Published Aug. 25, 2017
Trouble seems to be mounting for some 40,000 Rohingya in India as the government announced a plan to deport them to Myanmar, a decision Catholic Church officials say lacks a compassionate view on refugees. Mohammad Salim Llola, a Muslim Rohingya leader living in a slum-like New Delhi refugee camp, says he is not sure why the Indian government wants to deport him and other residents. "We have not received any notice yet, but we are scared," he said. Llola, 34, who runs a small shop, would rather die in India than be sent out of the country. The slum houses 47 Rohingya families, comprising 230 people, out of an estimated 1,500 Rohingya refugees in New Delhi and 40,000 nationally. Many work as day laborers, in factories or pulling rickshaws. The Indian federal government has said they will all have to go back to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, maintains that deportation would be cruel. "We should try as much as we can, to help them," said the cardinal, who is one of nine special advisors that Pope Francis appointed to help renew the Vatican administration. Mohammad Asif, 37, a Muslim Rohingya who lives in the northwestern Jammu area of India, says Rohingyas fled violent Buddhist hardliners in Myanmar in 2012 and again last October. Rohingya refugees in India mostly live in New Delhi, Mumbai, the nation's commercial hub, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government considers them to be illegal migrants. However, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Indian bishops' conference, called for deportation to be reconsidered. He noted that Pope Francis has said that refugees around the world should be welcomed with an open heart.
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As well as fleeing to India, large numbers of Rohingya traveled to Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Asif, who has an identity card issued by the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, currently works as a scrap metal collector "We have troubled no-one," he said. "We are ourselves an ill-fated people." Surendra Jain, international joint general secretary of the militant nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad organization, welcomed the deportation announcement. Rohingya "intruders" created problems in Myanmar and that was why they unwelcome there. "They are involved in terrorist activities and in every kind of heinous crime, like prostitution and drugs," he said "They should be deported and we will support this move by the government." He maintained that it was a secular, rather than a religious issue. The president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Jammu and Kashmir, Leela Karan Sharma, said removal of the Rohingyas would reduce "tensions" because they posed a security threat. Hindu-Muslim demography is a sensitive issue in the state, where there is a secessionist armed struggle by local Muslims who would prefer to join with Pakistan. Many Hindus believe Rohingya refugees there exacerbate the situation. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules nationally and is a coalition partner of the ruling alliance in the Jammu and Kashmir state government, backs deportation.