Given shelter by the Zakat Foundation, Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar camping in Delhi over three months, tell Sidra Hasnain about their hardships and hopes

The plot of land provided by the Zakat Foundation of India, an NGO in New Delhi, houses 150 people, all of whom are Rohingya Muslims. The food and water is being taken care of by the Zakat Foundation. “The condition in which they are living here is much better than what was in Myanmar. They want a place to live, if not anything else. They say it’s like heaven for them. We are also approaching people for donation so that we can arrange for sheds in the coming monsoons,” shares Mohammed Sadiq, Coordinator, Darul Hijrat.

Hardships can be dealt with but freedom can’t be compromised, feel the community members. They complain about not getting a refugee status in India. “A person needs either of these two important things for his survival — citizenship or refugee card,” says Abdul Karim, who used to be a tailor back in Myanmar, but is jobless here. Asked whether he tried to get work, he explains, “I went in search of work today. I got work of carrying cement on my head in Shaheen Bagh. I will get Rs.200-250 a day, working from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m.”

Others are also working as labourers in the Metro construction project. But there is not enough work for all the people living there. There are days when they don’t get any work and spend their time sitting near their shelters remembering their departed families. Abdul, a man in his 30s is lamenting the lack of medical amenities. “I don’t get medicine for my child. I am also unwell. I am not literate. I pass my days just sitting here. I don’t have work”.

Weather is also a concern and they are worried about the coming monsoons.

Women work in a factory in the area and some have even taken to rag-picking. They are able to make just Rs. 20-30 a day. Halima, a rag-picker says, “I am old now. I don’t feel well but I have to go to work and earn Rs. 20 everyday. ” But what worries her most is that they are not able to continue with their practice of purdah here. Noor Fatima, a young woman is worried about her children. There are hygiene issues. No satisfactory washrooms are available to them. They want their children to study and secure their future but have no facilities for that.

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