The recent reaction of the Bangladesh Government on the suspension of telecom services in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh has brought about outrage and criticism from International agencies and media. The print media in Bangladesh was prompt to paint a picture depicting Bangladesh as the victim. In an article published by The Daily Star, the highest circulating English daily in Bangladesh details the resources and provisions that had to be created to shelter the refugees from Myanmar.
The New York Times in an article published on September 5th, 2019, on the other hand, has accused Bangladesh of not granting refugee status to the Rohingya. In an attempt to repatriate the Rohingya as soon as possible, the Bangladeshi Government has also ignored Myanmar’s denial of the ‘vicious cycle of ethnic cleansing’.
While these geopolitical developments in the region might seem to be of little significance, yet it is very important to plan and act on issues that might blow out of proportion. The entire NRC (National Register of Citizens) exercise could have been avoided in the first place if illegal immigration which is the core issue could have been stalled at the very beginning. This Rohingya debacle, I believe, is another issue that could blow out of proportion if not tackled at the earliest.
Historically, India has had a mixed record with reference to refugee relief and rehabilitation. Starting from the independence of India which had led to the largest migration of people the world had ever seen to the settling of the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh in 2015 through an order of the Supreme Court which directed the government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal Pradesh. Interestingly, even after 73 years of the independence of India, an all-inclusive and comprehensive constitutional framework for the relief and rehabilitation of refugees does not exist.
With Bangladesh pushing the Rohingya out to Myanmar, where there has been a history of violence against the community, the most plausible choice for them to move to is India. Of late, there have been numerous reports of the detection of Rohingya in the region, as reported by the regional newspapers.
On humanitarian grounds, it would be great for India to welcome the Rohingya and grant them refugee status. It will definitely add brownie points for India trying to project itself as a superpower but such an action will also have its other implications. If the Rohingya are granted refugee status in India, they will be entitled to all such rights as are enjoyed by refugees around the world and given the geographical proximity it is only reasonable to assume that the Northeastern part of the country will be a hotbed for the settlement of the Rohingya.
The Northeastern part of India is, demographically a very fragile region. Pressure from competitive and bigger ethnic groups is dangerous to the survival of the many indigenous groups in the region. The idea of ‘Nation’ itself is based on the ‘othering’ of certain groups in order to preserve the novelty of another and as such the idea is essentially ethnocentric.
In this case, the motive is self-preservation. We already have our very own immigration problems to deal with and if we are to resolve this issue, India has to intervene in Bangladesh and ensure that the Rohingya do not cross over to India. If the Rohingya debacle is not tackled in the appropriate time, this is an issue that could drastically impact the region. The resolution to the problem has to be achieved before the issue becomes political in nature as in the case with the existing illegal immigrants.
The author is presently a research scholar at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University. Formerly an assistant professor at School of Journalism and Film Production, Lovely Professional University, Punjab. The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.
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