Too good to be true: On accommodating the Rohingya 

The announcement on social media by Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri, of the Modi government’s decision to house about 1,100 Rohingya migrants now living in makeshift slums, in flats with amenities instead, proved “too good to be true”. Within hours, Mr. Puri was countered by the Home Minister’s Office, which denied any such intention, instead terming them “illegal foreigners”. It said the plan was to keep them sequestered in their present homes, which would be designated as detention centres while the Government continued efforts to deport them to Myanmar. The announcement itself was puzzling. Mr. Puri is a senior Minister and an experienced diplomat, and his statement was unequivocal. Not only did he say that the plan was to move the migrants from squalor to apartments built for the Economically Weaker Sections on the outskirts of Delhi, but that they would also be provided facilities and protection by the Delhi police — proof of how India had always welcomed refugees. The details Mr. Puri shared, as well as documents from 2021, showed that the Government had indeed been considering moving the Rohingya, who live on land donated by an Islamic charity, after their previous homes were burnt down. There has been some suggestion that the ruling party faced backlash from its supporters, including a stern press statement from the Vishva Hindu Parishad, and it would be unfortunate if that was the principle behind what appears to be a reversal of policy.

In broader terms, the Rohingya housing issue seems to be an example of the clash between the Modi government’s foreign policy commitments and its domestic politics. Although, as Mr. Puri tweeted, India has “respected and followed” the 1951 UN convention of refugees — it is not a signatory — Mr. Modi’s colleagues such as Home Minister Amit Shah have frequently disregarded the conventions: referring to migrants as “termites”, stating in Parliament that India would “never accept” the Rohingya, and even violating the UN principle of non-refoulment by deporting a Rohingya woman to Myanmar this year. The treatment of the Rohingya, who fled to India in 2012 and 2017 after state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, has also been far from the Government’s much-touted slogan of “ vasudhaiva kutumbakam”. The Rohingya have been driven out of homes in Rajasthan and Haryana, stigmatised by local authorities and intelligence agencies who accuse them of criminal and even terrorist intent. New Delhi has also failed thus far to play its role as a “Regional leader” in convincing Myanmar to provide its citizen’s homes and assurances of safety, or in brokering dialogue between Dhaka and Naypyidaw to ensure their return; about a million Rohingya live in Bangladesh, and an estimated 40,000 in India (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia house about 7,00,000 between them). In the absence of long-term measures to resolve the issue, the Government could at least, as Mr. Puri suggested, provide the hapless community with better living conditions, until their future is secured.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 1:01:42 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/too-good-to-be-true-the-hindu-editorial-on-accommodating-the-rohingya/article65784360.ece