September, 2017 showcased the extremely perilous human rights situation prevailing in India currently under the present BJP-led dispensation in the Central Government. On one hand was the shocking cold blooded assassination of Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru which in a gruesome manner highlighted the fate which awaits those who question the majoritarian, right-wing, ruling dispensation and their politics; on the other was the very delicate, kids-glove manner with which the ruling BJP led government in Haryana treated the lawlessness of the Ram Rahim bhakts who indulged in widespread violence when their religious head, Baba Ram Rahim was convicted and sentenced.
The BJP scarcely tried to hide their closeness to the disgraced Baba who has been convicted to 2 consecutive life sentences for raping 2 women devotees of his.
Even as these issues shocked the conscience of the human rights community came the announcement that the Government of India was going to deport Rohingya refugees who had sought refuge in India, fleeing murderous mobs of right wing, Buddhist fundamentalist forces in Myanmar, Burma) who had killed and maimed thousands of Rohingya muslims in Rakhine province of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh and close to India too.
The Union Home Ministry declared the Rohingyas to be a threat to the national security of India and characterised them as being violent and indulging in terrorist activists who should be sent back to their country. It did not matter that the Myanmarese government disowned the Rohingyas as belonging to Myanmar making them stateless people.
Overnight a vicious campaign was launched by RSS-BJP cadres in the different states where Rohingya muslim refugees have been housed, living in precarious conditions in West Bengal, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Jammu etc. Systematically a public campaign was launched depicting the Rohingyas as threats and demanding their forcible repatriation to Myanmar. A case is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
The seriousness of the mass killings of Rohingyas can be gauged by the statement of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who called the mass killings of Rohingyas as “ethnic cleansing”. Members of the UN Security Council "called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions and resolve the refugee problem".
It’s a matter of regret that the Government of India, has broken a long tradition of humanitarian support and is instead toeing a line supporting the Myanmarese government which is willy nilly justifying the brutal treatment of Rohingyas.
It has been PUCL’s consistent stand that India should honour the principle of `Non-Refoulement’ or not sending back people to their country where they face possible life threat and refrain from forcible sending back refugees like the Rohingyas. India has a long history of providing humanitarian refuge to people persecuted in their countries and shown that as the land of Buddha and Gandhi, we can accommodate persecuted people and offer them sanctuary, safety and security.
We call upon the Government of India to change its hardline stance of wanting to forcibly repatriate the Rohingyas and instead to respond with a spirit of humanism, compassion and caring, hallmarks of India’s timeless heritage of human civilisation. We also call upon the people of India to demand that our government honour the spirit of Buddha and Gandhi, and to permit the Rohingyas to live in India with a sense of security and dignity.