The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has accused Myanmar of carrying out a “text book example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingyas even as he criticized New Delhi seeking to deport members of the community who had fled to India. India has rebutted this criticism strongly.
The one-million-strong Rohingya community has been persecuted and considered stateless since 1982, despite having lived in Myanmar for generations.
Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, classifies members of the group as “Bengali” and, therefore, belonging in Bangladesh.
The Rohingyas are the world’s biggest stateless ethnic group. Myanmar’s government does not recognize them as citizens which results in their legalized persecution.
There are numerous restrictions on them, including on their movement, access to the economy, education, health and other rights which keeps them in poverty and squalor.
Rohingyas in India –
In India, there are roughly 40,000 Rohingya refugees and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation. The UN feels the violence against the ethnic minority could spike in the western region of Rakhine in response to growing insurgency.
India’s response to UNHCR –
India was quite perplexed at some of the observations made by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The Indian permanent Representative to the UN has said, tendentious judgements made on the basis of selective and even inaccurate reports do not further the understanding of human rights in any society.
India’s concerns and subsequent response –
India is concerned about illegal migrants, in particular, with the possibility that they could pose security challenges. Enforcing the laws should not be mistaken for lack of compassion.
India had earlier said that it “remains deeply concerned about the situation in the Rakhine and the outflow of Rohingya refugees”.
New Delhi called upon Naypyitaw to focus on the welfare of the civilian population in Rakhine alongside those of the Myanmar security forces adding that “it is imperative that violence is ended and normalcy in the state restored expeditiously.”
There should be cessation of violence in Myanmar‘s troubled Rakhine state, by using “restraint and maturity” in handling the Rohingya refugee crisis.
The two countries have since affirmed their shared determination to combat terrorism and not allow its justification under any pretext.
It was agreed during the Prime Minister’s visit that India would provide assistance under the Rakhine State Development Programme in conjunction with the Government of Myanmar.
Significance of Myanmar –
Myanmar is an important factor in India’s ocean diplomacy and a stakeholder in the “Look East policy”. The two countries have affirmed their shared determination to combat terrorism and not its justification under any pretext. India will work for the socio- economic development in the Rakhine state by undertaking infrastructure and socio- economic projects.
Refugees in India – Past record –
India even though is not a signatory to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and as such has no obligation to provide shelter. However, India upholds the principles of and her human rights track record is impeccable. India, in the past has accepted refugees from west and east Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Afghanistan to name a few.
The Rohingya tragedy demands an international response as the depredations on the group has increased and the survivors settle into refugee camps that are already full. The Myanmar government will do well in finding an early solution to the long festering issue.