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Myanmar crisis triggers Rohingya influx

Refugee camp near Sultan Garhi Dargah in south Delhi (Photo - Priyanka)  
The Times of India
January 14, 2013

KOLKATA: Middle-aged Azizur Rehman had never heard of Jammu before. But his plight forced him to travel there for the survival of his offspring. Putting life at risk, Azizur headed for an unknown place, more than 3000 kilometres from his ancestral home in Arakan. He could not reach his destination finally. Midway, Azizur was arrested and now behind the bars for sneaking into India without valid documents. And he is not alone. In a fresh wave, hundreds of Rohingyashave started marching towards India for survival.

Recently, government railway police intercepted a group of 10 people from a suburban train. Most of them couldn't understand local language. Probe revealed that they all were from the Arakan (Rakhine) state of Myanmar. The Muslim population in Arakan is known as Rohingyas and for decades they are the victims of ethno-religious conflict with Buddhist population, backed by the Myanmar state. Their government does not accept Rohingyas as citizens and they are subject to state repression.

In 2012, following a fresh conflict, hundreds of Rohingyas started fleeing from Arakan. "We are from Balibazar on the outskirts of Sittwe. We used to work as masons there. My son Azizul performed well letter marks in school leaving examinations but he was not allowed to go to college. So, he also joined me as a mason. But we never thought of leaving our ancestral home, even after the state forces beheaded my sister Hasina for observing Eid. They also chopped off my two fingers," sobbed Azizur at Maniktala police station, adding that they were compelled to leave, But finally people once again started to flee when the Burmese started kidnapping their girls and women and trafficked them to Bangkok.

On a cold night nearly a year ago, Azizur and his relatives fled from Sittwe, crossed Naf river on a kayak and landed at Chhitagong coast of Bangladesh. "They (Bangladeshis) initially tried to push us back, but we were not ready. Finally, we got a camp to stay. But with no food and proper shelter, it turned out to be a nightmare. it was like a hell. No food. No proper shelter.

We were not even allowed to move out to earn," said Azizur's cousin Nur Mahommad. After spending 10 months there, they heard of Jammu in India, where Muslims also have a strong cultural heritage. "People in Kutupalang camp at Cox's Bazar told us to go to Jammu. We started from there two months ago with three families, including three women and two kids," said Nur.

Despite their language woes, they continued their journey. Even, starvation threats could not stop them. "At the stopovers every two to three days, we worked as labourers, earned money and bought food for survival. In several places, police and security forces took away money from us," recounted Azizul, a teenager. In their way they lost their last penny and remaining starved for four days they arrived in Kolkata but luck was not with them.

In Kolkata, they were intercepted and arrested. Like Nur and Azizur, families of several others were intercepted in Barasat recentlyin few days, hinting a fresh wave towards Bengal. "Touts, who were arrested with the Rohingyas, claimed that a few hundreds are waiting to cross the border. More influx is on the cards, as Thailand has decided to deport 900 Rohingyas," said an officer. UNHRC expressed concern over the fresh clash and requested neighbouring countries to open their borders for the Rohingyas. More than 4000 Rohingyas are now residing in different Indian cities. They don't have have no full refugee status but India has allowed them to stay.

"We are not aware of their refugee status. We will have to act according to court order," said IG Prison Ranveer Kumar. Now question, who will move to court for these hapless people?

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Rohingya Exodus