Rohingyas held in Tripura: ‘If we’re sent back to Myanmar, they’ll kill us’

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Abdul Sukkur, Muhammad Shahjahan, and thousands of other Rohingyas fled their homes in Rakhine state of Myanmar 6 years back in the wake of military offensive on Rohingya villages.

Without land or home, theirs is a story of being on the run, avoiding check-posts, escaping from the omniscient eyes of police, security personnel of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and all adjoining nations. Theirs is a fate of being stateless.

Rohingya
They sneaked into Indian territory through West Bengal and went to Jammu where people said they would get work. (Express Photo)

Abdul Sukkur, Muhammad Shahjahan, Shahedara Bibi and thousands of other Rohingya people fled their homes in Rakhine state of Myanmar 6 years back in the wake of military offensive on Rohingya villages. They sneaked into Indian territory through West Bengal and went to Jammu where people said they would get work. “We worked as construction labourers for setting up mobile phone towers there.

We lived in a mohalla (locality) at Jammu Narwal bypass. Recently, people and government started targeting us saying we are terrorists. Local people threatened us to vacate the state and we are on the run again for life. If we are sent back to Myanmar, they will simply kill us all. Please don’t send us there,” Muhammad Shahjahan pleaded while weeping.

Shahjahan claims 2,500 Rohingya families lived in Jammu and took up odd jobs. However, nearly 1,500 families moved out of the state in the wake of recent intolerance and threats from local people there. Some 1,000 families still live there in fear, awe and trepidation.

Abdul Sukkur, who hails from the same ‘mohalla’ in Jammu, said they came via train to Tripura and were trying to sneak inside Bangladesh when BGB (Border Guards Bangladesh) apprehended and thrashed them.

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“My father lives in Bangladesh. There are nearly 15 lakh Rohingyas there. We are not welcome in India and Myanmar will kill us. We feel Bangladesh is the only safe place for the time being to live in,” Sukkur told this correspondent.

Pointing at BSF officials, he said that they took away his UNHCR refugee cards and other belongings. “We were able to work odd jobs based on those UNHCR cards. We are running for our lives. My two children have never led normal life. We don’t want to go back to Myanmar. The entire family of my uncle was hacked to death. My aunts and cousins – Saiduraan, Jarahato, Laila were brutally raped, then killed. There is no future for us in Myanmar, only death. We don’t want to die,” he said.

After they were detained on January 18 while trying to enter Bangladesh, Abdul Sukkur and his 30 companions were stranded for four days and four nights in the middle of a cold, barren paddy field between the borders of India and Bangladesh near Rairmura Border Outpost (BOP) in Tripura.

A series of flag meetings between Border Security Forces (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) were held at Zero Point between the two nations’ borders along West Tripura since Saturday. BGB officials declined to arrest the Rohingyas and take them back straightaway, more so since Bangladesh is already overburdened with a huge population of nearly 15 lakh Rohingyas granted asylum in the country.

Meanwhile, India’s Border Security Force (BSF) had specific orders from Delhi not to accept and arrest the Rohingyas. So, they offered food, water and blankets to the hapless fellows on humanitarian grounds, 16 among whom were children under the age of 8.

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After all dialogue failed, BSF arrested and handed over 31 Rohingya persons to Tripura Police on Tuesday morning. They were produced before a local court and charged under Passport Act.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Amtali SDPO Ajay Kumar Das said that preliminary interrogation revealed some of the Rohingyas came from Jammu and Kashmir. However, he declined to confirm saying enough evidence in favour of their claim was not found.

“Some of them have verbally admitted to have come from Jammu and Kashmir. We haven’t obtained any UNHCR refugee cards which are usually issued to Rohingyas living there and so can’t confirm their claim,” the official said.

BSF Public Relation Officer (PRO) informed that the Rohingya migrants were questioned for last two days and they were confirmed to have come from Rakhine State of Myanmar. However, their route to the Indo-Bangla border in Tripura was not confirmed, he said. BSF earlier claimed in a press release that BGB was trying to push Rohingyas into India and denied allegations of the Bangladesh authorities that the Rogingya persons went from India across international border.

Rohingya are ethnically from the Rakhine State in Myanmar, previously known as Arakan. They allegedly faced persecution in the hands of Myanmar’s military since the country’s independence in late 1940s.

Different Rohingya villages in Rakhine state in south-west Myanmar faced military crackdown by the Myanmarese Army in the wake of a deadly attack on an Army post by Rohingya rebels in 2016. The ongoing military crackdown which started in August, 2017, led to mass exodus of Rohingya men, women and children to all nearby nations, especially Bangladesh.

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In a letter in October, 2017, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered immediate steps to all state governments to identify and monitor Rohingya refugees.

MHA Joint Secretary Dilip Kumar said in the letter that the Government of India viewed “infiltration” from the Rakhine State of Myanmar into Indian territory as burden on limited resources of the country and claimed it aggravated security challenges to the country.

Myanmar’s military regime stripped Rohingya Muslims of their nationality as per the Burma Citizenship Law, 1982. Since then, many who fled the country were living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some tried to return home. Over the years, condition in the Arakan was not found to have significantly improved. The UNHCR termed alleged mass killings and burnings of Rohingya villages by Myanmarese Army as ‘ethnic cleansing’.