‘India is not safe for us,’ Rohingyas say as 61 of them arrested in Tripura and Assam
According to UNHCR, there are an estimated 17,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in India and living across different locations. It said that since late December, it has observed an increase in movements of Rohingyas from India to Bangladesh.
After over 72 hours of being stranded in the open on the patch of land between the border fence and the international border with Bangladesh, 31 Rohingyas including 16 children were handed over to the Tripura police by the Border Security Force on Tuesday.
In Assam, a group of 30 Rohingyas which includes 12 children were arrested by the Assam police on late Monday evening as they made their way back from Tripura after they learnt that the conditions are not conducive to illegally cross over to Bangladesh.
Both these groups had identity cards issued to them by the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, according to police. According to UNHCR, there are an estimated 17,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in India and living across different locations.
Also Watch: 31 Rohingyas arrested near Bangladesh border in Tripura
“Since late December, UNHCR has observed an increase in movements of Rohingyas from India to Bangladesh,” UNHCR said responding to a question if there is movement of people from India to Bangladesh. According to Sabber, a Rohingya activist, more than 1500 persons have escaped to Bangladesh “for fear of being deported.”
In Tripura, the standoff started on the international border on January 18 as the Bangladesh Border Guards alleged that BSF had pushed the group of Rohingyas to the other side of the border. The group was pushed to the Indian side of the border by the BGB, according to BSF officials.
“We are lodging an FIR against them (the group members) for violating the Indian Passport Act and the Foreigners Act. Our primary investigation found they are Rohingyas,” said Ajay Kumar Das, Amtali sub divisional police officer. The group was produced in the local court.
“We slept on the wet ground for four days as children suffered the most,” said the elderly Haseena Begum. The BSF said it had provided the group with blankets and food.
Abdul Sukur, one of the arrested Rohingyas, burst into tears at the police station. “We were in Jammu and Kashmir for the last six years where we worked as construction workers. We suddenly heard that we have become a threat to India,” he said.
“Please let us live. We don’t want to go back to Myanmar,” he said.
Mohammad Salam said they decided to go to Bangladesh after some Rohingyas were deported. “We heard that some Rohingyas were deported to Myanmar. We now feel India is not secure for us and want to go to Bangladesh to stay with our relatives,” he said.
The court granted bail to 16 children and nine women while the male members of the group were sent to judicial custody. However, the female members too, were sent to judicial custody as the court had set condition of Rs 30,000 as the bail amount which the arrested persons could not arrange, police said.
Earlier in January, five Rohingyas were repatriated from Assam while another seven were sent back in October 2018.
“The news of the return to Myanmar of Rohingya asylum-seekers in detention in India and the risk of return of other Rohingya asylum-seekers in detention has caused anxiety amongst some 17,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR India,” the UN refugee agency said.
“ We are concerned that under these circumstances, some Rohingya in India may undertake risky journeys to seek protection and safety in Bangladesh,” the response by UNHCR said.
According to Salam, a local in Tripura had assured them that he will take them to Bangladesh and charged Rs 800 from each of them. “But we were caught by the BGB,” Salam said.
Meanwhile, in Karimganj in Assam’s Barak Valley, a group of 30 Rohingyas, including 12 children were arrested on Monday evening as they travelled in a bus to Guwahati from Agartala.
“They said they were living in Jammu but had come to Agartala looking for work which did not materialize. So they decided to go back to Jammu,” said Inom Saikia, additional superintendent of police, Karimganj adding everyone in the groups has UNCHR cards “but most of them have expired.”
However, one of the persons in the group told a TV channel that they had travelled to Tripura with the hope of crossing over to Bangladesh but were told that the situation on the border was not conducive. The group , according to the persons account, was running out of money, after which they decided to go to Guwahati to try to earn a living for the time being.
Meanwhile, if past cases are anything to go by, the group of Rohingya risk years in detention. The seven who were repatriated in October had been in detention since 2012.