Rohingya crisis and India

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Rohingya crisis is termed as the biggest crisis in recent terms, but the Indian government feels that its internal security threatened due to the large scale migration. There is a widespread suspicion that some of the Rohingyas could have militant background. There are some specific intelligence report that they are found to be very active in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mewat. Indian government views the report seriously as a potential threat to the internal and national security of India.

Who are the Rohingyas?

The Rohingya are an ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The Rohingyas are 100 per cent Bengali and speak a Chittagong dialect. They currently reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar. There was an estimated about 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis.

What is the background of Rohingyas?

According to historian, Ronhingyas were forcibly settled in Burma by the British in order to control the Arakan (Rakhine State) in Myanmar and they were spread through the country. Burmese Prime Minister Ne Win evacuated out the Rohingyas from much of Burma in 1962 but those in Arakan, remained. But the government efforts remained the same. Due to the government’s efforts around Rohingya were displaced, 200,000 (1978), 250,000 (1991), 14000 (2012) and are at it again.

Why they are prosecuted?

Military coup in Myanmar changed the national history of the country after 1962. All citizens were required to obtain national registration cards, but Rohingya was given foreign identity cards. This act, gradually diminishing the rights on the jobs and educational opportunities. In 1982, a new citizenship law resolution was passed which effectively curbed the Rohingya as stateless resident. The new law, Rohingya enabled them to erase their position in the country's 135 ethnic groups. The law outlined three levels of citizenship. In order to obtain the most basic level (naturalised citizenship), the people must produce a proof that the person's family lived in Myanmar before 1948 and fluency in one of the national languages. But unfortunately Rohingya didn’t have such proof. As a result of the law, Rohingya’s lost their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and even the access health services have been and continue to be restricted. Being treated as foreigners the Rohingya couldn’t vote.

In the early 1970’s, Myanmar government began to follow a series of crackdowns Rohingya in Rakhine State have forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. But after the killings of nine border police in October 2016, the Myanmar government blamed that an armed Rohingya group was the culprit and began a more severe security crackdown on villages where Rohingya. For the first time, a UN official accused the government of carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in November 2016.

International Initiatives

  • About 70 per cent of the one million refugees are now receiving food aid, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group report from mid-April 2018. Currently around 1 lakh people are provided adequate foods to treat their malnutrition.
  • In order to minimize the risk of disease and infection, large-scale vaccination programmes have been launched to try to minimise the risk of disease. Around 4 lakh children (Under 15 years of age) were given a five-in-one vaccination, including cover for diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
  • To improve sanitation and public health, 47,639 temporary emergency latrines have been built Bangladesh military
  • Bangladesh has built more shelters in the Cox's Bazaar area but also wants to limit their travel to allocated areas
  • The UK has pledged £59m in aid to support those fleeing to Bangladesh. UK Prime Minister Theresa May also said the military action in Rakhine had to stop. The UK has suspended training courses for the Myanmar military

Rohingyas refugees in India

India does not have a specific law regarding refugees besides, India has the biggest number of refugees in the country in the entire South Asia and dealt with one of the biggest refugee crises in the world during partition of the country. Indian Constitution defines the citizen of thecountry and the subsequent laws also do not deal with refugees. In legal terms, a person living in India can be either a citizen or a foreigner defined under the Foreigners Act, 1946. India has also not been a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol - both relating to the Status of Refugees and included in the UNHCR statute. According to the UNHCR, a refugee is a person living in another country following persecution in his own on the grounds of "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

According to unofficial estimates, even before the present Rohingya crisis broke out, there were around 2 lakh persons in India, of whom 2,01,281 were refugees and 6,480 asylum seekers" by the end of 2015. There are about 16,000 UNHCR- verified Rohingya refugees in India. The government estimate puts the figure of Rohingya refugees living in India beyond 40,000 with maximum concentration in and around Jammu.


Even before the Rohingya crisis acquired international proportion, their population in Myanmar was estimated at around 1 million (10 lakh). Under the 1982 citizenship law, the Myanmar government recognised only about 40,000 Rohingyas as its citizens and the rest of the people were treated illegal people speaking Bengalis (immigrants from Bangladesh).

As the Myanmar government does not recognise the Rohingyas as its citizens, in general, it will be difficult for India to deport them. Due to lack of refugee law or policy India cannot force them to evacuate Rohingyas as their stay in the country, but this could give a political twist. The Centre has told the Supreme Court that many Rohingyas have acquired documents meant for Indian citizens only like Aadhaar card, PAN card and even Voter-ID. This raises the concern of the naturalisation of the illegal migrants by illegal means. Due to the socio-economic complexities of Indian society and politics, this could lead to a debate around the minority rights of the Rohingyas. So in order to avoid such problems the country should enact a new law regarding refugees. Before that, India must rehabilitate the Rohingya refugees who could a target for Jihadi outfits.

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