India criticized by rights groups for deporting Rohingya woman to Myanmar

Apr 3, 2022: According to a special report by Al Jazeera, the deportation of a 36-year-old Rohingya woman by India and fresh detention of Rohingya refugees in Indian-administered Kashmir has been criticised by human rights groups, who called New Delhi’s forcible return of refugees a “cruel disregard for human life and international law”.

Hasina Begum, 36, who was detained on March 6, 2021, along with more than 100 other Rohingya refugees from Jammu city, was deported to Myanmar on March 22.

Since 2017, India has deported 16 Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, according to rights groups, in violation of the principle of non-refoulment – which states that refugees should not be deported to places where they may face persecution.

India’s crackdown came less than two weeks after the U.S said that Myanmar’s military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, who have long faced persecution in their homeland.

“Indian authorities are well aware of the human rights violations Rohingya Muslims have had to face in Myanmar and it is outrageous to abandon them to their fates,” Amnesty International said  in a statement on Friday.

Hasina who was separated from her three children, for over a year, now has her hopes for a reunion dashed.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “The Indian government gains nothing by forcibly returning a Rohingya woman to Myanmar, while she is separated from her children and put at grave risk.”

Ganguly said that the Indian government should halt the deportation of all Rohingya to Myanmar “because of the serious risk they face of persecution”. “The Indian authorities are increasingly adopting discriminatory policies against religious minorities, especially Muslims, and their policy toward the Rohingya appears to reflect that bigotry,” she added.

The detention and deportation are a part of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s crackdown on Rohingya refugees for being “illegal immigrants”.

The police in the southern city of Jammu detained 155 Rohingya refugees, including Begum on March 6 last year. They were sent to a sub-jail that had been converted into a holding centre in Kathua district.

According to Hasina Begum’s husband, Johar, “Since last year the children would go and see her once a month. She was also allowed to make a phone call sometimes. The children would hear her voice. But now we do not know where she is? Whether she is dead or alive?”

“We have no news of her. We fear she might be raped, she might be killed in Myanmar,” Johar said, adding that all the family members are registered refugees with UNHCR in India.

“We did not come here to live permanently. We will go back when the situation in Myanmar improves,” he said.

Rohingya refugees, who are predominantly Muslims, face strict surveillance, arbitrary detentions, questioning, and summons from the Indian security agencies. They also face hostilities and violent attacks by right-wing groups who accuse them of being associated with “terrorism”. Now, the greater risk they all face is deportation.

The UNHCR has reported that at least 240 Rohingya in India are currently detained on charges of illegal entry. In addition, about 39 are being detained in a shelter in Delhi while 235 others are detained in a holding centre in Jammu.

The hostility against the persecuted refugees has been exacerbated since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP swept to power in 2014.

On Friday, the police in the Ramban district of Indian-administered Kashmir said that they have detained 25 more Rohingya refugees.

Like Hasina Begum, scores of people who are in detention have been separated from their families.

Last year, India’s top court refused to intervene after activists petitioned against the government’s decision to deport Rohingya. India’s crackdown followed demands from local BJP leaders that the refugees be expelled from India.

“We have been voicing concerns about them here. It is a security concern for us,” Ashok Kaul, the general secretary of the BJP in the region.

“The crimes have increased in Jammu and they can be involved in terrorism, also,” Kaul, who is based in Jammu, told Al Jazeera. He offered no evidence linking Rohingya to crimes.

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