations.
About the Rohingya Community
The Rohingya community is a Muslim minority that has faced repeated persecution and violence in Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. Forcing Rohingya people to return to Myanmar could constitute refoulement, a crime under international law. An additional 40,000 Rohingya refugees are thought to be in India, although only 18,000 are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many of India’s Rohingya refugees came before the most recent wave of violence in 2017.
Fleeing violence and systemic discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the stateless Rohingya refugees are forgotten as their situation demands international support and solidarity for human dignity. Some of the problems faced by Rohingyas are that many among them living in India have long term visas and refugee cards issued by the United National High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR), hence have no assurance of the future. Majority of Rohingyas who fled to India are working for lower wages in Uttar Pradesh or Jammu or Haryana. The reason why a lot of them make their way to Jammu is because the avenues for employment in the unorganized sector are more. The men mostly work as scrap dealers and construction workers, making anything between Rs 150 to Rs 300 a day, while the women mostly stay at home to take care of the children. Some women have also reported instances of harassment, and the children have been suffering illness due to lack of sanitation and nutrition facilities. Additionally, news of their deportation by the Union Government has spread anxiety all across the community as deportation back to Rakhine means threat to violence resulting in fatalities. Other than that, many individuals who are currently at the Rakhine state remain in internally displaced camps in inhumane conditions.
On account of the recently passed Migrants Day, it is important to highlight the role Centre for Social Research has had in its contributory role towards the cause of humanitarian aid towards the Rohingya Crisis. Centre for Social Research in association with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees initiated a project on Women’s Empowerment and SGBV Prevention/Response for Rohingya Refugees/Asylum Seekers to be implemented from the 1st of September, 2015 to the 31st of December, 2015. Under this project, CSR assumed the responsibility of working towards prevention of Sexual and Gender Based Violence as well as providing a response to it amongst the refugee population from Myanmar, namely the Rohingyas, raising awareness and enhancing protection for individuals at risk as well as supporting survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, maternal health, exploitation and abuse and prevention by means of educating boys and girls. The work was carried out in areas such as Mundka, Khajuri Khas, Shaheen Bagh and Madanpur Khadar of New Delhi. Local medical service providers and networking to nearby police stations were also conducted to create a stronger link between the community members and the police.
The high attendance of women in the meetings arranged is encouraging along with the participation of old members, who continue coming for meetings. The imbalance in the proportion of men and women in some of the meetings has also been associated with the space crunch in the centres where the meetings are held as men and women find it uncomfortable sharing close spaces especially among Muslims who are a majority in these communities. Availability of bigger spaces is being looked into by community motivators to deal with this concern.
With half the term of the project over, the regularisation of meetings and the inflow of telephonic cases show a steady growth of awareness in the communities where the project is being implemented. In the next half of the project, this progress will be continued by linking the community motivators and other members with other service providers in the month of November and finally begin to recede from the communities in December having made them self sufficient and better able to tackle with the issues in their families and communities.
CSR has been working since 1983 as an organisation for women and girls in India and has tried to deliver in dire situations such as this one in its capacity at different levels. CSR’s core values is to support and work to bring attention and justice to all marginalised and underprivileged areas of society, dedicated to creating a violence-free, gender-just society through social research, capacity building and advocacy.