Rohingya refugees forced out of India

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Rohingya refugees forced out of India

Another crackdown on refugee camps in Kashmir is forcing Rohingya refugees out of India and back to Bangladesh and Myanmar. Mubashir Naik reports.


Rohingyas built temporary places to live and they are often still there in a bad condition in Jammu. Picture credit. Kamran Yousuf.

In Jammu’s Kiryana Talab camp, hundreds of Rohingya people are living in shelters made of tarpaulin sheets, bamboo sticks, and cardboard. During the winter and rainy seasons, water comes through the roof.

After escaping violence, there is a campaign against Rohingya refugees again – this time by the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The authorities have separated many families from the camp. They keep them in Jammu and they often leave children without one or both parents.

They arrested Ali Johar’s wife, Hasina Begum, in 2021. After she was at Hiranagar for about one year, they sent her to Myanmar in March 2022. Ali was then living with his three children in a temporary camp in Jammu. He said, ‘I don’t know if the Myanmar government has killed my wife or if she is in jail – we don’t know where she is. The children are missing their mother badly and they are asking me to take them to her.’

Fellow Rohingyas appointed Salam Tullah as head of the Kiryana Talab camp. But he ran away from the camp and no one knows where he is. He was head of the Rohingya committee. The self-organized group tries to feed families with arrested parents. ‘It is very difficult to feed children left without an income. There are many children in Kiryana Talab camp. They arrested their parents and kept them in Hiranagar prison,’ Salam told me before he ran away.

Salam says that since 2021 this has happened to the parents of about 40 to 50 children. He says there were more than 230 Rohingyas in prison there. The prison is about 60 kilometres away from the camp, and for the people with already poor income possibilities and working at a nearby walnut factory and begging, it is very difficult for the children to visit their parents. And when they do, the authorities often do not allow them to meet their parents.

‘The only way for these children to meet their parents is to look through a narrow window so they cannot really see their faces,’ said Salam.

‘When they see their children screaming, the parents in the prison start crying.’

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says that there are 20,000 Rohingya refugees registered in India, with 7,000 living in and around Jammu, the capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The UN describes them as ‘people in the world’. Rohingya Muslims have experienced many years of violence and discrimination, especially in Myanmar where most of them still live. Over one million Rohingya have run away from the country since the 1990s. In August 2017 after a brutal crackdown by the army thousands of Rohingya escaped by sea or on foot.

Over 172,000 Rohingya Muslims ran away to Bangladesh, others to Thailand, Malaysia, and other South and Southeast Asian countries. Thousands entered India and are in different refugee camps around the country. The Rohingya people are living in poor conditions and they have been a target for India’s governing right-wing BJP Party since their arrival.

In 2017, the Jammu Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI), the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a Hindu nationalist organization), along with its youth wing, were all against the Rohingyas. Rakesh Gupta, then president of the Jammu CCI, suggested an anti-Rohingya ‘movement’ if the government did not deport the Rohingya refugees.

People asked him later about carrying out his plan, but Gupta denied making the comments. He said, ‘killing is extreme’. In recent years, Hindutva street movements have been hoping for deportation of the Rohingyas and are calling the refugees a ‘security threat’. They say wrongly that ‘population change’ could make a negative difference to India as a mostly Hindu nation. In fact, Muslims are only about 15 per cent of the population.

Many families have now run away from Jammu for Bangladesh and other parts of India. But border forces have stopped many and arrested the Rohingyas trying to cross into Bangladesh without papers.


Pro-Hindu political parties put up the billboard telling Rohingya Muslims to leave the Indian city of Jammu. About 1,200 Rohingya Muslims ran away from Myanmar in 2017 to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India's Muslim-majority region. Photo by Umar Manzoor Shah

For the refugees in India, it is difficult to avoid the police.

Hasina Begum has UN refugee status but she was one of the first of 170 people deported from Jammu in 2021. She left her husband and three children behind in Kashmir.

She said they treated the Rohingyas ‘worse than criminals’ in prison. She said that officers took her on 14 March for a ‘medical examination’ and Covid test.

The following day, they handcuffed her and took her with eight police officers to the north-eastern state of Manipur.

‘I was crying and asking them to tell me where I was going but nobody answered me until they handed me over to the Myanmar army on the Moreh-Tamu border crossing,’ she told The Guardian newspaper.

After 11 days in Covid-19 travel quarantine, they took Hasina to Ranee, a small village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. She left Ranee 10 years before, five months pregnant, when they first attacked the area. A Muslim family looked after her when they returned her by force. When she arrived, she contacted her husband, Ali Johar, and told him to sell everything he could and take the children to Bangladesh.

‘I knew I could not live like this, away from my family,’ said Begum. ‘One year away from my children seemed like many years.’ She borrowed 400,000 kyat (£171) from the family she was living with and crossed the border again – this time into Bangladesh.

In June 2022, the family were in Cox’s Bazar, in south-east Bangladesh, a city with almost one million Rohingya. Numbers have increased after another brutal crackdown by the Myanmar army in 2022. Hasina Begum’s family reunion is unusual as most face separation in Jammu and Kashmir.

In Bangladesh too, there are many problems for the Rohingya refugees. They have made many refugees help with the maintenance and care work needed for the two big refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A court in Cox’s Bazar sentenced a Rohingya man to death because he had methamphetamine tablets. This is a crime which The Diplomat writer says would receive capital punishment. Calls to return Rohingya refugees keep growing in Bangladesh.

Repatriation or criminalization and worries of having to move again, are not a good situation for the Rohingya.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)