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Islam and Politics ( 23 Sept 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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No Country for Rohingyas

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

23 September 2017

It is perhaps the final solution put in action. Not in the land where this original Nazi idea was born but in faraway Myanmar. The most poorest state having a sizable Muslim population is being depopulated by the military junta while the world just sits and watches as if nothing is happening.

 This depopulation is happening trough targeted mass killings, burning of entire villages and forcible migration of Muslims from the Rakhine state. The military junta, at the heights of its power, has even got the Noble prize winner on its side.

The neighbouring countries have the power to bring the military junta to exercise moderation over its treatment of minority Muslims but they will not do so for a variety of reasons. The Chinese are concerned about their pipeline which will run through the Rakhine state. The Indians are concerned about strategic factors in the north eastern states. Both therefore do not want to annoy the military junta of Myanmar and want them at their side. Bangladesh has to face the brunt of refugee exodus and till date has already accommodated Lakhs of Rohingyas in their country.

 It is shameful that with limited resources, Bangladesh is willing to do much more as compared to India, which is actually telling the Supreme Court that it wants to deport the 40,000 Rohingyas living within its borders. This is not to say that all is well with the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. They have very limited rights and are mostly cramped in inhuman camps especially made for them There is no free movement of refugees and these camps lack the basic facilities required for a decent living.

It is also worth mentioning that despite Rohingyas being Muslims, there are hardly any takers for them in the Muslim world. Recently, Turkey announced that it will compensate Bangladesh for the number of Rohingyas that it is willing to absorb in the country. But Turkey completely refused to entertain the idea that it can also open its borders to the Rohingyas. The Organization of Islamic Countries could have done much more to absorb these refugees, but then again, the Rohingyas are not even welcome there. When it comes to the Rohingyas, the Ummah has closed its door on them. These so called champions of the Muslim world need to be called out for their failure to do anything about the Rohingya issue. Merely passing resolutions does not achieve anything; there is nothing on the ground to suggest that the larger Islamic world is even seized of the plight of Rohingya Muslims.

The Indian response to the Rohingya crisis has been utterly shameful to say the least. Not only has the Indian government failed to put pressure on Myanmar, but by its silence, it has actually encouraged the Myanmar military to continue the crackdown on the Rohingyas. It is true that India has to take care of its geostrategic interests in the region, especially in terms of the deep water port that it is constructing in the Rakhine. Also, it has to keep a check on the Chinese proximity with Myanmar since China has also continued its support of the Myanmar military, particularly as its energy pipeline has to pass through the Rakhine state. Additionally India may also be worried that if Myanmar becomes upset, then it could yet again start giving shelter to the insurgents in North-East. All of this combined with the fact that some terrorist links of the Rohingya have emerged should give India cause for concern.

But the way in which Indian state has reacted to the Rohingya crisis points to a much deeper malaise within the Indian security establishment. The fact that overwhelming numbers of Rohingyas are Muslims is perhaps enough for the Indian security establishment to tell the world that they are not welcome in India because they are a terrorist threat. Not only is the idea that Rohingyas are not welcome here, but India is also preparing for a plan to deport some 40,000 Rohingyas who are at present living in the country. It is true that there are groups within Rohingyas who are members of some terror organizations. But so far there is no conclusive proof that those residing in India have terror links. This is borne out by the fact that there is hardly any FIR against this group for indulging in any anti-national activity. What we have against them are issues of petty criminality like theft and infighting.

Thus to paint the entire community as terrorists just on the basis of mere suspicion is nothing but scurrilous. Not just the international community but also the internal constituency is not convinced with what the government has got to say on the Rohingyas. But then perhaps, their politics is appealing to that section of the population on which the appeal of the present government is based. This, appeals to the baser instincts of a section of the Hindu population who want to paint Muslims in a particular light: as perpetual terrorists. The affidavit of the government is designed to please this section of Hindus and should be read against the backdrop of the 2019 elections. Never before perhaps has foreign policy and humanitarianism been subject to electoral calculations in India.

The debate on Rohingyas is also a pointer to the deep common-sense view which the majority community holds in India today. Popular debates on television rightly point out that India has played host to a variety of persecuted communities: be they the Malabari Jews, Syrian Christians or the Parsis. But there is a growing consensus that enough is enough. India is not a Dharamshala, so goes the consensus and therefore Rohingyas should not be allowed in India. The subtext of this debate is thus: India has been a Hindu country and despite this, it has allowed people from almost all religious communities to come and settle here.

This large heartedness of Hindus is contrasted with Muslim treachery which divided the country and that’s why Hindus should no longer tolerate this. Because Rohingyas are Muslims, they should not be allowed in the country. Just the other day, senior leader Govindacharya said that the Hindu Rohingyas should be welcomed in India while Muslim Rohingyas should be kept out. If this does not tell us about the malaise of Indian society then let us also remember that the BJP promised in its manifesto that India should emerge as the country for all persecuted Hindus around the world. The same party is not the government and it is worthwhile to remember that it has brought a bill in Parliament which effectively means that Muslim refugees are not welcome in this country. This common-sense of seeing the country as a Hindu country seems to be becoming hegemonic. Even well- meaning Hindus today ask the question why ‘Muslim countries’ are not accepting these Rohingyas.

There is therefore an increasing sense that India is a Hindu country. Even if this is true, what is really unfortunate is the understanding that this country should necessarily be antagonistic to Muslims.

Arshad Alam is a columnist with


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