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‘I can do nothing for them’: Rohingya Muslims in Kashmir worry for their families fleeing Myanmar

A total of 17 Rohingya families arrived in Kashmir in the past one year after a sense of fear gripped them in Jammu where they had started arriving in 2009 from Myanmar.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2017 18:17 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Khimber
Rohingya Muslims,Kashmir,Myanmar
Yasmeen, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, stitches clothes inside a house on the outskirts of Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

Salamat Ullah’s eyes welled up as he talked about the latest wave of persecution against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

He said his uncle has been killed, brother has a bullet injury, and sister arrested by the Myanmar military. His father and rest of the family are among the nearly 380,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar amid the army’s ongoing violent response to attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state last month.

Amid all this, Ullah said he can only pray for his family from Khimber, a village on the outskirts of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar. He arrived in Kashmir a year ago before living in various parts of India as a United Nations (UN) designated refugee after fleeing Myanmar a decade ago.

“My father tells me there is no food and shelter. They are drenched under the open sky and are hungry and I can do nothing for them,” he said struggling to control his emotions.

The crisis and refugee exodus began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts. Myanmar’s military retaliated with “clearance operations” to root out the rebels but the fleeing Rohingyas say soldiers shot indiscriminately, burned their homes and warned them to leave or die.

Others have said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs. Hundreds have died, mostly Rohingya, and some of the refugees have needed treatment for bullet wounds.

About 40% of the total Rohingya population living in the Rakhine has now fled to Bangladesh, the UN has said.

Rohingyas have suffered persecution and military crackdown in Myanmar for years as they are not considered citizens of the country resulting in their exodus from time to time. According to the UN, nearly 40,000 Rohingyas have settled in India and 16,000 of them have received refugee documentation.

Haroon Rashid is one of these refugees, who arrived in Jammu in 2012. But his stay in the winter capital of the state was equally tumultuous after radical voices said they were not happy with the Rohingyas living there.

Last year, the 50-year-old fled Jammu as well after the clamour for their deportation grew in the Hindu majority region. He along with his wife and four children took refuge in Khimber, where a religious seminary Darul Uloom Bilaliya has spared three buildings for some 17 Rohingya families.

Rashid had not settled properly in Kashmir yet that the latest violence erupted in his home state of Rakhine.

“My uncle and cousin were killed by Buddhists. Now, I am not able to contact my sister. She has gone missing after the latest violence. We are being killed and nobody seems to care,” Rashid said.

The 17 families comprising some 70 members, including 30 children, arrived in Kashmir in the past one year after a sense of fear gripped them in Jammu where they had started arriving in 2009.

The continuing turmoil in the Kashmir valley has inflamed religious tensions in Jammu and Rohingyas are bearing the brunt of it. Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry even threatened that if the state government does not deport the Rohingyas, “we will identify and kill them”.

Noor Hussain came to Kashmir along with his wife and two children six months ago.

“Here everybody is good to us, our Muslim brothers. They tell us that whosoever tries to harm us they will protect us. It gives a sense of satisfaction. It is not like Jammu,” the 26-year-old said.

However, the troubles of Rohingyas here are far from over.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has declared the Rohingyas as “illegal immigrants” and a “security threat”. It prompted the UN high commissioner for human rights to describe their situation as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and criticised New Delhi for seeking to deport Rohingyas.

“If no one is ready to help us, we leave this matter to God. It will be our hands and their collars on the day of judgement,” said Ullah.

First Published: Sep 15, 2017 16:25 IST