The Rohingya are ethnic Muslims from the Arakan region (Rakhine state) of Myanmar. A significant number of them were brought to Arakan by the British as indentured servants during the colonial rule.
The Government of Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, according to the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which means that these people have been practically stateless for the last 35 years.
Since independence, the Arakan region has been home to an insurgency by the Rohingya, some of them separatists, others Islamists. That being said, it was in 2012 that the seeds of the current conflict took form, leading the United Nations to recognise the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted groups in the world.
It all began with the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman in 2012, for which some Rohingya were held as the accused. This led to violent clashes between the Rohingya Muslims and the Buddhists. The Myanmar government responded by forcing the Rohingya into concentration camps. The conditions in these camps brought death and disease upon its inhabitants. This pushed the Rohingya to flee to neighbouring countries.
After entering Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Rohingya began entering India through various routes. They have thus far avoided staying near the border with Myanmar and have spread across the country with camps situated anywhere from Kerala to Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier this month, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that the 40,000 Rohingya in India were illegal immigrants and they had to be deported. In response to the government’s decision, a plea was filed in the Supreme Court by two Rohingya immigrants against deportation.
Swarajya sat down with J Saideepak Iyer to discuss this issue. He is a Supreme Court lawyer who is appearing as the arguing counsel for Indic Collective, a public spirited organisation. The intervention application has been filed by the Advocate On Record Mr Suvidutt Sundaram.