Skip to main content

Rohingiya refugees: Whither India's sacred tenet Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam?


By Cedric Prakash sj*
‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning ‘the whole world is one family’, is an ancient Sanskrit phrase found in the Maha Upanishad, one of the Sacred Texts of Hinduism. This important phrase underlines a basic tenet of Hindu philosophy, which includes welcoming, hospitality, tolerance, harmony, unity and adaptability. For several centuries, India as a country and a large percentage of Indians have been doing their best to live up to this ideal. India has been home to races, nationalities, tribes, religions and cultures from across the world.
India has always been a welcoming home to refugees .During the bloody and painful days of partition, there was a steady influx of refugees into India. Thanks to the statesmanship of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, several hundreds of thousands of Tibetan refugees (including the Dalai Lama) have made India their home for more than fifty years now. The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 saw another major influx into the country; it was estimated that more than ten million East Bengali refugees entered India to escape mass killings and the brutality of that war. Though most returned to Bangladesh after independence, an estimated 1.5 million have continued to stay on in India. The Soviet-Afghan war of 1979, the more than twenty-five years of civil war in Sri Lanka since 1983, the atrocities on minorities in Myanmar, have in their wake brought in huge numbers of Afghanis, Sri Lankan Tamils, Chins and Rohingyas into India.
The persecuted Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar today and inhuman stand of the current Indian Government is very much in the news today. The Rohingyas (1.2 million approx.)are an ethnic minority group, mainly Muslim, who are concentrated in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Despite having roots and living in the Buddhist- majority country for centuries, the Rohingyas since 1982 are denied citizenship, disenfranchised, regarded as illegal immigrants and rendered stateless. Since the late 1970’s, many of them have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh.
In February 2017, a United Nations report had documented numerous instances of gang rape and killings, including of babies and young children, by Myanmar’s security forces. In the past month, because of some insurgency on the part of a small group of Rohingyas, the army’s viciousness, already very ghastly, has escalated even further. The military action triggered Asia’s biggest humanitarian crisis since Cambodia’s Pol Pot. Recently, the United Nations’ top human rights official called Myanmar’s ongoing military campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority group in that country’s Rakhine state “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
In just a little over a month since August 25th, more than 480, 000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh. Many were killed by the Myanmar military and other marauding mobs. Those who have survived the onslaught in Myanmar face land mines planted along the border presumably aimed at killing escapees. Others make the treacherous crossing, through inclement weather (torrential rains and floods) of the wide estuary of the Naf River, which separates Myanmar from Bangladesh. It is estimated that several hundreds have died in capsized boats, and boatmen have been charging exploitative rates for a ride that usually costs a pittance.
Victim survivors have been sharing horror stories of what they have been going through. The Rohingyas are referred to, as the minority, which is the most persecuted in the world today. The unbelievable and inhuman suffering, which they are being subjected to, has captured the attention: the anguish and anger of a sizeable section of the world community.
The Bangladesh Government, the UN and some local and International NGOs are doing their best; but the conditions are dire, food and drinking water is scarce. The UN Refugee Agency in a communique states, “there is also an increased risk of communicable diseases, infection, cholera and respiratory infections. It is incredibly difficult to keep warm and dry under these conditions and already weak and exhausted; many refugees will struggle to stay healthy.”
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, visited the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh recently. On September 27th, on his return to Geneva he said, “They had to flee very sudden and cruel violence, and they have fled with nothing. Their needs are enormous – food, health, shelter. They have absolutely nothing. I have hardly seen in my career people that have come with so little. They need everything.” He added, “I have spoken to several women who have been raped, or have been wounded because of their resistance to rape. I spoke to many children, shockingly absent of emotion, because they were so traumatized. They told me how they had seen their parents or relatives or friends killed in front of their eyes.”
Despite the suffering of the Rohingyas ,the Government of India is doing all they can to deport about 40,000 Rohingyas who are currently living in India and to prevent other Rohingyas from entering the country. This is a very sad commentary on the moral fibre of the current ruling dispensation, besides the actions by India against the refugees would clearly go against the country’s obligations under international and domestic law. The case of the rights of the Rohigya refugees is currently in the Supreme Court of India and the next hearing is scheduled for October 3rd .
Some of the country’s best-known legal luminaries are defending the Rohingya petitioners and others against the Government of India. Their petition rests on two basic premises, that any deportation would violate their fundamental rights to equality and to life, under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, and, secondly that any action by India in returning them to Myanmar would infringe international law, particularly the principle of non-refoulement (Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention).
The Government’s key arguments are that terrorists ‘might’ have infiltrated the Rohingyas, therefore the security of the country is at stake; and that the country is not bound to follow the principle of non-refoulement, since it is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. No one with a bit of common sense and compassion will buy these arguments.
On September 11th in his Opening Statement to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country. Some 40,000 Rohingyas have settled in India, and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation. The Minister of State for Home Affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion. However, by virtue of customary law, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement, India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations”.
Strong words indeed but the plain truth. Several other prominent human rights organizations have criticized India’s stand.
There has been global condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and of the complicit silence by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who is the State Counsellor of Myanmar – but also rather powerless. On the other hand, Myanmar has the support of some nations like China and very unfortunately, India too!
In two months from now, Pope Francis will be visiting Myanmar (Nov.27th-30th) and Bangladesh (Nov.30th to Dec 2nd). His visit will certainly focus global attention on the plight of the Rohingyas. Pope Francis has consistently taken a stand for all refugees and displaced persons and he has been vocal in his defense of the Rohingyas. On August 27th, just a couple of days after this current onslaught he said, “Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority. I would like to express my full closeness to them – and let all of us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights. Let us pray for our Rohingya brethren.”
The Government and people of Myanmar, the Government of India, and the global community must pay heed to the fact that, “the whole world is one family”; that every citizen in a civilized world is endowed with rights; that even refugees have to be treated with compassion, care and the dignity they deserve. Above all, we have to realise that like the rest of us, the Rohingyas are human too!

