“Large-scale illegal migrants from Bangladesh have not only threatened the demographic structure of the area but have seriously impaired the security of the nation…. It is not a matter of dealing with a religious or linguistic group. It is a question of identifying those who illegally crossed over the border and continue to live in India contrary to the Indian law and the Constitution.” — Quoted in Supreme Court of India Judgment in Sarbananda Sonowal vs Union of India & Anr on July 12, 2005
The issue of illegal immigration of the Muslims from Rakhine region of Myanmar has come to the forefront with the Union Government filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court, terming them as a ‘security threat’. The same people who have been telling the world over that being ‘Hindu’ means ‘intolerant’, are giving sermons on greatness of the Hindu civilisation with specific reference to accommodating migrants and refugees from the world over. They are equating the persecuted Hindus from Pakistan taking refuge in Bharat, forgetting the fact that for Hindus all over the world, Bharat is the natural home. The misplaced argument and sudden protest in favour of Rohingyas by secularists and Muslim fundamentalists is understandable. For the others, who tend to place this as a humanitarian and refugee crisis, need to be reminded certain facts and analysis.
First of all, the tension in Rakhine region between the Burmese Buddhist Groups and Rakhine Muslim groups is the direct outcome of Islamic terrorism which started in the democratic transitory phase in Myanmar. According to a December 2016 report by the International Crisis Group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army , also known by its former name Harakah al-Yaqin (meaning Faith Movement is led by Ataullah, a Rohingya man who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and grew up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia). Most of the support to the group comes from a committee of Rohingyas in Saudi Arabia.
According to the original documents, creating a “democratic Muslim state for the Rohingyas” in Myanmar is the stated objective of this group. Their history of attacking Buddhist places of worship and Monks has been part of their strategy. It is rare that Buddhists who are known to be the most peaceful are reacting in a strong manner. Even the neighbouring Muslim countries of Southeast Asia are not giving any shelter to these rogue elements.
Secondly, as filed in the affidavit of the Union Government, “some Rohingyas are indulging in illegal and anti-national activities” that includes, hawala transaction, fabricating Indian identity documents and human trafficking. Their connections with Pakistani groups are also widely discussed. The refugee population does not and cannot suddenly reach Jammu and Kashmir where people from other states also find it difficult to settle down, unless they have established connections.
We have seen fundamentalists creating havoc in the bordering areas of West Bengal like Malda recently. The memories of Azad Maidan ransacking of 2012 in Mumbai by the same illegal migrants with fundamentalist leanings are still fresh. The inflammatory communal speech by a Muslim Ulema is reiterating the fact that for fundamentalists ‘Muslim Umma’ is more important than the nation. Getting identity proofs and claiming rights over resources is the tendency of illegal immigrants and not that of refugees.
Lastly, we are evolving new level of ties with both Bangladesh and Myanmar. We cannot undermine their internal concerns and we need their support in addressing our insurgency issues in the North-East of Bharat. If we shelter the groups who are designated as terrorists by either of them, then what would be the difference between us and Pakistan?
Bharat certainly has the civilisational tradition of sheltering all the persecuted from the world and Jews and Parsees are classic examples of that. That does not mean we can allow people who have tendency to feed on perceived deprivation and exploitation and using it for demographic and political domination, if necessary through violent means. We have experienced this in ‘direct action programmes’ before the Partition and Myanmar is experiencing the same. It is essentially a problem of insurgency and terrorism in Myanmar, which has a direct bearing on Bangladesh. We can at the most play the role of regional facilitator to help the two neighbours. Beyond that anything would be inviting another security threat.