The Indian Wire » Editorial » Rohingya Issue : What should be India’s call?

Rohingya Issue : What should be India’s call?

The Rohingya refugees or rather be called the refugees, normal people like any other human, are wandering from place to place in search of shelter and safety.

After being driven out from Myanmar being declared as illegal immigrants and not getting the citizenship of the country, the days for the Rohingya community have been really cloudy. Though different countries are offering help and refuge and doing everything possible to help the needy, India seems to stand on a different page as it did earlier back in 1990’s when it failed to protect the rights of the Bhutanese people of Nepalese origin.

In 1990, the Bhutanese Royal family had declared several thousands of its citizens as illegal migrants and gave the orders to drive them out of the nation. The decision was just not taken instantly, rather it was a well-planned move taken by the Bhutanese. In 1988 Bhutan had conducted its southern population census targeting its Nepalese population and declared several of them as illegal immigrants. A similar situation had risen as now of the Rohingyas and India’s decision was no different than what it is now.

Back in 1990 also India had failed to defend the rights of the Bhutanese people of Nepalese origin like now it is failing to protect the rights of the Rohingyas. Ironically India is trying to run in the race of the developed countries and is projecting itself as the superpower, its Foreign policies do not seem to have changed. If India wants to be called a superpower it should have the guts to accept the great responsibilities and not run from them hiding behind policies.

In 1990 Bhutan trying to torture the Bhutanese resident of Nepalese origin introduced several repressive policies. It announced the following of one nation, One people, wherein all the people were forced to wear the northern traditional dress and adopt the culture of the majority. It even banned the teaching of the Nepalese language in the schools. As Bhutan does not share its border with Nepal, these suffering people forcefully migrated to India seeking shelter. India however arranged trucks for them and deported them to Nepal. Since then these people have been wandering to places living in temporary settlements in south-eastern Nepal.

From 2006 to 2015 under the process of the third country settlement, only 20000 refugees were left in the camps. The initiative to settle these refugees was taken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and countries like the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway, even then India remained stoned mouthed and decided to look another way. Nepal had several rounds of discussion with Bhutan seeking help to take back the immigrants but India did not intervene choosing to be tight-lipped.

If at that time India showing some courtesy had intervened and not send the refugees back to Nepal, things would have been different between the countries today. India could not take a stand that time because according to the security apparatus which guides most the foreign policy decisions, taken by India believed that, getting involved in the internal matter of a sovereign country could boomerang and counter-attack India. It also feared that getting involved in the dispute of Bhutan and Nepal, it could give a chance to China to get into the territory of India’s influence.

Trespassing has been India’s biggest fear since 1962. But what India is doing today, the way India’s attitude is towards the minority groups, calling them a security threat and deporting them back is no better than what China does.

Giving a thought to the current developments which are taking place slowly but yet holding great importance may become a reason of worry for India. Bhutan is fast moving towards establishing good relations with China and Myanmar is already happy being friends with it. Most of the Nepalese consider China as a better friend than compared to Inda and Sri Lanka is also moving fast towards strengthening ties with China by ratifying the Rajapaksa era treatise with the country.

It is high time India take a look back at the decision taken in the past and learn from it. Standing for the right of the minority Rohingyas is a best opportunity for India to settle back its good term with many disappointed ones. India should make it clear that as a democratic nation India stands for the equal rights of minorities across the world.

India is though trying to put up a good face by helping the community, this will only be a short-term achievement for the country. If India needs to look on the long-term goal and aim to achieve it,  it should put up the clear face in front of the world. A few days back India had launched the ‘Operation Insaniyat’ under which around 7000 metric tonnes of relief aid like rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits, mosquito nets were to be provided with the Rohingyas sheltering in Bangladesh.

But just by proving relief aids is not enough, the real ‘insaniyat‘ will be when India takes a stand firmly to protect the right of the Rohingya community. So that when the crisis ends, Bangladesh should feel isolated just like Nepal had felt back in 1990, that India had left her to face the crisis alone. If India loses this chance to learn from the past and take the right decision to protect the Rohingyas, it will be able to at the position in South Asia as it is now, enjoying the respect and friendship of most.

This is one part of the scene and opinions demanding India to accommodate the Rohingyas in India. However, every story has two parts to it, looking at the second side of the coin several reasons can also be piled up as to why Rohingyas should not be allowed to take refuge in India and should be deported immediately.

The incident that triggered the whole issue and made the Rohingyas to flee from Myanmar was led by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a terror outfit led by Ata Ullah. He was born in Karachi Pakistan and brought up in Mecca. Even India has reasons to believe that the Rohingyas have connections with the Islamic states and the spy agency ISI of Pakistan.

Two Rohingyas have filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging India’s decision of deporting the Rohingyas. The government defending itself during the hearing to Monday claimed that the Rohingyas have a connection with the Islamic states. They are a threat to the security of India and should be deported immediately argued the government.

As it is India itself is fighting with the problems like unemployment and poverty, it surely does not need any more mouths to exhaust the country. The government during the hearing also put up its point saying that if India allows the Rohingyas to stay they will exhaust the natural resources meant for the Indians and this will be unfair to the citizens of India.

People arguing in the favour of giving shelter to the Rohingyas and advising that the Indian government should take action on humanitarian basis regarding the community should understand the point that India is not totally turning a blind eye towards them. India is doing everything possible to help the refugees, it is even providing help to other countries like Bangladesh who are helping the Rohingyas, but India will have to first think about itself before giving shelter to other.

Moreover, even if India somehow adjust the Rohingyas in the country, the fact that they are a threat to the national security and have connections with terrorist groups cannot be looked over. A mother first has to protect her own child before helping other children.

Why is it that only India is being provoked to give shelter to the Rohingyas? Why is no other nation being asked to take the decision on a humanitarian basis and give homes to the wandering? Why the fleeing Rohingyas are not being sent back to the place where they belong and from where they fled.

The Myanmar government forced the Rohingyas to leave because around 150 men armed with machetes, bombs and other weapons launched coordinated attacks on 24 police camps and an army base in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They attacked the people of the country they claimed that they belonged to. How long it will be before the Rohingyas grow in number and strength and attack the India armies if India thinking from a soft corner allows them to stay in the country.

The opposition parties and many politicians are advising the Indian government that India has always followed the tradition of welcoming and hosting the guests, it should behave in the same manner with the Rohingyas. But the opposition parties should understand that the issue of the illegal immigrants in India is no political issue to be dealt with tactful moves in favour of the respective party. It is a matter of concern for the entire nation as a whole and India should take a decision on it keeping in mind the security and the right of the Indians. The guests are only welcome for a few days and ultimately they return back to their homes.

But the major question that still haunts is what should be India’s call? Should it protect the Rohingyas and give shelter to them or deport them back?

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