Why no protection for persecuted Rohingya Muslims, ask settlers

The voice of TV news anchors talking on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) passed by the Lok Sabha late on Monday night filled the the shanty of Shobir*, a Rohingya refugee settled at a camp in Kalindi Kunj, as a few others sat around intently watching videos on his smartphone on Tuesday afternoon.

The Bill, which has been proposed as a measure to extend protection to certain persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, does not include persecuted Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.

“We have faced things you would not believe,” said Shobir. “Children were killed, daughters raped, our rights seized. No one wants to leave their country and settle somewhere else like this. We were forced to flee.”

Ramad*, who escaped from Myanmar in 2012, said the same persecution faced by minorities in other countries was faced by them, if not worse. “We were oppressed in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. We couldn’t travel, get married, have children, our citizenship was taken away,” he said.

To go back to Myanmar was “unthinkable” for these people. “You might as well throw us into the sea,” he said.

Why no protection for persecuted Rohingya Muslims, ask settlers

Residents of the settlement here live in abject squalor — open defecation on muddy roads, absence of proper drainage system and fragile makeshift housing which witnessed a massive fire last year. Despite this, Ramad said they manage alright. “We get nothing from the government but at least our children get to go to school here. It’s even worse for our relatives living in Bangladesh.”

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise, currently under way in Assam, was also on their minds. “If the NRC is conducted all over India and refugees are removed, they will all be Muslims,” said a despondent Anwar*. “I am thinking about my children..They are so young, they don’t even know which country they live in. Would we have to move again? Where will we go?” he asked.

The CAB is being viewed as an “injustice” here. “We believed in the virtues of this country, in India’s democracy,” said Shobir. “But this [CAB] has turned all that on its head. It is very disappointing.”

“I wish I weren’t a Muslim,” said Anwar. “That’s the only reason I am in this situation. If we were Hindu or Christian or something else, we wouldn't have to face this problem.”

(*All names have been changed)

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 10:57:38 PM |

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