New Delhi: A minor Rohingya girl was formally deported from India to Myanmar, even though her family is in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, The Assam Tribune has reported. Myanmar is in the midst of violent turmoil as the military has been cracking down on public protests against its coup, leading to a fresh trickle of refugees to India.
The 14-year-old had been detained two years ago for illegally entering India in the aftermath of an earlier wave of repression against the Rohingya population in the Rakhine province of Myanmar and had been living on the premises of an NGO. Eight members of the Assam Police were slated to accompany her and hand her to Myanmar authorities, the Assam Tribune noted in its March 31 report. The repatriation was to take place on the same day and likely has.
The minor is the first to be deported from India since the coup. The Myanmar military’s violent reaction to dissenters since it wrested power has prompted countries like Malaysia to postpone planned deportations to the country.
The Rohingya Muslims are a persecuted ethnic minority in Myanmar and have been subject to a genocide since 2017, human rights experts say. Gambia has filed a formal case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice, which has “imposed ‘provisional measures’ against Myanmar, ordering the country to comply with obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While the largest number of them have fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh, some crossed the border to northeast India and have settled in pockets across the country.
The Assam Tribune has reported that the girl had requested that she be sent to her parents in Bangladesh, where they are staying as refugees at a camp in Cox’s Bazaar, instead of Myanmar, but the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs reportedly adhered to protocol and found that her request could not be entertained.
In early March, nearly 150 immigrant Rohingya who had escaped persecution in Myanmar and were living in Jammu were detained and sent to a ‘holding centre’, thrusting the scattered community into uncertainty. Similar detentions have taken place in New Delhi, the Indian Express has reported.
During the course of the March 26 Supreme Court hearing on the Rohingya issue, the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde had remarked, “The fear is that once they are deported, they may get slaughtered. But we cannot stop it…”
Not just Rohingya, the Centre and the Manipur government have been lukewarm to the prospect of sheltering Myanmarese who have been walking to India across the border amidst brutal military repression.
On March 30, it was reported that the Manipur government has withdrawn an order barring district administrations and civil society organisations from opening shelters or providing food to refugees from Myanmar who may have crossed the border in the recent days.
According to a government order issued on March 26, only medical attention could be provided in case of “grievous injuries”. The order asked for people seeking refuge to be “politely turned away.”
The original Manipur government order received criticism from various quarters on social media, including from former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, who called the order “beyond shame”.
On March 31, a video shared by journalist Vijaita Singh, who said it was originally shared by Mizo National Front Rajya Sabha MP K. Vanlalvena and shot the week before, showed children among those being turned away at the Manipur border.
Myanmar refugees including children being turned away by Indian security forces somewhere along Manipur border, video shot last week. Shared by Mr. Vanlalvena. pic.twitter.com/1dRgAnsDj2
— vijaita singh (@vijaita) March 31, 2021
The Mizoram government, meanwhile, has struck a different chord and has asserted publicly that it will be providing support to Myanmar nationals who have fled and are seeking refuge. Nearly 400 people have escaped to Mizoram from Myanmar since late February.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on March 21, held a meeting with Zin Mar Aung, who is actually the acting foreign minister appointed by the government-in-exile made of National League for Democracy lawmakers who were ousted in the February 1 military coup. He tweeted of the meeting, significantly referring to her as the ‘foreign minister’.
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