The Brutal Repression Against Rohingya Refugees is a Shame for India
The Indian state apparatus, including its much hailed “model” justice-delivery system, once again exposed its sheer Brahmanical fascist and Islamophobic character when it forcefully deported seven Rohingya Muslims, who were lodged in Silchar Jail of Assam since 2012. With a Supreme Court bench headed by the newly appointed Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who also hails from Assam where these men were detained, rejecting a public interest litigation (PIL) that demanded an immediate halt of the inhuman and anti-constitutional deportation of the seven, the entire process became a cakewalk for the Modi regime, which handed over these men to the Myanmar authorities at India-Myanmar border of Manipur. The fate of these men are unknown as of now and it’s feared that either they will be lodged forever in the detention camps or they may be killed by the Myanmar Army for their immediate identity that the Buddhist fascist state considers hostile and expendable.
Around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, who are persecuted at their home state Rakhine province of Myanmar by Buddhist zealots and the Myanmar Army, are living in India, mostly in BJP-ruled Assam. While the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has issued 16,500 identity cards to “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation” of these refugees, the ruling BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, have portrayed these vulnerable men, women and children, who face imminent threat of massacre back in Myanmar, as a grave threat to India’s “national security” and “integrity”, and they have accused the Rohingya Muslims of being a party to a purported “Islamist aggression” conspiracy that wants to break India.
The corporate-controlled mainstream media houses of India unapologetically helped the RSS to fan this venomous Hindutva fascist propaganda through their extensive malevolent campaigning against the Rohingya Muslims. Each day and evening, the loud-mouthed tv anchors would spew venom against Rohingyas and “expose” one after another purported “conspiracies” of “Islamic Jihadists” against India. This xenophobia, armed with an amplified propaganda against the Indian Muslims in general, added up to the ordeal that the Rohingya refugees face in India. With the deportation of these seven, the Modi regime has started the process of a violent deportation process targeting not only the Rohingya Muslims but also a large number of Bengali Muslims living in Assam and West Bengal, whom the BJP wants to disenfranchise.
As the Indian government didn’t sign the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees out of its sheer Islamophobia, it is able to keep its action on refugees aloof from international laws and regulations. For the RSS and the BJP, the Rohingya Muslims became the perfect punching bag as these 40,000 people can be easily blamed for India’s economic woes and the BJP president is even showing the audacity to call the Rohingyas and all Bengali Muslims – “termites” with an intention to ignite a prairie fire of communal genocide, following the template of the infamous Nellie massacre of Assam, which took place on 18 February 1983 following a hate speech by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The issue of the Rohingya Muslims helps the BJP to divert the attention of the majority Hindu community from the burning issues like rising unemployment, slumping economic growth, intensifying agrarian crisis and collapsing industries. It has helped the Modi regime to incite extreme xenophobia among the upper-caste urban elites and middle-class, turning them away from reviewing the dismal performance of the government in the last four years.
The Rohingya Muslims are victims of a genocide that the Myanmar Army and the dominant Buddhist zealots are carrying out in the Rakhine province. The Myanmar regime, which is absolutely reactionary and tyrant in nature, considers the Rohingya Muslims as Bangladeshi settlers whom the British brought during the colonial rule and wants to evict them from Rakhine province because it’s signing big-ticket Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with giant corporations seeking control over gas and oil resources beneath the soil in the region. The expendable Rohingya Muslims thus became victims of the most grotesque ethnic cleansing drive by the Myanmar regime so far and thousands of Rohingyas are feared dead, either killed by the Myanmar Army, the Buddhist fascist thugs or died fleeing the Rakhine province to neighbouring Bangladesh or any other country through the marine route.
With immense business interests in Myanmar, where they want to expand their business and compete with the Chinese, the big comprador and crony capitalists of India are seeking a stronger tie-up between the two tyrant regimes ruling both of these countries. Modi’s infamous handshake with Aung San Suu Kyi, who once used to be a vocal human rights activist before becoming a leader of the government that macro-managed the massacre of Rohingya Muslims, was a signal in 2017 that these two lackeys of the US-led imperialist bloc in South Asia were conspiring to ignite the fuel of anti-Muslim violence and state persecution on oppressed people on a larger scale, transcending borders, to help the US-led imperialist bloc, the Indian and foreign corporations extract immense profit from Myanmar.
