India’s Refugee Policy and Rohingya Issue

Question number 1:  Policy for which India? Post 1947 or before that?

Assuming we consider ourselves a post 1947 entity, what should be refuge policy of a modern civilized nation? Answer is – we should accommodate people discriminated elsewhere where the civilization has not reached our level if we can. This goes in their favor.

Question 2: What should be the exclusions?

The policy should be made from the perspective existing population just in the fashion a IPO is made from the perspective of existing shareholders. The refugees from enemy country should not be allowed. But enemies of enemy within enemy country can be permitted. We should never presume that the other people in the enemy country have no political orientation and they are neutral. Neutral people or inimical people  from enemy country should not be permitted even if the reason of influx is non-political such as natural calamity. Rohingyas have no political orientation for India and Myanmar is our friend.

Question 3: Are these migrants potentially terrorists?

People who are potentially going to have an effect on social harmony should be banned. For this their past record in their original country can be checked. Rohingyas had terrorism issues in Myanmar. One needs to see the scale of their operations. If this was an ongoing movement, we risk the same in India. Because unlike Dalai Lama, we don’t want Myanmar to give Rakhine province to Rohingyas. Also, the activity was on the Bangladesh border, a coreligious country for Rohingyas, should be noted. It must be checked whether it was an international conspiracy and whether they fell prey to such conspiracy against their motherland, i.e. Myanmar. Couldn’t they wait for democratic rights in the recently democratized nation before going violent?

Question 4: How strong is the sense of identity?

It is as such not specifically objectionable to possess a strong sense of identity, but it has its own problems. The community should be able to gradually move on with time, mend some ways to suit the modern times. For example, both inward and outward conversions should be possible and happening in the community. If that is not the case, the migrant community should be highly tolerant towards local culture. Not only that, there should not be anything of explosive nature, an extremely opposite cultural trait that would lead to a social issue and destabilization tomorrow. On this account, Rohingyas don’t seem to pose any problem. With Indian media and reformers taking head on the religious Islamic bigots, the journey of Islamic reforms has begun and it can’t be resisted. There is no reason to think why Rohingyas would not toe the national trend if internalized.

Question 5: What about demographic change?

When the crisis is over, the Rohingyas would have a natural tendency to settle in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. That is because, rather than most of the Bangladesh and West Bengal, these states fall very very close or rather on the border of Rakhine province. Each of these three big area states have populations under 2 million! And all this population is concentrated around just a couple of cities, the rest of the vast state being virtually empty. The migrants are likely to settle in such empty pockets to avoid conflict with existing people. Imagine Chandel district of Manipur with 80 thousand population on border of Rakhine province. What would happen to it? If more Rohingyas settle in Manipur, the leader of opposition in Manipur assembly will be a Rohingya in the next elections! If we look from the locals’ perspective, shouldn’t the migrants first contribute to the society, economy, harmony, earn a reputation and then stake political claims though ours is a universal franchise democracy? On this account, and on this single account, the Rohingya case can be rejected.

Question 6: What is the local reaction?

We have seen reactions from Islamic clerics of various kinds. First of all, the welcome being Islamic itself is dangerous. It should be humanitarian. The extreme reaction was fight against Indian state by local Muslims because all Muslims irrespective of nationality are brothers. We certainly can’t blame Rohingyas for such local view, but there is potential danger of meeting of benefactor (which is anti-India) and beneficiary in future. On this account, Rohingyas should be banned in West Bengal. Similarly, Kashmiri Muslims are not okay with Indians being permanent residents there under Article 370, they have drive out local Hindus in the 1980s, but they are okay with Rohingyas. This clearly hints towards a separatist plan. Hence, Rohingyas must be deported from Kashmir immediately. Action should be taken against forces in West Bengal who want to fight with Indian state. The state should not presume that this ignorable nuisance.

Question 7: Is it an Indian problem at all?

If one takes a stand that the issue doesn’t concern India, such person should be told that we are also a pre-1947 entity. We can’t forget our history and disconnect with it.  The Myanmar government has denied all Rohingyas all basic democratic and social rights probably in the light of their role against Arkanese people in WW II days. This is too unfair for their present generation. India must create pressure on Myanmar to make Rohingyas regular citizens of Myanmar without any condition. World community should create a framework of deportation and make Myanmar agree to it. India should also support Myanmar to fight against Rohingya terrorists and take their assistance in eliminating NE India terrorists taking shelter there. India should take the stand carefully as Myanmar is not a rogue nation, its an important friend to be retained and a peaceful Buddhist country.

Question 8: Should Rohingya Hindus be given preferential treatment?

The Rohingyas are Indo-Aryan in ethnicity. They are our blood. Majority of them have migrated from erstwhile united Bengal of undivided India. Some hundreds of them are Hindus and Buddhists. There has been criticism of government’s refugee policy as it favors Hindus and discriminates against other religions despite India being a secular nation. Now,  undivided India was divided on the basis of religion and India chose to be secular. Whose choice was this? Of the leaders who represented all those who stayed back. It was not a Muslim – Non-Muslim division for them. Everybody respects that even though it is unfair and illogical. And everybody respects that even though some of the Muslims who have stayed back (because Indian framework was better for them than that of Pakistan) are intolerant of the commonly agreed & respected national objects of pride, forgets objects of pride of the other religions. Isn’t this respect a bit absurd? But we follow the letter of our constitution (again the word secular being inserted during emergency, obviously without required majority in the houses and even though when the topic was discussed and the insertion of the word was refused during constituent assembly discussions) in both letter and in spirit with or without logic. So we should respect the current refugee policy with the same sense of fairness in letter and spirit without questioning it and without going into its origin. Technically, if one development has benefited one community, we can’t say the other development benefiting an another community is wrong. And thus we should discriminate for the Hindus!

You probably didn’t like the above logic. You shouldn’t. It may even work in a court as a technical matter but it doesn’t make that “all humans equal appeal?” Okay. Point taken. But Hindus identify themselves with India even though if some of them might be clearly knowing their journey to India from elsewhere and Hindufication there. Hindus have allowed all sects, religions to come, live, survive, thrive and spread. Hinduism has allowed to divide itself into many religions locally and identify as non-Hindu. You may choose whatever correct verb in place of “allowed” here. But because Hindus have allowed in the past, saying that they have no right not to allow at all irrespective of circumstances is stretching their liberalism too much. Did majority of Hindus in India (or Hindu majority India) choose to be secular or they had to be secular at any cost?  Hindu India has shrunk in size for two millennia both as a political entity and as a cultural continuum as well. Why shouldn’t Hindus think that their past accomodativeness has been suicidal and they need to be cautious now? While they must guarantee everything equal to every existing citizen of every type, but they should deny an influx of “different kind” if any idea of originality of concept of India or Hindustan has to be assigned to the Hindus. It’s a different matter if most Indians are indifferent to what happens to Hinduism in this land. (I believe) the preservation of Hinduism in India is duty of all Indian Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jews, Buddhists, Jains, etc (as is the case the other way round) because it is not intrinsic to Hinduism to remain preserved.

Question 9: Can we afford?

We are a poor country with rich heart. Saving humanity should not be mixed with economics. The government may take suitable international assistance if the welcome is otherwise appropriate. We should also have a identification mechanism at least till proper assimilation happens.

Question 10: So finally what?

These decisions are dynamic. For now, aid should be provided. Deportation talks should be taken up with Myanmar govt. And official camps should be their exclusive address.