*Indian human rights activist

Comments

TRENDING

Vishwanath has been unfairly excluded from global list of 100 best cricketers

By Harsh Thakor  Gundappa Vishwanath scaled zones in batting artistry or wizardry unparalleled amongst Indian batsmen. The best of his batting was a manifestation of the divine. He was also the epitome of cricketing sportsmanship. Sadly 40 years ago he unceremoniously bid farewell to the International cricket world, after the concluding test at Karachi in 1982-83., in January end. Very hard to visualise a character like Vishwanath being reborn today His memories are embedded in cricket lovers today when sportsmanship and grace have virtually been relegated to oblivion with the game of cricket turned into a commercial commodity. Today agro and unsporting behaviour is a routine feature Vishy shimmered cricket’s spirituality. His behaviour on the cricket field was grace personified, No one in his age defined cricket more as a gentleman’s game, than Vishy. Vishwanath could execute strokes that were surreal with his steel wrists. His strokeplay resembled the touches of a painter’s brush,

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Reproductive, conjugal rights of women in India amidst debate of uniform civil code

By IMPRI Team  A Three-Day Immersive Online Legal Awareness and Certificate Training Course on “Reproductive and Conjugal Rights of Women in India” is an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and ran for three consecutive days starting from December 22, 2022 to December 24, 2022. The online paid certification was aimed to provide attendees with an enriching experience on the gender discourse with a special focus on women’s rights and the much-discussed reproductive rights in India.