China, which until recently tried its luck in Myanmar by appeasing its brutal leaders, didn’t condemn the massacre of the hapless Muslims in the past as well, following a very heinous foreign policy doctrine that appeases prospective foreign allies, overlooks their crime and do everything to expand business interests of the Chinese capital. Even the UN remained a mute spectator, except for occasional blabbering against the Myanmar Government. No decisive action was taken to stop the genocide, provide the Rohingyas with humanitarian assistance and guard their lives against imminent violence. The Muslim-majority countries have paid lip-service over the issue of Muslim genocide in Myanmar but took no decisive step to stop the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims. Globally, the Rohingya Muslims became the most persecuted and vulnerable community that is surviving some of the worst genocide attacks of the 21st century.
For the Modi regime and the Hindutva fascist enterprise of India, the Rohingyas fit the frame of the “other” Muslim aggressor narrative that they have built so far by appealing to the hardcore pre-existing Islamophobia embed within the upper-caste elites, middle-class and a large section of the poor. By showing the massacre of Rohingyas as a justified action, the Modi regime and the Hindutva fascist RSS didn’t just call for the forceful eviction of the Rohingya refugees from India but also tried to incite the people to start a similar type of anti-Muslim genocide in different parts of the country. This forceful deportation of the seven Rohingya refugees from India was part of that bigger plan of instigating communal jingoism and fanning xenophobia among the politically crucial upper-caste Hindu elites and middle-class before the 2019 general election.
The seven Rohingya Muslims deported to Myanmar came to India in 2012, fleeing violence against the community in Myanmar. They took shelter in India and were arrested and detained in Silchar Jail. They reportedly requested India to not deport them to Myanmar as they feared they will be killed by the brutal Myanmarese regime, which has given the Myanmar Army utmost freedom to “kill, maim and rape” Rohingyas. However, despite the requests made by these refugees to allow them the permit to stay in India, the Indian government forcefully deported them to Myanmar, going against the United Nations Convention Against Torture, in which India is a signatory.
Article three of the United Nations Convention Against Torture reads:
- No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
- For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
By window-dressing the forceful deportation process as repatriation, the Modi regime has lied in a big way, like always, to the people. A repatriation process is said to be complete when refugees are returned to the authorities of their home countries. However, in the case of the Rohingyas, the Myanmar government doesn’t even consider them as its citizens. Though it has decided to provide identity cards to Rohingyas in Rakhine province and those living in makeshift detention camps, that will be done to monitor the activities of the Rohingyas and not grant citizenship rights to them. Thus, this so-called “repatriation” was not anything else, but a conscious effort to provide the predators of Myanmar with preys; those who have no choice now but to die at the hands of their captors.
By supporting the Modi regime on this hysteric Islamophobic case, the Indian bureaucracy and judiciary have shown their allegiance to the Hindutva fascist ideology. Ironically, the CJI was earlier hailed by the liberal democrats due to his key role in organising an unprecedented press conference against former CJI Dipak Misra’s alleged high-handedness. However, the judgement on Rohingyas and the court’s no criticism on the Modi regime’s brutal policy regarding refugees have confirmed that no major change is coming in the judiciary anytime soon.
The UNHCR reports that the condition of the camps set-up by the Myanmar regime to house the victims of genocide who fled the country and were returned by Bangladesh and India are in a horrible state. The inhuman living condition, lack of drinking water, sanitation and any sort of health care make these camps modern holocaust camps. The seven refugees deported by the Modi regime will be forced to live in any such camps if they are lucky to escape the bloodthirsty regime’s killing spree.
This deportation process masqueraded as “repatriation” is an anti-Constitutional act, as it denies the right to life that the Constitution of India upholds as a fundamental right. Even though these Rohingya refugees are not citizens of the country, they, as human beings, have the right to life, which is a universal right, in even the land they are living in as refugees. They didn’t move to India to wage a war against it, rather they have been fleeing the flames of a war that wants to engulf them. It’s a universal human duty in the 21st century to preserve the lives of victims of genocide and ethnic violence, especially those triggered by the state machinery.
As the Modi regime forcefully evicted the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar and handed them over to the very repressive authorities whom these people have been escaping from, it has committed an international crime by handing over vulnerable civilians to a regime that’s infamous for their genocide. The inhuman act committed by the Modi regime is a serious threat to international human rights norms, right to life of people and the norms of the UN that protect the vulnerable people from criminal acts like genocide.
Why Modi is forcing the Rohingya refugees out of India?
