Rohingyas living in India have once again grabbed headlines as the Union Home Ministry issued an official statement following a tweet from Hardeep Puri, India’s Housing Minister Union, to clarify the position of the Indian government on the Rohingyas living in New Delhi. On August 17, 2022, Hardeep Puri tweeted that “India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country” and that all Rohingya refugees in Delhi would be moved to apartments in Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in Bakkarwala . A few hours after this tweet, the MHA quickly issued a statement under the title “Illegal Rohingya migrants” clarifying the government’s position by stating that it had “not given any instructions to provide EWS apartments to illegal Rohingya migrants in Bakkarwala in New Delhi”. After the MHA statement, Puri backtracked and said the government’s “correct position” on the Rohingyas had been stated in the MHA press release.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia even said Union Home Minister Amit Shah should ask who made the decision to relocate the Rohingyas. The BJP-AAP duel over the Rohingya has once again exposed the state’s insensitivity to a community declared by the UN to be the “most persecuted minority” in the world. In fact, the use of the term “illegal migrants” for Rohingyas living in India is highly reprehensible. They carry UNHCR refugee cards and asylum seeker certificates which are globally recognized as refugee identification documents. Court verdicts in India have also previously recognized the formal “refugee status” of asylum seekers. In U Myat Kayew and Nayzan v. State of Manipur, the Gauhati High Court issued an order in 1991 stating that “asylum seekers who enter India, even if illegal, should be allowed to approach the office of the United Nations High Commissioner to seek asylum. status.”
The 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which are globally recognized as binding on States in relation to refugees, have also duly protected certain fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, according to the Convention and the Protocol, asylum seekers and refugees enjoy all the rights mentioned in international human rights instruments. Article 8 of the Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights clearly states that it will promote “the admission of refugees, without excluding the most destitute categories, to the territory of States” and “the conclusion and the ratification of international conventions for the protection of refugees. The right of refugees to protection, even if not clearly stated, is also the spirit of the 1951 Convention, which has at its core the principle of non-refoulement.
So what the Union government is doing with the Rohingya clearly violates the international protocol on the rights and freedom of refugees. The absence of a refugee law in India could only be used as an alibi to cover up the inhuman and unjust treatment that the Rohingyas have been subjected to for some years. But the absence of legislation does not allow anyone to do something that is grossly inhumane and contrary to internally recognized standards. It is unfortunate that the Rohingya have already been identified as a threat to national security. In April 2022, the AAP even blamed the Rohingyas for the violence in Jahangirpuri. Last month, Rohingyas living in tents in Haryana faced raids by police. In the name of the raid, the police allegedly harassed them and almost called them terrorists. In fact, before that, hundreds of Rohingyas residing in different camps in Jammu were transported to Hiranagar prison (which is now used as a detention center) in March 2021.
While giving an interview to a news portal correspondent, Sofika, a Rohingya refugee who had to leave her sister in Jammu and come to Haryana, said: “We have no greed for money from India. We have no greed for his citizenship. We just want to live in peace. We want to teach our children. The value of education is something we have learned here. In our country, most of our people are illiterate because the government does not give us any opportunity to study. So we ask the Indian government not to look at us but at the innocent faces of our children who are getting an education here. Let them stay and study. If we go back, their lives will be ruined like ours. It is indeed an irony that in his tweet (probably unknowingly) Puri echoes one of India’s great men. In his famous welcome address to the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, on September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda declared: “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religions and all the nations of the earth. “As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence, it should not forget the ideology and works of the creators of modern India.