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‘All Rohingyas may not be criminals, but how did they come and settle here’? Jammu residents welcome action against illegal immigrants

As of now, the Government has a record of only 6,000 Rohingyas in Jammu. However, several reports suggest that the number can be much more than 13,000. One of the reasons for difficulty in identifying them is that some of them have managed to procure Indian identity cards.

The Government of India has started the process to identify Rohingyas living in Jammu and deport them back to Myanmar. As per a ground report by Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, over 150 Rohingyas were detained and sent to a holding centre of Hiranagar Jail. So far, the Government has identified over 6,000 Rohingyas living in the region. It is possible that the process will be completed in phases. Those who are shifted to the holding centre will face investigation and sent back to their country after the consent of the Ministry of Home Affairs and External Affairs.

Rohingya issue was raised by BJP during elections

During elections, BJP has raised the issue of Rohingyas on several occasions. Rohingyas are deemed as a major problem in election-bound states West Bengal and Assam. Thus, the action taken by the Government in Jammu is being linked to the election in these states.

Rohingyas have been named in criminal and terrorist activities

As per the Government’s report, over 13,600 foreign nationals are living illegally in Jammu and Kashmir. Among these illegal migrants, Rohingyas and Bangladeshis have the highest number. The majority of the Rohingyas are staying in Jammu, especially in Bailey Charana and Samba region. In the last few years, Rohingyas have been named in several criminal and terrorist activities.

In 2018, it was alleged that Rohingyas had an active role in the Sunjwan Terror Attack on the military base in which six soldiers and one civilian died. Three terrorists were neutralized. At that time, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly speaker Kavinder Gupta hinted their possible role in the attack and said that they are a security threat to the nation. In 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that India would never accept Rohingyas.

Videos of Rohingyas surfaced on social media

After the Government started the process of identifying Rohingyas in Jammu and detained 155 of them, several videos surfaced in which Rohingyas were allegedly seen leaving their houses.

In one of the video, one Rohingya said that he came to India around 15 years ago. He would prefer to go back to Myanmar rather than facing detention and probe initiated by the Indian government.

Local residents welcomed the Government’s step

The local residents of Jammu are happy that the Rohingyas are being identified, and the process of sending them back to their country has started. BJP spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Tahir Chaudhary from the Bathindi region is quoted in the Dainik Bhaskar report. He said that it is a welcoming step. He said he was happy not because of his association with BJP but due to the fact that no one wants illegal immigrants living in their area.

Updesh Andotra, a social worker, said that a large number of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are living in Samba and Kathua regions in Jammu. He also expressed his pleasure over the action taken by the Government. He said that people from other parts of the country are welcome to come and work in Jammu, but there is no place for people living illegally in the country.

Rajesh Kumar said, “I am a resident of Bathindi. I have seen that these people are involved in drug trafficking, theft and similar crimes.” He also thanked Government for the initiating the process. The residents of the region said that majority of the Rohingyas work here as labourers, and they are not criminals. However, it is essential to investigate who had brought them and settled them in the region, so far away from Myanmar border.

Abdullah asks Centre to sympathise with Rohingyas

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah expressed his displeasure over the process initiated by the Government. He claimed that the Indian Government had signed a charter of United Nations related to refugees, which it should follow. However, in reality, India has not agreed to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol to that Convention. It is up to India which refugees it wants to accept or reject.

PDP spokesperson Firdous Tak also urged the Government to be cautious. He said, “The issue of Rohingyas should be seen in the context of a humanitarian crisis rather than taking it as an issue of religious belief. The administration must act cautiously while keeping in mind the sufferings and trauma these refugees have faced back in their own country, forcing them to flee for a safe refuge in India.

The history of Rohingya migration in Jammu and Kashmir

The Rohingyas of Myanmar started to migrate to Jammu and Kashmir around 20 years ago in 2002. At that time, the PDP-Congress government was in power. The cycle of bringing more Rohingyas into the region continued for years, and every year the number increased. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2015 Jammu and Kashmir elections, Bharatiya Janata Party had added the issue of Rohingyas in their manifesto.

Identifying Rohingyas in the local population is a challenge

In 2017, Union Minister Rajnath Singh had said that the process of identifying Rohingyas had been started in Jammu and Kashmir. A survey was done by the Jammu and Kashmir government led by the BJP-PDP alliance in 2017-18 to identify Rohingyas. Now, as the Government has started the process to identify and send Rohingyas to temporary centres, it is believed that identifying every Rohingya in the local population is going to be challenging.

As of now, the Government has a record of only 6,000 Rohingyas in Jammu. However, several reports suggest that the number can be much more than 13,000. One of the reasons for difficulty in identifying them is that some of them have managed to procure Indian identity cards. The Government has so far identified the majority of Rohingyas in urban regions, but a large number of Rohingyas have already migrated to the surrounding districts where it will be difficult to identify them.

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