Karnataka revises its stand on Rohingyas in SC
In less than three weeks after the Karnataka government told the Supreme Court that it does not intend to deport or take any coercive action against Rohingya Muslims, the state government has filed a fresh affidavit, leaving it open for the court to determine the action to be taken against these refugees.
The state filed its second affidavit in response to a petition filed by a lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on October 26. The petition sought an order from the court to identify, detain and deport illegal immigrants and infiltrators including Bangladeshis and Rohingyas within a year.
The new affidavit filed by KN Vanaja, under secretary in the state Department of Home disclosed that a total of 126 Rohingyas have been identified in the state who were not staying in any camp or detention centre. “This Respondent undertakes that whatever the order that would be passed by this court will be scrupulously adhered to and followed in its letter and spirit,” the affidavit said.
This affidavit lacked the clear assertion made by the state in its previous affidavit filed on October 7 while responding to the same petition, where it was said, “72 Rohingyas identified in Bengaluru City are working in various fields and Bengaluru City police have not taken any coercive action against them as of now and there is no immediate plan of deporting them.” This affidavit was filed by YS Chandrashekhara, police inspector in the office of the director general and inspector general of police.
The previous response by the Basavaraj Bommai-led government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was at variance with the firm stand against the continuation of Rohingya immigrants in the country, taken by the Centre. In an affidavit filed in September 2017, in response to a petition filed by two Rohingya immigrants seeking refugee status, the Ministry of Home Affairs said, “Continuance of Rohingyas’ illegal immigration into India and their continued stay has serious national security ramifications and threats.”
The affidavit had then estimated presence of over 40,000 Rohingya Muslims in the country and disclosed that intelligence inputs pointed out their links with Pakistan-based terror organisations and indulgence in anti-national activities such as mobilisation of funds through hawala channels, procuring fake identities and involvement in human trafficking.
It was for this reason that Upadhyay in his petition filed in 2017 demanded the Centre and state governments to amend laws to make illegal immigration and infiltration a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. In addition, he sought directions from the court to declare the preparation of forged/fabricated PAN Cards, AADHAR cards, passports, ration cards and voter i-cards and such other identity documents a non-bailable, non-compoundable offence.
The earlier response by Karnataka urged for dismissal of the petition by saying, “The Petition is devoid of merits. Hence, the petition is liable to be dismissed.” However, the recent affidavit has steered clear of this stand and has left it to the courts to decide the issue.