The Rohingya tribe are Myanmar’s (formerly known as Burma) Muslim minority who resided in northern sections of Rakhine region, an area which was isolated geographically alongside the border of Bangladesh.
The Rohingyas are linguistical, ethnically and religiously distinct from Myanmar’s Buddhist community that generally dominates the culture there. More than 78 percent of households in the Rakhine region live below the poverty line, making it the least developed region.
What is India’s stance on the Rohingyas?
India stands to be home to approximately 40,000 Rohingya refugees, according to the reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs. About 16,000 Rohingya refugees residing in India register with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but their actual numbers are much more than what is on the count. The UNHCR states that Rohingya refugees are living across almost six locations in India — Jammu, Haryana’s Mewat district, Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
The Indian government has also issued Long Term Visas to almost 500 Rohingya refugees. This will assist them to open bank accounts and secure admission in schools.
Though India had the largest number of refugees in the country in the whole South Asia and dealt with one of the leading refugee crises in the world throughout the partition of the country seven decades back, New Delhi does not have a refugee-specific law as of now.
What does the law say?
The provision under the Constitution of India only defines who is a citizen of India. The succeeding laws also do not deal with refugees. In legal terms, a person living in India can be either a citizen or a foreigner as defined under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
India has also not been a participant of the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol – both relating to the Status of Refugees and the UNHCR statute. According to the UNHCR, a refugee is a person living in some other country following maltreatment in his own country on the grounds of “race, nationality, religion or membership of a particular social group or political opinion or any other grounds.”
Before the latest Rohingya refugee crisis broke out, there were “2, 06,862 persons of concern in India. Of this 2, 01,271 were refugees, and the rest of them were asylum seekers.
There are about 16,000 UNHCR Rohingya refugees in India today. The government estimation puts the overall figure of Rohingya refugees. They are living in India beyond 40,000 with maximum concentration in and around Jammu.
Issues with Rohingya refugees
Under the 1982 citizenship law, Myanmar government recognized only about 40,000 Rohingyas as its citizens leaving others unrecognized. The rest are staying as “illegal Bengalis” – immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Myanmar government does not officially recognize the Rohingyas as its citizens. In general, it will be complicated for India to deport them. Also, in the absence of a well definite refugee policy backed by a law passed by Parliament. India won’t be able to accommodate Rohingyas as their stay in the country. It will give a whirl to political narratives and internal conflicts.
The Centre has informed the Supreme Court about the Rohingya refugees. They have acquired documents meant for Indian citizens. This raises the concern of naturalization of illegal migrants by fraudulent measures. Given the socioeconomic conflicts of Indian society and politics. Soon there may be a debate around the minority rights of the Rohingyas.
In the absence of a law to deal with Rohingyas refugees, their identification will become tricky. Especially when the intelligence agencies have warned the terrorist groups. They are focusing on the vulnerability of Rohingyas to cause terror.
On August 9, 2017, the minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, informed parliament that the government has issued a detailed instruction report for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.