Ground Reports

Arrest Of Rohingyas For Anti-Hindu Violence In Haryana's Nuh Holds Potential Ramifications for the Community

Swati Goel Sharma

Aug 07, 2023, 03:30 PM | Updated 04:42 PM IST

A report says that 700-800 Rohingya families are settled in Haryana’s Nuh district.
A report says that 700-800 Rohingya families are settled in Haryana’s Nuh district.
  • The involvement of Rohingyas in Nuh violence is also an indication of their radicalisation, given that they sided with their religious counterparts against Hindus.
  • In an alarming disclosure by the Haryana police, several members of the Rohingya community living in the Nuh district have been identified and arrested for the 31 July violence.

    Narender Bijarniya, Nuh superintendent of police, told Hindustan Times, “We have identified a list of them who were involved in the violence and we have evidence for it and based on it the teams have arrested them.

    On Thursday (3 August), the state administration began a demolition drive in Nuh to destroy properties belonging to rioters and those constructed illegally.

    Several Rohingya settlements in Taura were demolished as part of the drive, with the police saying they were either built on government land allotted to Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran or were found involved in rioting.

    Prashant Pawar, Nuh deputy commissioner, told the media that around 50 properties housing Rohingyas were identified as illegal by the administration. Demolition drives were carried out over the next few days too.

    As per Hindi daily Hindustan, 25 Rohingyas have been arrested (Swarajya could not independently verify this with police).

    Overall, at least 156 people have been arrested and 56 first information reports (FIRs) registered in connection with the violence. A total of six deaths have been confirmed and more than 80 persons injured.

    Violence broke out after a procession of Hindu devotees was being taken out in Haryana’s only Muslim-majority district Nuh on 31 July. The procession, which involved visiting ancient temples in Mewat region after jalabhishek at Nalhar Shiv temple in Nuh, was organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Matrishakti Durgavahini. This year was the third edition of the yatra.

    Nuh (called Mewat until 2016 when the Haryana government changed its name) is part of a region inhabited overwhelmingly by the Meo jaati that is today almost wholly Islamised. It stretches from Haryana's Nuh to Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

    The Mewat region gets its name from this jaati, members of which claim Rajput ancestry (the claim is disputed; many say they are of mixed origin, also comprising Minas and Gujjars).

    Who Are Rohingyas?

    Tens of thousands of Rohingyas are believed to be currently living in India in various states, most of them having illegally entered India though the porous border with Bangladesh at West Bengal.

    In Bangladesh, they claim to be refugees from Myanmar who fled their native land to escape violence at the hands of Buddhists and police in Myanmar. They say they are ethnic natives of Myanmar's Arakan region and are thus Arakanese Muslims.

    On the other hand, the Myanmar government cites British administrative records to declare them as Bengali Muslims originating from Chittagong (in what is today Bangladesh) and thus "foreigners". Things turned particularly ugly in 1970s and 80s when the Myanmar (earlier Burma) government officially declared the Rohingyas as "non-nationals" and stripped them of their nationality. They have been fleeing Rakhine since then.

    Under the 1982 citizenship law, the Myanmar government recognised about 40,000 Rohingyas as its citizens and called the rest “illegal Bengalis" from Bangladesh.

    Ironically, at the time of India’s Partition, and just before Burma’s independence from the British, Rohingya Muslim leaders had appealed to Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah, requesting his help to merge a part of Arakan region into East-Pakistan because the area had substantial Muslim population.

    Now, they object strongly to being referred to as Bengali Muslims and claim a separate ethnicity.

    Rohingyas have been fleeing to Bangladesh since the early 1980s. As per UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than nine lakh Rohingyas were found to be living in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazaar alone in 2019. Of them, seven lakh had come after 2017.

    Rohingyas have been entering India illegally just like their Bangladeshi Muslim counterparts for nearly one-and-a-half decades now. In India, the Rohingyas tell horrific tales of their persecution at the hands of Buddhist residents and the Army back in Rakhine — of murder and rape, of political subjugation and ill-treatment. 

    India does not have a national policy or law to deal with “refugees”. India is also not a signatory to international laws such as the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol that protect the refugees from being returned to where they came from.

    The Home Ministry, in a statement last year, called them “Rohingya illegal foreigners”.

    How Many Rohingyas Living In Mewat?

    A report by Dainik Jagran two years ago, citing figures presented by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, said that around 700-800 Rohingya families are settled in Haryana’s Nuh district. The government has not confirmed the number.

    In 2018, this correspondent visited two Rohingya settlements in Nuh — in Chandeni and Nangli villages. Most inhabitants said they left Rakhine in 2012 when security forces reportedly launched a major drive against the Rohingyas.

    One of them, 28-year-old Mohammed Aslam said he and 31 of his immediate family members fled Rakhine in 2012 in one go, leaving their 26-acre property behind and went to Bangladesh.

    They soon shifted to India as they found the Kutupalong refugee camp where they were housed, to be not fit for living.

    In Delhi, Aslam got his refugee card made from UNHCR and shifted to Nuh. He said, “Our mufti from Jafrabad [an area in Delhi] said it would be better if we left Delhi and went to Mewat as it’s a Muslim area. We have been living here since then. Here, locals are very friendly. They don’t disturb us.”

    You can read the ground report here.

    What Does Their Involvement In Nuh Riots Mean?

    At a time when Rohingyas are already viewed with suspicion by the country’s Hindu majority for being illegal Muslim immigrants just like Bangladeshis, their involvement in any anti-social activity, and particularly anti-Hindu violence, is not a good sign for the community.

    Their reputation could be further damaged. It already took a major hit In 2015 when a militant killed by security forces in south Kashmir — Abdur Rehman al Arkani alias “Chota Burmi” — was found to be from Rakhine.

    An intelligence officer from Jammu and Kashmir told Swarajya a few years ago, that security forces were increasingly noticing the use of the word ‘Burmi’ in conversations between militants.

    The officer said, “Rakhine militants are known to have direct links with ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence] and we are not ruling this connection out. They have a victimhood narrative of being wronged by non-Muslims. There are definitive leads that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba is trying to exploit them for carrying out terror activities in India and Bangladesh.”

    The involvement of Rohingyas in Nuh violence is also an indication of their radicalisation, given that they sided with their religious counterparts against Hindus.

    Even when one acknowledges that it's vital to remember that attributing the actions of a few individuals to an entire community is unproductive and harmful, it's understandable that their Nuh attack connection might cause wariness among the Hindus and concern among security agencies.

    Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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