Centre says Rohingya refugees have links with Islamic State and ISI, tells SC not to interfere with deportation
Many Rohingya refugees have links with the Islamic State and Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, the government told the Supreme Court on Monday, as it sought to win legal backing to deport tens of thousands of them for being a “serious security threat” to India.
The government also said if allowed to stay, the Rohingya refugees would exhaust natural resources meant for Indians that could culminate in hostility towards them and lead to social tension and law and order problems.
It said the plan to deport Rohingya refugees was a policy decision and the court should desist from interfering. In response, the court said it will soon take up the question of whether it has jurisdiction over the matter.
The government’s argument was in response to a petition filed by two Rohingya refugees challenging any Indian decision to deport an estimated 40,000 people of the community who fled alleged persecution in Myanmar.
Many experts have questioned where India could send the Rohingya Muslims. Human Rights Watch urged India, the world’s biggest democracy, to follow the international principle of non-refoulement which prohibits sending back refugees to a place where their lives are in danger.
The United Nations says there are 16,000 registered Rohingya in India, but many more are undocumented.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra refused to issue a formal notice to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to know the stand of an “independent body.” This despite senior counsel, including Fali S Nariman – arguing in favour of Rohingyas – insisting on it.
“We will see the legal position, whether we have the jurisdiction or not. We need to see what kind of jurisdiction can be invoked,” the bench told the lawyers, fixing October 3 to hear the petition and a slew of intervention applications filed by both sides.
Nariman, who wanted a hearing on Friday, took the court’s liberty to approach it earlier if any “untoward” incident takes place with the immigrants.
Government said in its affidavit that unless it took action, illegal immigrants would drain resources meant for Indian citizens, depriving them of their legitimate share.
“Any indulgence shown by the highest court of the country would encourage the illegal influx of illegal migrants into our country and thereby deprive the citizens of India of their fundamental and basic human rights,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in the affidavit.
The government said many Rohingya refugees took advantage of the porous borders in the country’s east and an organised human trafficking racket had helped them procure fake identity cards such as PAN and voter’s ID.
“Radicalised” Rohingays may wreak violence on Indian Bhuddist, the government said.
Rohingya in India voiced worries that they were being unfairly tainted by the allegations and sought more understanding for their plight.
The government said India was not a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, and Protocal Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967, and so was not obliged to follow its provisions.
Last week, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva slammed India over its stand on the Rohingya crisis.
Reacting to the court proceedings, the Congress party called on the government to start a wider political consultation on what it said was a sensitive matter.
“Such participatory interaction with us will only help the government. A blanket approach is never helpful,” party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.