India to put Rohingya refugees under surveillance

Jammu and Kashmir state agrees to step up checks after displaced Muslims are accused of being involved in crimes
India to put Rohingya refugees under surveillance

A Rohingya refugee child stands at a building in Srinagar in India in September 2017. Some Hindu groups are calling for Rohingya to be repatriated. (Photo by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Srinagar
India
June 22, 2018
The administration in Jammu and Kashmir state plans to impose stricter surveillance on Rohingya refugees following a call by Hindu groups to evict them from the sensitive Indian region bordering Pakistan.

The decision comes after an early June instruction from the federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to check activities of refugees in the Muslim-dominated state.

Police and agencies will record the biometric details and activities of the Rohingya, a state government official told ucanews.com on June 18.

Media reports said the federal Home Ministry had written to the state chief secretary asking not to allow the movement of Rohingya Muslims beyond certain locations.

The letter said Rohingya are involved in crimes, anti-national activities, money laundering and procuring fake or fabricated Indian documents, according to a report on website greaterkashmir.com.

According to government figures, 1,219 Rohingya families comprising 5,107 people live in Jammu and Kashmir. Among them, 4,912 hold UNHCR cards giving them refugee status.

Hindu groups claim the number of refugees could be much higher as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled their native Rakhine State in Myanmar following violence and discriminatory treatment in the Buddhist-majority state.

The Myanmar government refuses to accept them as natives and considers them as migrants from Bangladesh. Estimates say some 40,000 have arrived in India, mostly living in the slums of big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.

Kashmir's pro-Hindu parties accuse Rohingya refugees of sheltering separatist militants, allegedly funded by Pakistan, and being involved in terrorism and illegal activities. 

The instruction came when a coalition of the BJP and the regional Peoples Democratic Party was ruling the state. The BJP withdrew support for the government on June 19, resulting in the state coming directly under federal rule.

BJP leaders have been demanding immediate repatriation of all Rohingya refugees, saying they support Muslim groups fighting to free the region from Indian rule.

BJP leader Kulvinder Gupta accused the Rohingya of being involved in the February suicide attack on Sunjuwan army camp that killed 10 people — six army personnel, one civilian and three insurgents.

BJP state president Ravinder Raina supported the government move. "Our stand is very clear. We want Rohingya to move out of the state. The situation is already volatile and the presence of such suspicious elements could put the state at risk," he told ucanews.com.

However, Muslim groups have objected to such assertions, terming them as part of a deeper conspiracy against Muslims.

"These refugees have already lost everything and now the government is inventing new ways to harass them," said Shakeel Ahmad, a social activist based in Kashmir.

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He said surveillance is a ploy to coerce refugees to leave. "It is no longer political. It has now been made an administrative issue and a problem of national security. Such a process will expose the refugees to greater threats and intimidation," he said.

Rights activists and officials said the change of government will only make the move against the Rohingya tougher as the state now comes directly under federal rule.

"Now the administration has to report to New Delhi about actions taken," said a senior state government official who asked to remain anonymous.

Altaf Ahmad Khan, a senior lawyer and rights activist, told ucanews.com that "the core focus" of the BJP will be its anti-Muslim stance because it can turn that into votes in the 2019 general election. 

"The stricter the action the BJP takes against these already ill-fated Rohingya, the more it will hope for good Hindu votes. This is what it has been doing so far," Khan said.

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