MYANMAR/INDIA: The escalation of the Rohingya crisis requires a humane reaction from the Indian state

 26 September 2017
 A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

 MYANMAR/INDIA: The escalation of the Rohingya crisis requires a humane
 reaction from the Indian state
 In August 2017, the government of India had termed Rohingya refugees
 residing in India as “illegal immigrants”, and had conveyed its
 intention to deport them
 . The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has previously condemned
 the genocide
 of Rohingya Muslims at the hands of Myanmarese security forces, as
 well as the proposed deportation of Rohingya refugees
 . While it has been generally assumed that all the refugees are
 Muslims, some reports suggest that the refugees, especially in
 Bangladesh, include Hindus as well, who have been fleeing the violence
 in Myanmar.
 At present, a petition challenging the deportation is pending before
 the Supreme Court. The petition alleges that the deportation violates
 principles of customary international law
 , especially the principle of non-refoulement i.e. that a person
 cannot be repatriated if they can demonstrate that their life or
 freedoms shall be substantially harmed in their country of origin.
 Customary international law is binding on States regardless of whether
 they have ratified treaties containing provisions to the same effect,
 and hence the Indian state is bound by this principle despite not
 ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention. There is ample evidence to show
 that Myanmar has consistently conducted a pogrom against Rohingyas
 , especially in the Rakhine state to which the group has been
 confined, resulting in the denial of basic human rights to the
 First-person accounts of the plight of the Rohingya demonstrate the
 extent to which sexual violence and extra-judicial killings are used
 to suppress the community. Abu Ahmed, a 60-year-old farmer
 , described the killings of female members of his family and their
 children, an event which forced him to flee his village and cross the
 border into Bangladesh. The village in which Ahmed used to reside was
 razed to the ground by security forces, in furtherance of the
 unofficial ‘scorched earth’ policy
 of the Myanmar state, calculated to permanently drive the Rohingyas
 out of Myanmar. Rashida, a 25-year-old woman, describes a similarly
 shocking situation
 , where her child was slaughtered by men wielding machetes during an
 organized massacre in her village conducted by security forces. Kasim,
 a 26-year-old man who managed to escape during a similar raid on his
 village, describes security forces raping women in open yards
 during the pillages, and the subsequent murders of the women.
 The attitude of the Indian state towards Rohingya refugees is steeped
 in Islamophobia, as evidenced by the statements of multiple leaders
 from various political parties
 as well as the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act which
 completely excludes Muslim refugees. In response to the petition, the
 government had also filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court
 , alleging that Rohingyas pose a threat to national security, and that
 many of them have ties with Pakistani intelligence agencies and ISIS,
 despite there being no publicly-available evidence to support these
 claims. Shockingly, the Indian government’s hard-line anti-Rohingya
 stance has culminated in Border Security Force (BSF) personnel using
 heavy-handed tactics to dispel refugees along the border in West
 Bengal. Reports of the BSF throwing stun grenades and using chilli
 to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing the border abound; sources
 say that the usage of “rude and crude” methods
 has been authorised to stop Rohingyas from entering Indian territory.
 The Indian State must refrain from making irresponsible and false
 statements that it has no obligations under international law to
 protect the Rohingyas. The State must fulfil its obligations under
 international law, and also demonstrate some basic humanity towards
 people who are fleeing one of the worst genocides in modern history.
 The State must rescind the order of deportation, and extend a helping
 hand to a community that is generally considered the most persecuted
 in the world. It is also essential that the characterization of
 Rohingyas as national security threats ceases immediately, and that
 the equal protection of the law and the right to life is extended to
 these refugees in line with long-standing precedent on the issue. The
 de facto regime of refugee protection, wherein the UNHCR was allowed
 to function without impairment, must continue, and Rohingyas must be
 provided with all possible protections from the State without regard
 for political considerations, much as how the government assisted
 Tibetan refugees more than half a century ago. The present stance of
 the Indian government also puts undue pressure on Bangladesh to
 accommodate the refugees and a large number of them are now in
 Further, if there is evidence of any Rohingyas being involved in
 terrorist activities or activities threatening India’s national
 security, they can and must be dealt with according to the due process
 of law. To paint a whole community with the same brush and send them
 back into a situation of grave danger due to the supposed criminal
 activities of a few is reprehensible. There is enough documented
 evidence by well-respected authorities and sources which show the
 horrific situation in the Rakhine state, the genocide that the
 Rohingya are fleeing. The Indian State is continuously ignoring these
 and striving hard to establish a flimsy counter-narrative of the
 security implications of allowing the Rohingyas to stay– one steeped
 in parochialism and barbarity.
 # # #
 The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical
 rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in
 order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in
 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right
 Livelihood Award, 2014.
 Read this Statement online

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