Rohingyas, an issue of security

While most of us may have read and heard about the insurgency, ethnic cleansing and genocide but luckily might not have witnessed it in person. In most part of the world and some places in the valley they are a part of everyday life. Those who have lived through these situations needs to be heard to know their pain. Insurgency means revolt and violence against the state which is very common in the world. The sad reality is that in the Indian sub-continent it has Pak connections. It indeed is a sad reality but cannot be wished away. There are other places in our neighborhood where the insurgency thrives and directly affects Kashmir. It may be recalled that in the early hours of 25th August 2017, 150 armed Rohingyas attacked 24 Police Stations and an Army Base in Mangdu district of Myanmar. That left 71 dead. This prompted a military crackdown which triggered more killings and exodus of Rohingyas. On 27 & 28 August, 86 Hindus were killed in various places in Mangdu by unidentified masked people in black attire forcing 510 Hindu families to migrate to Cox's Bazar. According to UN estimates over 2,00,000 Rohingyas crossed over to Cox's Bazar of Bangladesh within 15 days. On 10th September Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of Muslim insurgents declared a month long unilateral ceasefire and asked the Myanmar Army to lay down arms. These events tell that there is a guerilla war going on between ARSA, an insurgent and terror outfit of Rohingyas with the Myanmar security forces which has changed the narrative from humanitarian crisis to security challenge. UN has called it a humanitarian catastrophe.

Rohingyas have been engaged in armed militancy since the 1940s with the aim of seceding from Myanmar and creating an Islamist state. From a cursory survey of Rohingya history, it becomes clear that the Rohingya are not ethnic Burmese but a political construction. A significant number of Bengali Muslims immigrated to British Burma with the colonialists in the 20th century. They demanded an independent Islamic state during Burma's independence. Over 1.1 million are living in Myanmar's Northwestern Rakhine province and are called Bengalis in Myanmar. The latest bloodshed is seen as a major escalation because of its magnitude and direct involvement of ARSA which keeps attacking govt forces and ethnic Buddhists. A video of horrific Rohingya attack on Buddhist residential area in Mangdu on 8th June 2012 is an eye opener in which thousands of Rohingyas are seen descending from the Central Mosque on Buddhist settlements like locust and butchering whosoever seen and met, looting and burning monasteries. In 1942, Rohingyas killed 30,000 Buddhists and destroyed a dozen of monasteries and made over a lakh Buddhists to flee from Mangdu. This massacre was so big that that it qualified to be called genocide. In 1982 Rohingyas were declared non-state-subjects after which many left Myanmar. Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan gave them shelter.

Today Rohingyas are a stateless community. They are a small community but large enough to create mayhem wherever and whenever they wish to. Majority of displaced Rohingyas are in Bangladesh with large number in India. They are an emerging security threat in India. After 25th August incident in Rakhine, Kashmiri separatist leaders called for protests in the valley against the killings of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar which turned violent. Restrictions had to be imposed in parts of Srinagar city on Friday to prevent violence after the prayers. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was placed under house arrest and JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik was arrested to prevent their participation in protests. This connection is worrying. In this backdrop, it is important for India to look at Rohingyas both from humanitarian and security point of view. From security point of view, all the Rohingyas identified as illegal immigrants, must be deported from the Indian soil irrespective of humanitarian consideration. They must include over 25,000 settled across Jammu region even if they have not been declared as illegal immigrants for political reasons because security risks in J&K are greater than many other states. It must be done before extremist elements migrate to the valley & Pakistan in large numbers. They pose a clear cut social, economic and security danger to J&K. If India does not act right now, it will be difficult to stop their influx and deport them later.

