That is the unique status granted to India in world history and that is why a renowned American historian, Will Durant, glorifies the ancient nation: ‘”India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics;…Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all”.
However, the recent stance taken by the centre to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court to deport stateless and persecuted Rohingya Muslims not only hurts the spiritual image of India as ‘the cradle of human race’ but also goes against the constitutional protections of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India, which provides equal rights and liberty to every person.
According to available data, more than 14,000 Rohingyas, registered with the UNHCR, were staying in India. However, some inputs indicate that around 40,000 Rohingyas are staying in India illegally, largely located in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.
Ronhingya presence poses national security threat states the affidavit filed by centre to the Supreme Court. This antagonistic and ill-disposed attitude by the Central Government of India toward the most persecuted people on earth goes against the government’s own humanitarian gestures toward them.
Needless to mention, the centre has sanctioned supply of humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. The Indian mission had tweet: “Operation Insaniyat: High Commission handed over 1st consignment humanitarian assistance by India to Bangladesh.”
If Rohingyas pose a national security threat, why should Operation Insaniyat be offered to the prospective future terrorists? This reflects Centre’s inconsistency and its self-contradictory approach toward Rohingya human tragedy.
India is home to over 3 lakh refugees, ranking 23rd on a list of countries with the highest refugee population. The largest number of people living in India as refugees, or in refugee-like condition is from Tibet and Sri Lanka.
According to the latest available data which was presented by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju in March 2016, a total of 2,89,394 refugees living in India (as on 31/12/2014) from 28 different countries which also included stateless people.
While the minority refugees such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are allowed to stay in India on Long Term Visas, the same is denied to the minority Rohingya from Myanmar.
In its recent decision, the centre has granted 1 lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees limited citizenship. It has also introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament that creates a path to citizenship for non-Muslim minorities facing persecution in neighboring countries. All this raises the charges of hypocrisy and religious discrimination. (Rohingya-Chakma Conundrum: Government must come up with clear policy on refugees by Rudroneel Ghosh, The Times of India, September 19, 2017). This also contradicts India’s history, culture, traditions of magnanimity in welcoming refugees who escape violence looking for safety and sanctuary. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, former India’s ambassador to the United States, Soviet Union and Mexico, said:
“Suffering knows no racial or political boundaries; it is the same for all. As international tension increases, vast masses of humanity might be uprooted and displaced.”
[Madras Courier, July 17, 2017]
India’s global image is that of an emerging major power. It is also the largest democracy in the world. India should reflect its wisdom of leadership in dealing with Rohingya refugee crisis with unbiasedness and impartiality.
Expectations are high that India should extend help to the fleeing Rohingya, at least on humanitarian grounds. This benevolence is essentially the character and spirit of India and makes our country the ‘cradle of the human race’ as Mark Twain, a noted American writer, once expressed.
Unfortunately, reactionary and ultra-conservative political outlook at present blinds vision of our hidden treasure of mystical strength and spiritual light in extending help to the homeless.