(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
Rohingya refugee exodus from Myanmar and their illegal immigration into India through Bangladesh is ongoing and real. A Chinese source stated “It’s fair to say that Myanmar is a heaven for saints who rebel and a graveyard for those who govern.” At Monk’s behest, military crackdown is real.
Be that as it may, Rohingya refugee is certainly India’s emerging national security threat concern. De facto, India’s demographic equilibrium already stands upset during the past 70 years due to faulty Congress Party vote bank appeasement politics. From 8.9% Muslims as per 1951 census, officially at over 14% in 2011 and unofficially around 20% as per Owaisi brothers of Hyderabad, Telangana.
The Muslim firebrand leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi and his brother Akbaruddin, Badarruddin Ajmal, Azam Khan, UP, Zakir Nayik, Mumbai, Shahi Imam’s of Tippu Sultan Mosque, Kolkata and Delhi, among many others have been pouring jingoistic rhetoric against the Hindus.
For example, Asaduddin Owaisi as per media stated “Hindus shouldn’t make the mistake of considering Indian-Muslims any different from the Pakistan-Muslims. If India may dare to attack Pakistan, then 25 crore Indian-Muslims will join Pakistan Forces and fight against India. And, he talks of compassion to be shown to Rohingya Muslim refugees.
So also, Maulana Badarruddin Ajmal, AIUDF, Assam stated “Hindus do not have any rights to vote in Arab, Pakistan or anyone of the 56 Islamic Nations. I challenge: has even a single Hindu the strength (guts) to impose restrictions on our voting rights in India?”
Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh National Party stated “I regret the continuing massacre of Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh, but Bangladesh is an Islamic Nation and not Secular. Under the circumstances, if Hindus and Buddhists want to live safely, they should either convert to Islam or go to India.”
Let me highlight the growth of Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam. From 19.85% as per 1951 Census, Muslim population in West Bengal has grown to 28% as per 2011 Census with decadal growth continuing above 21%. Mamata Banerjee has earned the dubious “Mamata Begum” distinction.
Ipso facto, the most rapid rise of Muslims is in Assam. Illegal immigration – demographic invasion – from Bangladesh is squarely responsible for the sharp rise in the Muslim population of Assam. From 17.62% as per 1951 Census, Muslim population has surged to 29.59% as per 2011 Census. From NIL Muslim-majority districts in 1951, the number had increased to 6 in 2001 and 9 in 2011.
Disturbing is the transformation in Assam as per 2011 Census: Dhubri 79.67%; Goalpara 57.52%; Nagaon 55.36%; Barpeta 70.74%; Morigaon 52.56%; Karimganj 56.36%; Hailakandi 60.31%; Bongaigaon 50.22%; and Darrang 64.34%. Other districts with a significant share of Muslims are Cachar 37.71%, Kamrup 39.66% and Nalbari 35.96%. Is Assam soon going to be a Muslim majority State by 2050 if rapid demographic transition allowed on natural growth and illegal immigration processes?
Most important it is also to note transformation of 3 neighboring districts In West Bengal from minority in 1947 to majority status (2011 Census): Mushiradabad with 66.27%; Maldah with 51.27%; Uttar Dinajpur with 49.92%; and South 24 Parganas and Birbhum following behind with over 35%.
If the Rohingya refugees are allowed to enter on humanitarian consideration, there would be dramatic transformation in both West Bengal and Assam paving the way for separation of the North East from the rest of mainland. Let Mani Shankar Iyer, Prashant Bhusan and ilk suffer from no illusions.
Be that as it may, let me provide a perspective of the Rohingya refugee crisis. The provocations as per Myanmar military are the attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), Muslim insurgents or terrorist group aided by Islamist radicals, fatal attacks on 30 police outposts on August 25. Even in 2015, ARSA had launched attacks on several border posts along the border with Bangladesh.
Before Aug. 25, 2017, Associated Press, Dhaka-Bangladesh, reported some 500,000 Rohingya’s had arrived after bloody anti-Muslim rioting in 2012 or amid earlier persecution drives in Myanmar. After the crackdown after 25th August 2017, at least 370,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh. Ethnic cleansing is almost complete – over 870,000 refugees out of total 1,000,000 Rohingya’s.
Most of the refugees are located along the Teknaf-Cox’s Bazar highway that is parallel to the Naf River, which is the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
In pre 2012 exodus, illegal Rohingya influx has taken place into West Bengal. And, some of them have been sent to Jammu, whilst unknown numbers have moved into interior locations like Hyderabad and given ration cards and identity papers by Muslim brethren purportedly reflecting compassion. And, the justification given is “if normalcy returns, they would definitely prefer to go back to our homeland.” However, there are very few examples of return of refugee to their native lands.
Two charities, the Zakat Foundation of India (ZFI) and Don Bosco, have been working to help the Rohingya in New Delhi. Zafar Mahmood, the president of ZFI, says 210 Rohingya are living in Madanpur Khadar on land provided by his organization. “We are hosting them because it is our moral and religious duty,” Mahmood explains. Khalsa Aid is providing ‘free lungar” to refugees in Bangladesh.
Now, human rights activists and so called libertarians not only from India and also from all other parts of the world are shouting hoarsely against India for not admitting Rohingya refugees into India and recent plan to deport nearly 40,000 refugees of the past.
Two human rights groups have accused the U.N. Security Council of ignoring the crisis. Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said, “This is an international peace and security crisis” and there is no excuse for the Security Council “sitting on its hands.” Also, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticized India: “India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.”
