As Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Myanmar, the Indian and Assamese governments on Tuesday made it clear that Rohingya Muslims who have entered India to escape violence in their country have to go back.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the North-East Democratic Alliance here, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju declared: “They (Rohingyas) are illegal immigrants in India.”
Rijiju said they would be deported to Myanmar but no force will be used. “We are not going to use force to throw out anybody.”
He defended his statement in Parliament where he had said the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas.
“They are illegal migrants and as per law they stand to be deported. So we have instructed all state governments to constitute a task force to identify Rohingyas and start the process of deporting them.
“We are not going to throw them in the middle of the ocean or shoot them. Why are we being accused of being very inhuman?” he asked, adding that international human rights organisations were unnecessarily targeting the Indian government.
“India has absorbed maximum number of refugees in the world. So no one should teach India lessons on how to deal with refugees.”
At least 123,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border into Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Joseph Surjamoni Tripura, the UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, said on Tuesday.
The latest exodus began on August 25 after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Rakhine, leading to a violent offensive by the Myanmar Army. Many Rohingyas have also entered India, which shares a long and porous border with Myanmar.
The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, said the government was very clear that Rohingyas should go back.
“India’s position as far as Rohingya settlements in India are concerned is very clear — they have to go back. That also applies equally to Rohingyas who have settled in different parts of the country including Jammu and Kashmir. There is no ambiguity about it,” he said.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said there was no more place for any immigrant in the north-eastern states bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar and that this would be told to the Supreme Court if needed.
“The north-eastern states are totally opposing any further immigration. We already have enough (immigrants). So, the north-east should not be used for (hosting) more immigrants, including Rohingya Muslims.”
Sarma said Assam was not party to a case in this regard in the Supreme Court. “Had it been a party, or if there was an order, Assam will go to the court and say ‘There is no space for further migrants’.”
Meanwhile, scores of people, including some Rohingyas, protested here on Tuesday, demanding that they be allowed to stay on in India.
Similar protests were held by students in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam and Pulwama districts to denounce attacks on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Over 4,000 Rohingya refugees are living in Jammu city.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi flew out of Xiamen in China and reached Myanmar to begin a three-day state visit. The issue of Rohingya Muslims is likely to figure in discussions with the leadership in Myanmar.