JNU students prevented from reaching relief materials to them

Jawaharlal Nehru University students on Sunday were prevented by the Delhi Police from reaching relief materials to hundreds of Rohingya asylum-seekers from Myanmar camping at the Sultan Garhi Dargah in South Delhi for the past several days, raising fears that they would soon be evicted from their temporary dwelling.

The asylum-seekers were earlier camping outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, from where they were shifted to the dargah over a week ago. “Over 2,500 people have applied for asylum during the past several months, but none of them have been granted refugee status. What we have is an asylum-seekers card. We are now being asked to vacate this place,” said Zia-ur-Rehman, an asylum seeker.

JNU Students' Union president Sucheta De said after the heavy rain in the city on Saturday, she along with another office-bearer went to the dargah to check on the refugees. “The police did not allow us entry and asked us to come the next day. However, they stopped us again on Sunday morning claiming there were orders prohibiting entry, though they did not have anything in writing to that effect. We then met the area Station House Officer and informed him that the JNU students had collected some relief material in the form of cash and other necessities like medicines for the refugees and we should be allowed access. We also sought a copy of the order issued to stop us from meeting the refugees. The SHO did not even receive our application and we were physically pushed out,” said Sucheta.

“We suspect that the police are planning to drive these people out of this place. We have been told that the police also asked the refugees to leave the area. We urge the authorities to let them stay there till May 15, the day they have a crucial meeting with the UNHCR,” said Sucheta, adding that the JNUSU members and students have demanded that the asylum-seekers be immediately provided relief on humanitarian grounds and also be granted refugee status.

Nasiruddin, an asylum-seeker, said: “We along with our children and women have been spending the nights out in the open with no roofs over our heads. The situation got worse on Saturday evening in the wake of a heavy downpour. Without any medical assistance, two women delivered babies. A medical team visited the camp on Sunday morning, which was a big relief for all of us.”

Recounting his days in Myanmar, Nasiruddin said: “We are from the Arakan region located close to the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. We are being persecuted by the Myanmarese Government, which has never treated us as citizens. We cannot travel from one town to the other without permission. In Myanmar, we are considered descendents of Indians who were taken there as bonded labourers by the British in the early 19th Century. Instead of citizenship, they have provided us ‘State guest' cards. Over the years, we have been subjected to unnecessary restrictions, physical and mental torture, because of which lakhs of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to migrate to different countries,” he said, urging the Indian authorities to intervene.

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