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Rohingya refugees deny sheltering militants in Kashmir

Right-wing Hindu nationalists make claims but have no proof

Rohingya refugees deny sheltering militants in Kashmir

Children playing in a slum in Jammu and Kashmir state, where minority Rohingya Muslims have migrated following violence against them in Myanmar. Hindus in the state have recently accused them of sheltering Muslim militants fighting against India. (ucanews.com photo)

Umar Shah, Srinagar
India

December 22, 2016

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Hindu groups have accused Rohingya Muslims sheltering in India's only Muslim majority state of supporting Islamic militants from Pakistan.

Right-wing Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP—"World Council of Hindus") has labeled refugees from Myanmar staying in Jammu and Kashmir "a risk to security."

Last week VHP's state president Leela Karan Sharma claimed at least two militant attacks in the state were directly linked to Rohingyas, with the refugees providing local support and hideouts to militants.

The VHP offered no proof for their claims.

"The settlement of Rohingyas in the region must be opposed at all levels. The state government should throw out these foreigners. It's a risk to the security of the people and the army," Sharma said in a statement.

Ram Madhav, the national general secretary for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), recently tweeted that Rohingyas who had secured U.N. refugee passes were "spreading into different cities" and should be "looked into."

State Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the government had not received any reports of radicalization among the Rohingya but that state agencies are on high alert.

India claims that Pakistan-trained militants are sent to Jammu and Kashmir in a proxy war to force India to part with the disputed Muslim majority state.

Claims rejected

Members of the ethnic Muslim minority in Myanmar fled following a bloody crackdown in 2012 by the Myanmar army in their home state of Rakhine.

"Why would we help militants? We are ourselves struggling to live here and why would we endanger our lives and of others," asked Yousuf Ahamd, a Rohingya refugee responding to the allegations.

Mir Mohammad Ashraf, secretary of the Sakhawat Centre, a Kashmir based NGO, said that Rohingya refugees have suffered a lot and were upset by the allegations.

"These people have lost everything — their homes, their country and what not. Now when they are taking refugee here [in Jammu and Kashmir], how can you accuse them of being trouble mongers?" Mir said.

Mir told ucanews.com that his NGO has been working to ensure that Rohingya refugees have basic necessities including water and electricity.

He says that since they have been in Kashmir they have never caused any trouble.

Aamir Rasool, who is pursuing post graduation studies in social work at Kashmir University said the Rohingya in the state are striving to live a peaceful life.

Rasool has visited Rohingya settlements several times as part of his studies. "They have seen the results of bloodshed and terrorism. They wouldn't do anything that could curtail their chances of living in the state. They have no other place to take shelter in," Rasool told ucanews.com

A safe haven

Rohingya families, the majority with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identification cards and some without papers, have found Jammu and Kashmir a safe haven.

Alam Ahmad Shah, 43, told ucanews.com that he first traveled to the national capital, New Delhi in 2012. After receiving a UNHCR card, he moved to Jammu and Kashmir with his family.

"I heard it was a safer place for all of us and I was not alone. There were hundreds like me who wanted to stay in Jammu and Kashmir," Alam said.

Alam has worked at a scrap dealer's shop for the past three years. Just like hundreds of other Rohingya refugees, he lives in a small cluster of tents pitched on the side of a road.

Government figures show Jammu and Kashmir has 1,219 Rohingya families, comprising 5,107 members, and 4,912 of them hold UNHCR cards.

In their old home of Rakhine State, rights groups say that Myanmar's security forces have been responsible for a campaign of violence against the Rohingya during the past two months. A large-scale security operation was launched following attacks on Myanmar border police posts on Oct. 9 blamed on Rohingya militants. More than 21,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

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