The judiciary has rushed in where the executive had feared to tread. If not Aung San Suu Kyi or the junta, it remained for Calcutta High Court to come to the rescue of the persecuted Rohingyas. Tuesday’s order (coram: TBM Radhakrishnan, CJ; and Arijit Banerjee, J) offers a scintilla of hope, in that the West Bengal government has been directed to arrange for “alternative accommodation under supervision” for the Rohingya detainees who have been languishing in prison even after having served their terms.
The court has responded to their fervent appeal that they are willing to be sent back to Myanmar ~ where conditions are far from congenial ~ or to any refugee camp… but not be confined to the jail. They do have a point. On closer reflection, they have done no wrong. They are the “nowhere men”, buffeted from port to port, victims of the relentless persecution, often brutal, in Myanmar.
The High Court has implicitly underlined the remarkable insensitivity of the state government, which prolonged their detention despite a trial court’s order for their release. In a resounding caveat to the Centre and the state, the court has indicated that it might formulate a scheme for the Rohingya detainees “if nothing else works” and if the Myanmar government “does not respond”.
The administrations both at the Centre and in the state have been asked to take up the issue of repatriation with the heartless government in Naypidaw. The state’s plan to construct two “safe houses” in New Town and Bongaon is yet to materialise. The High Court intervention raises the larger question of Rohingyas who have been entering India, unable to suffer the junta’s repression in Myanmar, not to forget Suu Kyi’s indifference, almost calculated.
Indeed, she has been shamefully silent about Buddhist persecution of the Muslim minority. Once an inspiration, she has now cone through as complicit in grotesque crimes against humanity. The case dates back to 9 February 2016 when some of them had reached Howrah station from Secunderabad. They were intercepted by the police. When they failed to furnish valid travel documents, they admitted that they had entered India illegally.
A trial court in Howrah charged them with violating the Foreigners Act, 1946 and they were sentenced to 455 days in jail. Having completed their stint behind the bars on 27 June 2018, they petitioned for release, a plea that was turned down by the magistracy. Four years after, the fury over the Citizenship Amendment Act is riveted to the persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Somehow, repressive Myanmar and its minorities have been excluded from the demographical canvas of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The Rohingyas will languish as “nowhere men” and arguably in a state of present indefinite. It is fervently to be hoped that the West Bengal government will initiate action in the follow-through with urgent despatch. No less critical will be the Centre’s response. Calcutta High Court has come to the rescue of the Rohingyas.