On Sunday, March 7, 168 immigrants from the Rohingya community living in Jammu, were sent to a holding center a day after it was set up. As per a report by PTI, the immigrants did not have valid travel documents as per Section (3) of the Passports Act, 1967.
On Saturday, the police in Jammu brought hundreds of people from the Rohingya community from their colonies to the Maulana Azad Stadium in the city. Media was not allowed to enter the stadium.
The Rohingyas who were taken into the stadium said that their documents were checked and that they had to fill a form where they had to mention their details. Their biometric data was collected along with Covid-19 tests.
Later, 168 Rohingyas who couldn't present valid documents during the verification were sent to Sub-Jail Hiranagar in Kathua district, which has been turned into a "holding centre" for the Rohingyas. This was done about a week ago when all the prisoners and undertrials lodged in the jail were moved to other jails.
These holding centers have a capacity to hold 250 people and were set up by a Home Department notification on March 5 under Section 3(2)e of Foreigners Act.
Many believe this to be the first step in the deportation of the Rohingyas and the verification process is going to continue in coming days. A senior government official said that they are in the process of identifying more illegal immigrants living in Jammu.
The Rohingyas are one of the ethnic minorities in Myanmar, representing the largest percentage of Muslims in a predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. They have their own language and culture and are descendants of Arab traders who lived in the area for many generations. However, the government of Myanmar denied them citizenship and did not recognize them in their 2014 census.
In 2017, the Myanmar army cracked down on Rohingya Muslims after a group of Rohingya militants attacked police posts. Nearly 6,700 people were killed with 730 being under the age of 5 in the month following the crackdown, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Due to this, 740,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh and other surrounding countries.
It is estimated that nearly 40,000 Rohingyas have taken refuge in India. However, only 15,000 have been registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
According to Ali Johar, co-director of the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, a Delhi-based NGO, Jammu is home to 6,523 refugees in 39 camps located across the region.
He added that 45 people among those detained were from the Samba region, with the rest belonging to Jammu.
In 2018 and 2019, Indian authorities deported nearly 12 Rohingyas in 2 groups back to Myanmar. Many human rights organisations have asked the government to reconsider their plans for deporting the Rohingyas and grant them extended asylum owing to the situation in their home country.
This article has been written by Sherwyn Fernandes for The Paradigm.