Nuances of the ethnicity apart, India's more immediate concern is an outpour of sympathy among mostly Left-leaning intellectuals and a section of Muslims who have narrowed the debate to the legal and humanitarian aspects. MoS Home, Kiren Rijiju having stated that 42,000 Rohingyas living in various states illegally will be deported, Lawyer Prashant Bhushan has challenged the decision in Supreme Court on the ground that whosoever lives in India is Constitutionally protected for equality under Article 14 and life and personal liberty under Article 21 irrespective of his being a citizen or not. Also that UNHRC has given them refugee status and so they cannot be deported. However, India's Foreigners Act vests absolute and unfettered discretion in the Union Govt to expel foreigners, especially those residing illegally without valid papers. Supreme Court gave absolute power to the govt to deport foreigners in ‘Hans Muller of Nuremburg' case which was again upheld by the Apex Court in Mr. Louis De Raedt & Others vs Union of India. India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and not bound by it. Threat to the security, sovereignty and integrity of India is good ground under the Foreigners Act to deport them. No one is against humanitarian aid but keeping a simmering insurgency home is an open invitation to our rogue neighbor(s) to exploit it.

Amidst the recent violence, premier Modi was on state visit to Myanmar from 5 to 7 September. He expressed his concerns over the extremist violence in the troubled Rakhine province but avoided mentioning anything on alleged persecution on Rohingya minority despite UNHRC chief calling the situation as text book example of genocide. Reacting to overseas condemnation of violence, Modi said, "we hope all stakeholders together can find a way out in which unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar is respected". This was perhaps the best he could say given the economic, security and geo-political interests that China harbors in the Indian neighborhood. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar Councillor drew parallels of Rohingya insurgency with Kashmir insurgency. She said, "because of large Muslim community in Kashmir, you had this trouble of sorting out the terrorists from the innocent citizens, we have the same problem."

ARSA is led by Ata Ullah, a Karachi born Rohingya, who was educated in Mecca. Ata Ullah as head of RASA is not the only insurgency's Pakistan connection. Burmese, Bangladeshi and Indian intelligence agencies have found Pakistan's terror groups hiring Rohingyas from Bangladeshi refugee camps, training and arming them in Bangladesh and using them for terrorist activities in India. LeT and JeM are enrolling them into their cadre. Ansar Gazawat-ul-Hind's head in Kashmir, Zakir Musa expressed solidarity with Rohingyas living in Jammu. He warned against deporting them. Last year in October, reports surfaced that a Rohingya terror group Aqa-Mul-Mujahideen was in touch with LeT and JeM. The terrorists of the AMM were said to be trained in Pakistan. There were also reports that Rohingya terrorists were being sent to Kashmir Valley along with Pakistani mercenaries. One Chotta Burmi, a Rohingya, was killed in an encounter in Kashmir in 2015. Burmi was said to have received patronage of Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda terrorist Ustad Farooq, a Pakistani national was entrusted to recruit Jihadis from Rohingya Muslims. When Rohingyas landed in Indonesia, Hafiz Saeed's JuD carried out humanitarian work in the Rohingya camps and recruited some Jihadis. The intelligence agencies suspect that increasing concentration of Rohingyas in J&K could partner with JuD and Kashmiri militant groups. Some Rohingya militants are suspected to be active in the Valley.

The Rohingya issue is undeniably a massive humanitarian disaster. But such disasters are best addressed locally. The movement of Rohingyas across the sub-continent, right upto Jammu, underlines that community is well networked trough the region. This raises serious fears of ingress of terrorists in the guise of refugees. With Rohingyas well settled across India and in the national capital, the fear that they could host well trained terrorists is another sad reality which we cannot wish away. India is among nations worst affected by the imported Islamic terrorism. The anger against Rohingas among the people of Jammu is growing with each passing day as is well known. Same would have been conveyed to the Home Minister during his recent Jammu visit.
Working with the UN & Myanmar govt for sending humanitarian aid for Rohingyas, Buddhist & Hindus may be need of the hour but the humanitarian crisis should not be solved by exporting the insurgency. It must be solved in Myanmar itself. Sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar is as important as of its neighbors.

Article written by Col J P Singh



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