Twenty three-year-old Mohammad Imran, a Rohingya who has grown up in a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar after his family fled violence in Myanmar, says he is “disheartened” to learn that India sees Rohingya Muslims as a national security threat.
“I read it in the newspaper. The Indian government wants to deport them to the very place where they will probably get killed,” exclaimed Imran, who arrived in Malaysia two months ago from Bangladesh in pursuit of a better life.
Earlier this week, the Indian government told the Supreme Court that about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees in the country were a threat to national security and they would be deported. India’s stance has surprised many refugees who were pinning hopes on New Delhi’s support.
“It’s time for India to play a greater role in the region. It has to show its support for Rohingya Muslims,” Imran said.
“India should not deport Rohingya Muslims. Rohingyas are helpless people who have no place to call home. They are not terrorists. They just want to live peacefully. I always wanted to visit India. We consider India our friend, but the government’s current position on the crisis is disheartening,” he added.
Imran says he has two married sisters living with their respective in-laws in the Cox’s Bazar camp. He was two years’ old when his parents were forced to flee their home in Rakhine state of Myanmar. Since then his family has been living in the Kutopalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, where he says “life is miserable”.
Imran said he reached Malaysia through the sea route, for which he had to give $2,000 to an agent.
“Life is very challenging in refugee camps, no social security, no minimum standard of living,” said Imran.
He was elected camp leader for one of the camps in Bangladesh and has over the years aided dozens of photojournalists, writers, diplomats, ambassadors, and researchers from Bangladesh and international visitors who visited the camps.
“We are living in an open prison. We don’t have an identity to live with. We are just refugees with no home and country,” Imran said.
Imran was attending an international peoples tribunal here in Malaysia on alleged atrocities and state crimes against the Rohingya, Kachins and other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar.
He was also asked why Myanmar considers them outsiders when generations of Rohingyas have been living in the country.
“I don’t understand why Myanmar thinks we are outsiders or that we are from Bangladesh. If we are from Bangladesh why then do we not have any relatives there. My father, my grandfather, great grandfather and earlier generations were born and brought up in Myanmar. The situation in Rakhine is so bad that it’s impossible to live there. All my relatives in Rakhine are now forced to come to the camps in Bangladesh,” Imran said.
Myanmar has termed the crisis as the country’s internal issue. “Is killing people and burning their houses an internal issue?” asked Imran.
The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which calls them illegal immigrants.
Rights groups accuse the Myanmar military of burning Rohingya villages, raping women. But the Army said it was responding to attacks by militants and has denied targeting civilians, a claim refuted by Rohingyas.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) here will give its findings to international bodies, especially the United Nations, for further action to be taken against Myanmar to end the violence.