According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 3 lakhs Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar since August 25, when the last phase of violence broke out in Rakhine province.
In early May, UNHCR said about 1,68,000 Rohingyas had fled Myanmar since 2012, when clashes erupted with Buddhists in the torn region of Arakan. More than 40,000 of these Rohingyas, who fled Myanmar, illegally entered India, according to the government’s estimate.
The Narendra Modi government is concerned about Rohingyas’ stay in India for security regions. In its affidavit before the Supreme Court, the government stated that some of the rohingyas with militant backgrounds were very active in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mewat. They have been identified as having a very serious and potential threat to India’s domestic and national security, the Center told the Supreme Court.
State Minister for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju has categorically stated that the government is seeking ways to illegally deport more than 40,000 Rohingyas living in the country. The Government is concerned about the alleged infiltration of terrorist teams among displaced persons living in different camps.
However, UNHCR and Amnesty International have urged India to reconsider its decision by saying that Rohingyas are the most persecuted ethnic group in the world. India should adopt a humanitarian approach to solve the Rohingya problem, they said.
Refusing to submit to international pressure on the Rohingya crisis, India has made it clear that it will not endanger the country’s security problems. However, the government has decided to give aid to Bangladesh by providing all the comforts to the fleeing Rohingyas, who are moving to the camps there. India has also asked Myanmar to end the persecution of Rohingyas.
Although India has the largest number of refugees in the country throughout South Asia and with one of the largest refugee crises in the world during the seven-decade distribution of the country, New Delhi no specific legislation for refugees.
The Constitution of India only defines the citizen of India. Later laws do not treat refugees as well. In legal terms, a person living in India can be a citizen or an alien defined under the Aliens Act of 1946.
India was not a signatory either to the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol, both relating to refugee status and included in UNHCR’s statute. According to UNHCR, a refugee is a person living in another country because of persecution on grounds of “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
Prior to the current Rohingya crisis, there were “2,07,861 people of concern in India, of whom 2,01,281 were refugees and 6 480 asylum seekers” by the end of 2015, according to UNHCR.
There are approximately 16,000 Rohini refugees certified by UNHCR in India. The government estimate puts the Rohingya refugee population in India above 40,000 with maximum concentration in and around Jammu.
Before the Rohingya crisis gained an international proportion, its population in Myanmar was estimated at approximately 10 lakh. Under the Citizenship Act 1982, the Government of Myanmar only recognized about 40,000 Rohingyas as citizens. The others were baptized “illegal Bengali” – immigrants from Bangladesh.
As the Government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingyas as citizens, it will generally be difficult for India to expel them. And in the absence of a well-defined refugee policy supported by a law passed by Parliament, India will not be able to welcome the Rohingyas because their stay in the country will turn the political narrative.
The Center told the Supreme Court that many Rohingyas have acquired documents intended for Indian citizens only as Aadhaar, PAN and voter identity. This raises concerns about the naturalization of illegal migrants by fraudulent means. Given the socio-economic complexity of Indian society and politics, there could soon be a debate on the rights of Rohingyas minorities.
In the absence of a law to deal with refugees, their identification and surveillance will be difficult, especially when intelligence agencies have warned of jihadist terrorist attacks that seek to exploit the Rohingyas vulnerability.
So far, successive governments have addressed the issue of refugees on a case-by-case basis. Tibetan refugees received registration certificates and identity certificates.