Syed Khalique Ahmed & Masihuzzama Ansari | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—Delhi police on Wednesday detained four members of a Rohingya family from the Kanchan Kunj Rohingya refugee camp in South Delhi. A week ago, six members of another Rohingya family were detained by the police and their whereabouts are still unknown to their relatives.
The relatives of the family living in the camp said that the police personnel, who had come from the Kalindi Kunj Police Station, did not give any reason for their detention or arrest. Police could not be contacted despite several efforts.
Among the arrested persons are 80-year-old Sultan Ahmed, his 70-year-old wife Halima Khatoon and their two sons-Noor Mohammed (27) and Usman (18). Halima has been ill for the last 15 days and was under treatment.
One of their relatives identifying herself as Minara told India Tomorrow team that the police had come last evening to the camp on Tuesday evening and search the hut of the detained family. The police personnel also asked them if anybody had come and stayed with them. She said that police also came to her hut and asked about her children and husband.
The police, according to Minara, went back after searching the hut. However, they returned again early Wednesday morning and rounded up four members of the family. “They did not even allow them to take tea and breakfast and pushed them into a police van parked on the main road”, she said.
She said that the police did not tell them why the family was picked up. “We don’t know where they are kept. We are not able to contact them because their phones have been switched off. We don’t know in what condition they are kept”, said Minara.
“Police have been coming regularly and asking if any new persons from Myanmar or Bangladesh have come to the camp”, she said, adding “only 56 families having received UN refugee cards are living here.
A week ago, police had picked up six members of another family. “We don’t know where they are. We have not been told anything by the police about their whereabouts”, said the woman. A Rohingya youth, however, said that they were kept in a detention camp.
She said that she was living under fear because of frequent police crackdown on the camp. “My husband died two years ago. I live under extreme fear because I have small children”, she said.
Minara said that the Rohingyas did not face any problem and were welcomed when they came to India in 2012. “However, the conditions have totally changed in the last few months, with police and others from the government department frequently visiting the refugee camp and asking us to return to their country,” she said.
She said, “We came to India because there was no safety and security of life in Myanmar. But the same thing is now happening in India as well and the police are picking up our people and taking them to undisclosed locations. There is no way we can contact them and inquire about their welfare”, she narrated.
Minara said that a few huts were set afire by unidentified persons a few weeks ago. “I complained to the police who told us that they will depute security personnel. But nothing has happened”, she stated.
Minara said that the plot of land where the refugee camp is located belongs to UP government and the authorities from the UP government had been insisting the refugees to vacate their land. “UP government people come every 15 days and ask us to vacate the land”, she said.
“But where shall we go. We don’t have any place. And the Government of India has not given any accommodation facility where we can shift“, she pointed out.
There are 56 families with a total of 270 members, living in this camp. They had migrated from Myanmar in 2012 to escape genocide by the Myanmarese Army.
They were provided long term visa by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in India that was renewed till 2018. They were also given Refugee Certificates. However, it has not been renewed after that. “Our long-term visa was renewed thrice. It expired in 2018 and was not renewed since then”, said another Rohingya refugee. However, in some cases, UNHRC has renewed the visas of refugees.
The refugee certificate said, “The refugee be protected from forcible return to a country where he would face threats to his life or freedom.
A refugee said that about 88 Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers were taken by the police from outside the UNHCR office in New Delhi where the refugees had gone to seek assistance.
The detention of Rohingyas living in Delhi having refugee certificates from UNHCR is quite serious as a case with regard to seeking orders against deportation of 150 Rohingyas from Jammu and kashmir is already pending for adjudication in the Supreme Court. The last hearing in the case was held on March 26 and the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde reserved its orders. The case was filed in SC by Mohammad Salimullah, a Rohingya refugee through advocate Prashant Bhushan. In his plea, Salimullah submitted that India’s commitments under international law, particularly the principle of non-refoulement (the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution) would be breached if the Rohingya refugees are deported to Myanmar where there is threat to their life. Salimullah also argued that the life of Rohingya refugees under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, that guarantees right to life, is also under threat.
According to Home Ministry sources, there are over 40,000 Rohingya refugees, all Muslims, in India who escaped from Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, to Bangladesh and then to India. Of them, 1000 are in Delhi, some in Jammu and the rest scattered at different places in the country. Rohingyas have also been shelter by Saudi Arabia and other countries.