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India Launches New Crackdown Against Rohingya Muslims Amidst Violence in Myanmar

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Sabber Kyaw Min, who heads a Rohingya rights group in New Delhi, appealed to the Indian government to halt the detention process and let Rohingya refugees live in the country until the situation in Myanmar is conducive for them.

NEW DELHI — India has launched a new crackdown against Rohingya refugees by rounding them up in droves and then putting them in jails and detention centres. These actions have sparked fear of deportation to violence-hit Myanmar among the displaced community.

On Friday Indian police told The Muslim Vibe efforts to deport a teenage Rohingya girl did not materialise after Myanmar refused to accept her. The border forces kept the gates shut as a team of cops took the 14-year-old to the India-Myanmar border in the northeast of India. She was living in the custody of an NGO after her undocumented entry into the country nearly two years ago.

The deportation attempt came at a time when the situation in the Southeast Asian country is violent due to a military coup. More than 500 civilians have been killed by Myanmar’s military junta in response to the popular mass uprising against the coup.

The move triggered a backlash from rights groups and community activists who said she wanted to be with her parents who live in an expansive refugee Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh but instead she was being deported to Myanmar.

“The situation in Myanmar is not yet conducive for voluntary return in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner, and returning the child to Myanmar may place her at immediate risk of serious harm,” a UNHCR spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In the past month, authorities have detained nearly 300 refugees in police raids in different parts of India.

In Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed region in the Himalayas, police detained more than 160 refugees after first assembling them in a cricket stadium. They were subjected to biometric scans before they were put in buses and sent to a jail-turned-holding centre, 35 miles from their camp.

“By detaining these people the police have left the families divided,” said Mohammad Saleem, 30, a Rohingya refugee at his camp in Jammu. “We don’t know why this is happening.”

The officials said that the detained refugees will be deported after their identities are confirmed with the Myanmar government but refugees decried such plans. “We are not saying we don’t want to go to our homeland. But there should be a proper way to do that. Right now the situation in Myanmar is bad. The army is even going after Bhudists who are protesting,” Saleem lamented.

The detention of the refugees prompted human rights advocates to move to India’s Supreme Court calling for their release and protection from detention. After hearing the arguments, the court reserved the order but did not commit whether it would provide any relief to the detained refugees.

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More refugees have been detained since then. On March 11, around 80 refugees were picked up by police in New Delhi outside the office of the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Subsequently, 19 more refugees were detained in several police raids at their camps in New Delhi: On March 24, police picked up 12 refugees, seven males and five females including a pregnant lady; four days later two more Rohingya refugees were detained at a station; on March 31, five refugees, including a family of four, were rounded up from their camps and taken to a detention camp.

The activists say all the detained refugees possessed valid UNHCR cards.

The UNHRC has documented around 18,000 Rohingya refugees in India, but many more are unregistered due to the absence of a systematic recording system at Indian borders. They have been living in camps mainly in three cities — Jammu, New Delhi, and Hyderabad.

Nearly a million Rohingya Muslims fled genocidal violence in recent years from their homeland in Myanmar and took shelter in neighbouring countries, mainly in Bangladesh. Activists have called the detention of refugees “cruel”.

Sabber Kyaw Min, who heads a Rohingya rights group in New Delhi, appealed to the Indian government to halt the detention process and let Rohingya refugees live in the country until the situation in Myanmar is conducive for them.

“The police actions have triggered panic among the community. Whenever we hear a siren of a police vehicle we fear it could be a raid,” Min said.

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