A life in transit: 26-year-old Rohingya refugee recounts tale of loss and persecution | india-news | Hindustan Times
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A life in transit: 26-year-old Rohingya refugee recounts tale of loss and persecution

Zahid Hussain is only 26 years old. But he has spent the last four years looking for a safe refuge. If India decides to deport him, the young man will be on the move again

india Updated: Sep 09, 2017 20:38 IST
Niha Masih
Zahid Hussain (extreme left) at his temporary home at the Rohingya camp in Jammu.
Zahid Hussain (extreme left) at his temporary home at the Rohingya camp in Jammu.(Niha Masih/HT Photo)

Zahid Hussain is only 26 but has spent the last four years in transit. He can’t remember the date when the Nasaka or Myanmar’s border security force (disbanded after allegations of human rights violations) picked him up. The year was 2013. No reason was given. No questions were asked.

Zahid and four others were used as mules to carry bags and military gear through jungles, up the mountains to a military outpost. He thinks they travelled for about three-four days. Time was hard to keep. When the soldiers reached their destination, the men were let go. Usually those picked up never returned.

“We have not come to stay here permanently. We want to go back to our country. If there is peace and equality like in India, we will go back,” says Zahid Hussain.

For days, they walked through jungles surviving on banana stems. After a week, he reached his village – hungry and exhausted. But a ghost town awaited him. Some homes had been ransacked, others left in a hurry. At his house, instead of his wife, two children and three brothers, he found only his infirm parents – too old to run. That night he escaped to Bangladesh.

To make some money he worked as a labourer for three days to earn 600 BDT (Bangla taka). With that, he came to the India border via Dhaka.

At the border village, he exchanged his red Burmese lungi for an oversized pant with a villager to escape identification. But that would not be enough.

The BSF caught him crossing over and handed him to the police. A local court sentenced him to a two-year jail term. While in Kolkata jail, he heard that his wife was living in a Jammu camp. In 2015, after leaving jail he came to Delhi to register with the UNHCR. His wife had remarried by the time he found her in Jammu. He too remarried a fellow Rohingya last year and has an eight-month-old child.

“We have not come to stay here permanently. We want to go back to our country. If there is peace and equality like in India, we will go back,” he says.

Now with the threat of deportation from India, Zahid’s quest for a home may not be over yet. “If the government here forces us to leave then we will go (to another
country).”