Hostile treatment in India forcing Rohingya influx in Bangladesh
Experts urge ensuring rights of refugees on World Refugee Day as more than 1,000 reach Cox’s Bazar with thousands to join
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have begun an arduous journey to cross the Indian-Bangladeshi border for safe shelter on the southeast coast of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where more than 1 million Rohingya have been provided shelter.
There are about 40,000 Rohingya in India with 20,000 registered with the UN refugee agency.
Experts and activists on the eve of World Refugee Day, observed June 20, expressed concerns about the influx of refugees to Bangladesh and they are asking for a diplomatic push to stop the flow from India and resume the longstanding repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar as the ultimate solution.
Ansar Ali, a Rohingya leader at one of the largest refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, told Anadolu Agency that Rohingya Muslims who had taken shelter in India in a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar, are now fleeing India.
Recent anti-Muslim sentiment in India has stoked the situation for Rohingya taking shelter, he said, citing refugees who joined them from India.
Muslims in India under the Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been experiencing mounting pressure and humiliation, including right-wing Hindu organizations’ demands that Muslims leave India, restrictions on wearing the hijab, not having halal food and the use of loudspeakers to call for prayers.
More than 300 people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh and those who took to the streets to demonstrate against official comments regarding Prophet Muhammad and his wife, Aisha, had their houses damaged. Human rights groups asked India to immediately end the vicious crackdown on Muslims.
Troublesome journey to reunite fellow refugees
Refugees who managed to cross the border said Rohingya in India “had a story of struggle to secure basic human rights like food, shelter and face rising harassment, including from the officials,” said Ali. “They have to live in a situation of fear, hostility and rejection due to the rising islamophobia in the BJP-led India.”
Rohingya have to pay on average taka 10,000 ($100) each to middlemen on the Bangladesh side while they have to pay 5,000 - 15,000 rupees ($64 - $192) to brokers who hold them hostage, according to refugees.
India shares its longest border with Bangladesh. The neighbors share a 4,096-kilometer-long (2,545-mile) international border, the fifth-longest land border in the world.
“Being a big country, India should extend its support to Rohingya refugees and play a greater role in Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar. Instead, they force refugees to leave. Thousands are gathering near border areas to leave India,” said Ali.
The commanding officer of the Armed Police Battalion, Naimul Haque, in Cox’s Bazar told Anadolu Agency that authorities have detained more than 1,000 Rohingya from India since last May and provided shelter in refugee camps.
“Bangladesh ensures good food and shelter for refugees under the UN arrangement. Meanwhile, there are a small group of refugees currently living in India and most of their relatives in Cox’s Bazar. So, many of them live in India and want to live with their family and friends in Cox’s Bazar.”
There have been reports of hostile treatment of refugees coming from India, he said, adding that Rohingya mostly come from Jammu and Kashmir.
Experts for greater UN, diplomatic role in India
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen expressed unhappiness about the influx from India.
Urging a greater UN role to solve the crisis, he recently told reporters in Dhaka that refugees went to India about 9 years ago in 2012 where they had been staying in different provinces.
Imtiaz Ahmed, a foreign policy analyst at Dhaka University, told Anadolu Agency that it is India’s responsibility to keep refugees, as settled by the UN agencies. Bangladesh alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of the persecuted community.
“What we see is that India is no longer a safe country as it was for Muslims. The rising anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia is among the major causes that cause Rohingya to flee from India. The dwindling economic condition of India is also provoking the influx,” he said.
Ahmed emphasized a greater role for UN agencies, activists and journalists in India to ensure refugee rights and safety for the Rohingya.
He criticized the UN, alleging that the world body is not playing its due role to initiate the longstanding repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar which is exacerbating the crisis in the region, and repatriation is the ultimate solution.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Bangladesh would return Rohingya who entered Bangladesh from India.
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat told Anadolu Agency that refugee who crossed the border are seeking a better environment and security in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar which is not provided in India, citing refugees who came from India.
He said, however, that his office has "yet to get any government instruction to send them back to India.”