OPINION

ROHINGYA REFUGEES: IDENTITY AND POLITICS

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By: Tajamul Maqbool

Through the twentieth century, there has been a significant growth in the frequency of armed conflicts across the globe. These conflicts have not only led to widespread deaths but extensive displacement, fear and economic devastations. The most affected of these conflicts are those who get dislocated from their native places under unbearable violent conditions.

A decade ago, some 37.5 million people were displaced worldwide. By the end of 2015, this number had reached 65.3 million, including approximately 21.3 million refugees and 40.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Keeping their increasing numbers in mind, UNHCR has made 2030 agenda “leave no one behind” by ensuring all the needs of displaced persons are taken into account and the agenda be implemented by all member states (India is one of the member states to UN).

UNHCR is encouraging and supporting UN Member States to disaggregate data under relevant SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) indicators according to migratory status, and in particular to ensure adequate disaggregation to reflect the protection environment and well-being of refugees, the internally displaced, and stateless persons.

Though India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, but it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return any refugee to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom. Second, Article 51 of the Indian Constitution, which talks about India’s responsibilities to promote “international peace and security”, urges the state to “strengthen the international law and the treaties”. Third, India has a long record of helping vulnerable populations fleeing from neighbouring countries including Sri Lankans, Afghans, Pakistan and Tibetans. More than 1.5 lac West Pakistani Refugees have been residing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir for past six decades and they were also allowed to take part in parliamentary elections. Hence, Indian authorities should abide by India’s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees.

Though Indian government considers Rohingya refugees as a threat to national security, but there is little evidence to show that the 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India constitute a terror threat. It must be kept in mind that one of the most prominent Prime Ministers of India was assassinated by the refugees from Srilanka and yet they are still living in India. Rohingyas should not be used as a political tool. The government should look from humanitarian perspective rather than looking through the prism of a particular community or ethnicity. Unless the basic needs and rights of those affected by forced displacement are addressed, the central ambition of the 2030 Agenda to ‘leave no one behind’ cannot be realized at all.

The writer is Doctoral student at the Centre for Studies in Society and Development, Central university of Gujarat, Gandhinagar and can be mailed at tajbhat@gmail.com

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