Identify all illegal immigrants from Myanmar, Bangladesh: J&K high court to govt

Updated on Apr 06, 2022 07:37 PM IST
The Jammu and Kashmir high court has directed the home secretary to identify all illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
A PIL filed in the Jammu and Kashmir high court said that there is an abrupt increase in number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar in J&K. (Nitin Kanotra/HT File Photo)
A PIL filed in the Jammu and Kashmir high court said that there is an abrupt increase in number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar in J&K. (Nitin Kanotra/HT File Photo)

JAMMU: The Jammu & Kashmir high court has directed the home secretary of the union territory RK Goyal to evolve a mechanism for the identification of illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh and to prepare a list after identifying them.

The court’s directions came on a PIL filed by a lawyer Hunar Gupta, who sought directions to J&K government for appointing and issuing necessary directions to a former retired judge to hold an inquiry to identify all the illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, who have migrated and settled in J&K.

A division bench of Jammu & Kashmir high court comprising chief justice Pankaj Mithal and justice Moksha Khajuria Kazmi after hearing senior advocate Sunil Sethi for the PIL and advocate general DC Raina with AAG Raman Sharma for the UT, directed the home secretary of J&K to consider the matter and to evolve a mechanism for the identification of all illegal immigrants and to prepare a list after identifying them.

The high court further directed that the entire “exercise may be carried out, most promptly, within a period of six weeks”.

The PIL further sought directions to the State to shift all the illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh from the UT of J&K to any other place as no refugee camp has ever been declared either by J&K or by United Nations in J&K.

The petitioner also sought direction for withdrawal of all benefits given to the illegal immigrants of Bangladeshi and Myanmar from the state exchequer and from the scheme and benefits meant for residents of J&K.

The PIL also pointed out abrupt increase in number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar in J&K.

According to the government, 13,400 Myanmari and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants were living in various areas of J&K.

The petitioner submitted that the actual figures were much more than the official figures. It was submitted that in 1982 the Myanmar government declared Rohingya Muslims as non-national which led to their migration to neighbouring Bangladesh, Thailand and even Pakistan.

“However, they were not welcomed in these countries and this led to their influx into India through porous border with Bangladesh. Almost 1,700 Rohingya families comprising approximately 8,500 souls (official figures are 1,286 and 5,000) live in various settlement colonies of Jammu and Kashmir. The land mafia in order to encroach upon the state land, especially forest areas as well as water bodies, settle these illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar in forest areas and near water bodies. It is submitted that many of the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar have acquired ration card, voter card, Adhar cards as well as permanent resident certificates illegally,” the petitioner said.

He also pointed out that they were suspected of being involved in various anti-national activities such as drug trafficking, Hawala transactions etc. at the behest of enemies of the Nation.

“Due to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar, there will be increase in pro-separatists as well as anti-Indian activities in J&K especially in the communally sensitive Jammu region, which has so far displayed maturity and tolerance. Immediate and necessary directions are required to the respondents for the shifting of these immigrants to their native places,” he added.

During the course of hearing, the division bench observed that one of the orders dated 24.05.2017 passed in the PIL indicated that at that time the government had constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) to examine various issues relating to illegal migrants from Mayanmar and Bangladesh in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Group of Ministers was supposed to take up the matter, examine it and to furnish a report thereof. But till date, nothing has come on record. In the meantime, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and the UT of J&K has been created,” the division bench observed.

The division bench after hearing both the sides directed the home secretary to consider the matter and to evolve a mechanism for the identification of all illegal immigrants and to prepare a list after identifying them.

“The said exercise may be carried out, most promptly, within a period of six weeks,” ordered the division bench.

On April 1, a total of 25 Rohingyas belonging to Tablighi Jamaat were detained in Ramban district and then sent to Hiranagar holding centre in Kathua district.

On March 6 last year, 169 illegal Rohingya immigrants were sent to the holding center at Hiranagar in Kathua distrit where the sub-jail was converted into holding facility, established vide home department notification dated March 5, 2021.

It was done under section 3(2)e of the Foreigners Act. These immigrants were not holding valid travel documents required in terms of section (3) of the Passports Act.

After sending them to the holding center, the government had to conduct the process of nationality verification to pave way for their deportation to their native land.

Last year in March, the J&K administration started the verification process of Rohingyas at MA stadium in the winter capital.

The last PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir was asked by the BJP government at the Centre to prepare a database of Rohingyas in Jammu and Kashmir so that they could be deported to their native lands.

According to an official estimate of that government, 5,700 Rohingyas had settled in and around Jammu.

However, in total contravention to the statistics of then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, UNHCR on April 27, 2017 told HT that there were 7,000 Rohingyas in J&K.

Rohingya Muslims are considered to be one of the most persecuted communities in the world.

A government document then had also showed that 17 FIRs were registered against 38 Rohingyas for various offences including those related to illegal border crossing and drug-trafficking.

On March 3, 2017, the then union home minister Rajnath Singh had sought report from the state over unabated influx of refugees to Jammu.

On March 25, 2017, the then Jammu district commissioner Simrandeep Singh had recovered fake state subject certificates, voter ID cards, Aadhaar cards and ration cards from the temporary shelters of Rohingya Muslims in Jammu.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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