By Arun Joshi
Much is being made out of the verification of Rohingyas settled in Jammu over the years, without asking a question as to why it is being done . The point that they are refugees from Myanmar from where they fled prosecution and escaped to India via Bangladesh to seek food and shelter has its own justification , but what is not being told that, why did they travel hundreds of miles from their place to Jammu, instead of settling in the states bordering their native country ? This argument is not being entertained by the human rights groups who feel that the unease of the verification of the Rohingyas is some kind of harassment and intimidation .
The length of the distance of hundreds of miles they covered needed an explanation. This long-pending explanation is being sought by the police now when J&K is being governed by the Centre’s home ministry. As long as the political governments were there in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, all the initiatives to verify the antecedents of Rohingyas were stalled.
Almost all of the Rohingyas whose number runs into several thousand ( modest estimate is that they are around 5,000-6000) had come by train to Jammu because the road travel could have caused interceptions and their deportation midway.
On their arrival in Jammu, even if they were intercepted, they were handed over to police. They were handed over to police after fulfilling formalities told them to go back. But they never did.
Their own version is that they were told by some contractors to board the trains to Jammu with an assurance that they would get work and shelter there. May be that is true, because there is a tendency among the unscrupulous elements to exploit the people in distress.
But, the moot question here is, why Jammu? Jammu is not an ordinary place. It has borders with Pakistan. At places, the border with Pakistan is very close. Their main concentration is in Jammu city, from where the border with Pakistan is less than 30 kms toward the west.
Some of them were caught while trying to cross the border. They were in search of economic avenues and others had suspicious motives, but the investigating agencies could not get to the bottom of the whole thing , because there was an element of corruption that enabled the Rohingyas to settle in Jammu.
At the moment, many of them are having their pucca houses , some of them are having their Aadhaar card and other documents that establish them as the genuine residents of Jammu . Now this is a violation of the rule of law. These breaches took place because of the connivance of the authorities and unbridled political patronage of the Kashmir- centric parties that ruled Jammu and Kashmir since independence .
This political patronage of the political groups like National Conference, PDP and even some among the Congress made it as an issue of the harassment of the Rohingya refugees whenever any action was sought to be taken against them. Their verification process was ordered not to be undertaken.
When Mehbooba Mufti was chief minister from 2016 to 2018 , she did not allow the authorities to proceed against Rohingyas. Her party’s bitter rival National Conference also came in support of her on this issue . This was done even after the “ fidayeen” attack at Sunjawan army camp on February 10, 2018, in which six soldiers were killed . There were settlements of Rohingyas in the close vicinity of the army camp . The terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad who had attacked the camp had stayed there , and surveyed the boundary wall of the camp before mounting the attack.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu zone, Mukesh Singh said that 168 of them have been rounded up and they would be deported after proper procedure.
It is for the first time that such a verification process has started in Jammu, but some elements are trying to make the national security concern as a communal issue . there also is a definitive hypocrisy of the politicians from Kashmir, who are raking up the issue of the human rights , while at the same time they are arguing that J&K should not be allowed to be settlement of outsiders.
This dichotomy continues to cast shadow over the verification process of Rohingyas.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.