No matter what the “liberals” on the Left say, countries providing help to refugees have the right to impose their own conditions while doing so.
India should ignore the UN Human Rights Commission’s criticism on its plans to deport Rohingya refugees. Nor should it give importance to the windbags of Indian “secularism” who are full of bluster on how we cannot refuse to take on refugees, allegedly based purely on their religion. It is instructive to note that Muslim organisations in Kerala and West Bengal are talking in support of Rohingyas, based purely on fact that they are co-religionists. They were unable to bring themselves to support their own countrymen living in Muslim-majority countries when faced with worse persecution.
If India chooses to keep those refugees back, or deport them, it has to be based on a nuanced position that takes our own national security interests into account, moderated by our own age-old willingness to give succour to the those fleeing persecution.
At the outset, it is important to junk the idea that India should not consider the religious affiliations of those seeking shelter here. India has its own interests to protect here, given the steady fall in the populations of Indic religions over more than a century, the strong inroads made by Muslims in at least three states (Assam, Kerala, and West Bengal), thus skewing the religious demography and creating the conditions for more jihadi radicalisation, and the huge inflows of Wahhabi money into madrassas and mosques in India. If the influx of more Muslim refugees is going to create more local unrest, it hardly makes sense to invite trouble. More so when the Indian state has not been able to deport even those illegal immigrants, who entered India after 1971 under the Assam Accord signed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. It is not possible to deport anybody when they have been here for 40-50 years.
If the Rohingya influx is going to create more possibilities of terrorism, and, consequently, counter-radicalise our own Hindu fringe groups, the pretense of being neutral on the religious affiliations of refugees from Myanmar needs to be given up. It is not possible to prevent terrorism on our soil if militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which pushed Myanmar’s Rakhine state into a state of insurgency last month, have infiltrated the refugee ranks.
That said, we also need to consider whether we can indeed house some of the refugees based on aggressive screening, and where our terms and conditions can apply. This would be in keeping with our broad policy of providing refuge to the persecuted without endangering our internal security.
No matter what the “liberals” on the Left say – they tend to be tongue-tied when it comes to even recognising the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Kashmir – countries providing help to refugees have the right to impose their own conditions while doing so.
Broadly speaking, we should take in Rohingya refugees if we can (1) ensure they are limited to a specific zone where our security personnel can keep watch on their activities; (2) obtain a declaration from them that they acknowledge, respect and value the help we are giving them; and (3) ensure that they do not indulge in political or religious activities that vitiate and communalise our atmosphere. But this is exactly what has happened, with Muslims in India making common cause with Muslims from Rakhine rather than identifying with our national interests.
The first condition is self-explanatory: the Rohingya should be housed in camps where their interaction with the local population is limited, but where facilities are adequate to support a reasonable living standard till it is safe for them to return. This means they should all be finger-printed, given special Aadhaar cards where they can be tracked and given their rations, and are generally amenable to surveillance. This is the only way we can be sure that ARSA is not embedded in the refugees.
The second condition is very important. Every refugee should be made to sign a declaration, after being explained the details, that they will not seek citizenship in India, that they will return to Rakhine once the conditions are right, that they can seek to migrate out of India to, say, Saudi Arabia or wherever, if they are willing to take them, and that they recognise that their stay here is only temporary.
The last condition is the most important, and we ought to insist on it. Since the whole idea is that radicalisation of Muslims needs to be countered, the refugees should be clear in their minds that they cannot take part in any political activity locally, that they can practise their own religion, but not seek to propagate it, and that India is a secular country in which all religions are respected. They should all undergo a minimum course in Indic religions and their basic ideas, so that they learn to respect them. They should also be told that any critical references to local religions or references to local people as kafirs, etc, could mean instant deportation and withdrawal of refugee status.
The “Left”, “liberal” elite will froth at the mouth when these conditions are explicitly stated, but we should let them stew in their own bile.