New Delhi, 6 January
Students from Jamia Millia Islamia have distributed warm clothes and blankets among the Rohingya refugees who are living in a makeshift camp in south Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj area.
This follows a report in The Statesman on 28 December 2013, highlighting the plight of the refugees suffering in the bone-chilling cold. The students used social media networking sites to make an appeal for collecting the winter wear. Many people donated blankets and woolens.
"For us, it was about reaching out to people who have been made to feel like aliens in every place they’ve been in. And since they were in the vicinity of our campus, the least we could do is give them the psychological comfort that not everyone is as apathetic as the governing powers," said Akshita Nagpal, a mass communication student at Jamia’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre. Akshita along with her batch-mate Pema Dolkar had taken the initiative to provide aid to the Rohingya refugees.
"I did this social work voluntarily because I am also a Tibetan refugee. I have heard of numerous stories of struggle and hardship faced by the first Tibetans who had escaped to India and been given refuge by the Indian government," Pema said.
Receiving the aid was Murtaza Khan, an interior designer, who volunteers to work for the camp inhabitants. "This is a huge relief for the people here, I often see children shiver during the evening," Khan said.
Shah Nawaz along with other members of All India Students Association (AISA) had joined in the distribution after being approached by the students. "After we are done here, we will be proceeding to Muzaffarnagar to provide for the riots victims who are facing similar issues," Shah Nawaz said.
Ubais Sainulabdeen, an activist who has been researching on the Rohingya communities living in India, was delighted that the camp had finally received the much needed aid. "Indian government can send aid to central African countries and to Syria but when it comes to the refugees residing in India, they are laid back," he said.
Sainulabdeen said winter and the monsoon are the hardest times of the year for the residents of such camps.
"In between the monsoon and the winter I am trying to hold free classes to educate the children, but the children also need to be safe and sound. In winter, they burn tyres to keep themselves warm and during the rains there is the threat of dengue," he said.
The camp residents were jubilant to see the help arrive. Haleema Khatoon was among the residents waiting anxiously for a blanket. Haleema’s husband who went missing after the eruption of violence in Myanmar in 2012 said her two teenaged sons were also killed during the riots. Seeing the young ones working for a forgotten community she was overwhelmed. After the distribution had finally ended, she asked, "Will they be back?"