Anti-Muslim, especially anti-Muslim refugee/immigrant rhetoric is a major locomotive of the Hindutva fascist bandwagon of the RSS. For years, the RSS and its offshoot organisations have generated a hysteria among upper-caste Hindu elites and middle-class in the Hindi-speaking “Cow Belt” about a purported “large-scale” Bangladeshi Muslim infiltration into India, which is blamed for not only economical woes of India but also for law and order problem, terrorism, etc.
The corporate media houses have seconded the BJP on this through their deceitful news coverage in this regard. Many prominent RSS-affiliated politicians from different hues, like Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress or Kapil Mishra of AAP, have used similar demagogy over “Bangladeshi immigrants” in different situations to gain political mileage and appease the Hindutva fascism-incensed upper-caste constituencies.
Recently, Amit Shah claimed that millions of Bangladeshi immigrants have entered India and “eating it up like termites”, consciously hiding the fact that Bangladesh has a population of only 163 million people as per 2016 census and it will be impossible for millions to come and live in India. The comment was made to divert the attention of the people towards an imaginary enemy within – i.e. the Bengali-speaking Muslim community and thereby fan xenophobia among the upper-caste Hindu vote bank of the party, while at the same time deceive the poor people into believing that the fruits of developmental waves brought by the Modi regime are eaten by “Bangladeshi infiltrators”, which is why the poor are deprived of it even after four years of BJP’s rule. It’s a clever attempt to pass the buck of the government’s indifference towards the poor and the lower middle-class to the purported “Bangladeshi infiltrator” and the BJP has been successful in doing this so far.
As Myanmar calls the Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine province “Bangladeshi settlers” and denies them citizenship rights, the RSS demonises the community with most vitriolic propaganda. By equating the Rohingyas with Bangladeshis, the RSS endorses the genocide of Rohingyas in Myanmar and incites the common Hindus of India to support such a large-scale state-sponsored genocide of the Rohingyas who fled to India. As the Rohingyas are known to be refugees and no state supports these traumatised people, it’s easier for the RSS to target this community to do the acid testing of its nefarious conspiracies, which it wants to later execute against Bengali Muslims, whom it wants to purge from East and North-East India to establish its own unchallenged hegemony.
By forcefully deporting the Rohingya Muslims, the Modi regime signalled the Donald Trump-led fascist American regime and its accomplices that it will now officially follow an Islamophobic policy in global affairs. While to hoodwink its domestic constituency, the upper-caste Hindus of North and West India, Narendra Modi tried to revive his “macho” image. His administration tried to show that the Indian government under Narendra Modi will not tolerate refugees, which will help the BJP score some brownies during the election in crucial states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, etc.
Resisting the Atrocities on the Rohingya Muslims
It’s imperative that the democratic, secular, progressive anti-fascist forces understand the importance of protecting the lives of the vulnerable people seeking shelter in India and why it’s more important to thrust a rapier into the RSS’ jingoistic propaganda over Muslim refugees. They must understand that the BJP is so far successful in distracting a large-section of the common people from the burning issues like inflation, unemployment, rising prices of petrol and diesel, agrarian crisis, corporate loot, banking scams, etc. by inciting jingoism and xenophobia over a purported immigrant threat.
The democratic, anti-fascist and secular forces must educate the people about the importance of hosting the refugees fleeing persecution and genocide in their home countries and bust the Islamophobia that the Hindutva fascist camp has imbibed among the common Hindus through decades of deceitful propaganda. This is a painstaking process, however, there’s no shortcut to achieving success in this mission unless the people are carefully educated with the correct politics and their awareness is raised over the crucial issues.
Only through a sustainable campaigning against the Hindutva fascist propaganda and by bringing the majority of the common Hindus, i.e. the working class and the peasantry into the fold of a broad political struggle against the pro-corporate and pro-feudal Modi regime, one can expect to march a step ahead in the greater struggle to establish people’s democracy, progressive secularism and socialism in India by ending the tyrant rule of feudal landlords, big comprador capitalists and their foreign corporate masters. Only then the new India will be able to prevent the loss of lives of its own citizens and those facing repression in their home countries, like the Rohingya refugees.
Neeladri Mukherjee is a former high school teacher and a Rabindra Sangeet lover. An M.A. in Political Science (not entire), Neeladri is a close observer of West Bengal politics, South Asian affairs and the trade union movement.