India police detain more than 150 Rohingya refugees, begin process for deportation
© WikiMedia (Zlatica Hoke (VOA))
India police detain more than 150 Rohingya refugees, begin process for deportation

The Indian police on Saturday apprehended at least 168 Rohingya refugees living in the northern territory of Jammu valley under the directions of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration. The detained Rohingya, including the elderly and children, have been taken to a makeshift holding centre near the Hira Nagar jail in Kathua district of Jammu where local authorities have begun the identity verification process using biometrics and other documents-based verification, such as place of stay.

The drive aims to trace Rohingyas residing without legal documentation in Jammu and comes after the Home Department of the J&K administration issued a notification last Thursday under Section 3(2)(e) of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Rohingyas are a Bengali-dialect speaking, largely Muslim minority community from the Rakhine province of Myanmar. They have faced brutal persecution by the military junta in their country for over a decade now, causing many of them to flee to neighbouring countries of the subcontinent such as Bangladesh and India. In Jammu, many political and social organisations have raised an issue of “demographical threat” posed by the Rohingya Muslim community, highlighting that the number of Bangladeshi and Rohingya foreigners in the Jammu Division has nearly doubled from 2008 to 2016.

At the same time, politicians such as Sham Prasad Kesar have urged the importance of a humanitarian approach that is considerate of the fact that their home country Myanmar is currently engulfed in a human-rights crisis against its citizens and forced deportation of a persecuted community at such a time would be unjust.

Most Rohingya in India carry the UN Human Right Commission’s (UNHCR) refugee card, but its protection is limited since the Indian government does not recognise these cards and further, the Rohingya have not been able to renew the validity of their cards due to the COVID-19 pandemic.