‘Give us refugee status or deport us to Myanmar’: Rohingya lodged in Assam jail
Ten members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar who are lodged in a jail in Assam have petitioned the Gauhati high court seeking refugee status or to be sent back to their country.
The 10 Rohingya, who belong to two related families, were arrested for entering India without valid documents and have been lodged in Tezpur jail in central Assam, which also lodges other foreigners, for several years.
The petitioners, Saidur Rahman, his wife Tahara Begum and their three children, his brother Mahmad Ulla, his wife Rumana Begum and their three children, belong to Coundang village in Buthidaung of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The petitioners had approached the high court in June 2017 seeking refugee status in India or deportation to Myanmar. The matter, which had come up for hearing six times, is being heard by the division bench of justices N Kotiswar Singh and Malasri Nandi.
“It has been submitted that the present petitioners are admittedly citizens of Myanmar who have been convicted for entering this country without proper documentation, and had served out sentences imposed by the competent court, and have been languishing in jail for the last seven years,” the HC bench stated in its order earlier this month.
“The plea of the petitioners is that either they be allowed to remain in India by granting refugee status or be deported to their country of origin, that is, Myanmar. However, the authorities are not taking any decision in this regard and the petitioners are languishing in jail,” the order said.
Following the court’s observation, Anita Verma, special counsel for foreigners’ tribunals in Assam, sought some time to take instructions on the course of action the state government may adopt for the petitioners.
In another petition heard by the same bench this month, Azizul Haque, a Rohingya from Myanmar, and Mohammed Habib Ullah, whose nationality has yet to be ascertained, sought to be deported to Myanmar. They are both lodged in the Goalpara district jail.
Both petitions have been listed for hearing on Thursday.
According to the UN, there are over 16,000 registered Rohingya people - a Muslim minority in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar - currently in India who fled their country following multiple instances of violence. It is, however, estimated that the figure could be higher with many of them residing in India with any documentation.