In response, Permanent Representative of India to UN in Geneva Rajiv K Chander said, “We are perplexed at some of the observations made by the High Commissioner in his oral update. “Like many other nations, India is concerned about illegal migrants, in particular, with the possibility that they could pose security challenges. Enforcing the laws should not be mistaken for lack of compassion,” he said.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world’s largest Muslim body, is urging Myanmar to allow U.N. monitors so they can investigate what it alleges is systematic brutality against the Rohingya. Instead of crying foul and hoarse, why is it the OIC Muslim community of 57 nations welcome their Muslim brother refugees to their fold until the UN finds a solution to the crisis?
Islamic radical terrorism threat is real particularly in those countries with sizeable Muslim population. None should forget that Saudi Arabia had long been a financial backer of the Taliban and, together with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), officially recognized the group when it assumed control of Afghanistan in 1996. Now, they blame Qatar for supporting the Taliban. And, Iran too is extending support to Islamist fundamentalists. The Saudi break with the Taliban is the increasing support the Taliban have accepted from Iran. The Sunni-Shia conflict is also real.
Over the last decade, there has also been a shift in Saudi funding to Pakistan away from Deobandi groups like the Taliban to the more extreme Ahl-i-Hadith sect, the Pakistani equivalent of Wahhabism. Local sources in Pakistan have reported that Saudi Arabia is providing funding for Jihadi training camps in order to launch attacks on Iran from Baluchistan.
If the OIC nations, particularly the ‘Rich’ ones flush with petro dollars could extend financial aid to Islamist fundamentalist’s world over, but fail to provide relief and rehabilitation to their Muslim brethren, they have no right to criticize other nations refusing to accept Rohingya refugees and bear economic burden despite millions of BPL families. In particular, as a cautionary policy and strategy to pre-empt spread of Islamist radicalism already manifesting in various forms.
Instead, they can surely financially aid the refugees. Moreover, such Muslim countries can allow entry of Rohingya’s into their own land and provide relief. Saudi Arabia and Iran can surely admit over 500,000 Rohingya refugees, besides Indonesia and Malaysia thereby relieve the burden of Bangladesh.
Add to them, even other nations like China, Russia, USA, Canada, Australia and other advanced nations of the world, three times larger geographically than India with very low populations and abundant natural resources must voluntarily opt to admit the Rohingya refugees into their own sparsely populated provinces.
India would allow free air transportation refugees to such benevolent nations at its own cost directly from Bangladesh.
Rights activists, like Delhi based Apoorvanand Jha, have criticized the government over a controversial citizenship law that includes a provision for welcoming refugees facing persecution, specifying “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan”, but notably excludes Muslims.
In a recent blog, Mani Shankar Aiyer, a former cabinet minister and member of the opposition Congress party, accused the Modi government of ending India’s “golden tradition” of opening its doors to refugees. “… if we can assure indefinite refuge to uncounted generations of Tibetans, unnumbered Afghans and hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils refugees, why not a few thousand Rohingya?” he wrote.
In retrospect, the Congress Party is squarely responsible and accountable for the rapid demographic transitions sweeping various districts of West Bengal and Assam. They failed dismally to ensure the return of Bangladeshi refugees of 1971 war. And sadly, they used them as ‘vote bank’ tools.
Quite absurd it is that 24-year-old Rohingya Mohammad Shakil has challenged the government’s plan to deport them in the Supreme Court – “We would prefer to die here [in India] than return.”
Prashant Bhusan is appearing in the petition in India’s Supreme Court: the deportation would violate Article 14 (the Right to Equality) and Article 21 (the Right to Life) of the Constitution of India. It adds that India is a signatory to various conventions that recognize the principle of “non-refoulement”, which prohibits forcing refugees to return to places where their lives might be at risk. Bhusan stated that these refugees cannot be sent back to Myanmar till their life and liberty would be assured there.
Kiren Rijiju in 2015 said that all Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christian refugees are welcome in India. Now for Rohingya’s, he is saying that they will have to be deported. This is in tune with this government’s communal policy and communal actions. India is not a signatory of UN Refugee Convention. Yet, it is binding on India to admit them even at the cost of livelihood to their own people.
Last week Modi visited Myanmar – his second visit in three years – and held talks with Aung San Suu Kyi. There was no reference to Rohingya issue in the joint statement. After all, India has significant geopolitical and security interests that continue to shape its outreach to Myanmar as part of its “Act East” policy. In 2016, India built a port in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State. It is currently constructing a highway that will connect Moreh in India with Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. And it has plans to further boost military and economic cooperation with the country, to which it sells a wide range of defense equipment. In July 2017, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces visited India.
In sum, there is no simple solution to the Rohingya crisis. The UN has no effective mechanisms for solving these ethnic crises. There is no love for the Rohingya among the Islamic community of Nations or its neighboring powers: India, China, and Thailand.
India’s national security strategic interests should outweigh all other considerations. Viewed in the framework of conflicts among Muslim ideologies and the spread of ISIS affiliates in Bangladesh and India, admittedly Rohingya refugee influx and illegal migration is India’s key national threat concern. India has its own peculiar historical, ideological and geopolitical considerations to consider and to adopt policies and strategies to enhance and consolidate their national security interests. Wake up – intellectually bankrupt human rights activists groups lest India is all over again plunged into communal mayhem far more badly than experienced during the 1947 partition period. Note Supreme Court please.