Covid jabs: Pretexts cited to justify young, healthy succumbing to heart attacks

By Jay Ihsan   Truth is stranger than fiction – when dedicated doctors raised the red flag against the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, they were persecuted and their concerns barred from being heard. These honest doctors unequivocally made it known the Moderna Pfizer vaccines injure the heart and human body. One of them, Dr Peter McCullough, an American cardiologist, has repeatedly issued the clarion call to people to reject these harmful vaccines. An equally alarmed World Council for Health said the harmful Covid-19 vaccines should be removed from the market and the global inoculation must be stopped. “In Japan the vaccines were not mandated or made compulsory. The vaccines are not safe or effective enough to mandate them. The day the vaccines go away will be a day of celebration,” Dr Mccullough had lamented during an interview with India’s media outfit, Qvive several months ago. Meanwhile, the number of people jabbed with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines died soon after or have developed lifelong

Gender gap 17%, SC and ST levels of education between 7% to 14% below upper classes

By IMPRI Team  The treatment of school education in a holistic manner and improving school effectiveness in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and learning outcomes has been the aspiration of all and multiple challenges are faced to maintain and provide proper education. On the occasion of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as part of its series- the State of Education- #EducationDialogue, #IMPRI Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a special deliberation on The State of School Education In India with Prof Muchkund Dubey, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta CEO and Editorial Director of the IMPRI. The chair of the event was Prof Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) National Fellow, the Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and also a Former Professor & Vice-Ch

Rahul Dravid exhibited selflessness in heights unscaled by any other Indian batsman

By Harsh Thakor*  On January 11th maestro Rahul Dravid turned 50. No Indian batsmen were ever more of an embodiment of temperament or grit.as Rahul Dravid. Dravid was the best ambassador of sportsmanship in cricket in his day and age. In his time no Asian batsmen did what the doctor ordered, to the extent of Dravid. Dravid was manifestation of single-mindedess, tenacity and selflessness in sport. One hardly has an adjective to the ice coolness and craft Dravid exhibited in adjusting to the given situation. Rarely did any batsmen exhibit such a clinical o methodical approach to batting.

NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border: *** I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice. From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-bo

Data analytics: How scientific enquiry process impacts quality of policy research

By IMPRI Team  Given the multidimensionality of policy and impact research, tech-driven policy prescriptions are playing a dominant role in the 21st century. As such, data analytics have become integral in this space. IMPRI Generation Alpha Data Centre (GenAlphaDC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute New Delhi has successfully conducted a #WebPolicyTalk 6-Week Immersive Online Hands-on Certificate Training Course on Data Analytics for Policy Research, spanning over 6-consecutive Saturdays from October 15th to November 19th, 2022. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning. Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course, to obtain the certificate. This course comprised hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions on data discourses. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals lo

Brutal assault on Delhi Univ students as fear grips present rulers on rise of dissent

By Arhaan Baaghi  Various democratic student organizations (bsCEM, fraternity, DSU, SIO, AIRSO) had planned a screening of the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question" in the Delhi University Arts Faculty, but the guards of the university and the Delhi police along with paramilitary forcefully detained the students just because we were trying to watch a documentary that scrutinizes the role of Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots. At first when the students started screening the documentary, the electricity of the department building was cut down. Students were brutally beaten by the police and university guards. Female students were also brutally manhandled and beaten. This whole incident shows the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist nature of the government and the university authority that is working as its puppet. An activist of bsCEM was manhandled by a male security guard, who tried to pull out his T shirt. Also various female activist were dragged by male security guards and their h

Great march of migrants during lockdown: Lessons not learned, missed opportunities

By IMPRI Team  A panel discussion on “The Great March of Migrants During The National Lockdown: Lessons Not Learned and Missed Opportunities” was organized by the #IMPRI Center for Human Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi on the occasion of International Migrants Day, i.e December 18, 2022. Inaugurating the session, Ms Aanchal Kumari, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. The event was moderated by Dr Devender Singh, a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists included Prof. R.B Bhagat, Professor and Head, Department of Migration and Urban Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai; Prof Arun Kumar, Distinguished Economist, a Former Professor Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi; Ms Akriti Bhatia, Founder of People