THE WEST Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has approached the Supreme Court to “quash an order” passed by the Centre to deport Rohingyas to Myanmar. The petitioners, WBCPCR and its chairperson Ananya Chakraborty, have named the Union Home Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs as the main respondents to the PIL, which was filed on September 20. It will come up for a second hearing on Friday.
This comes amid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on several occasions, throwing her weight behind the Rohingya refugees, exhorting the Centre to allow them to stay.
WBCPCR officials said at present, while 24 Rohingya children are residing in shelter homes, 20 live in correctional facilities across the state, along with their mothers.
“Children aged till six years stay in correctional facilities, whereas those in shelters are between 6 to 17 years of age. It is inhuman to allow children to be deported to a country where they will be prosecuted,” said an official.
According to WBCPCR, the PIL has been filed to “secure and protect, the right against deportation, of the children coming from Myanmar by road through Bangladesh in India, in keeping with the Constitutional guarantees under Article 14 and Article 21, read with Article 51 C, which protects against arbitrary deportation of victim from Rohingya, who have taken shelter in India after escaping… Myanmar due to the widespread discrimination, violence and bloodshed…”.
Officials said that with West Bengal sharing a border with Bangladesh, it is fast becoming a transit state for Rohingya refugees.
While there are no Rohingya camps in the state, refugees crossing the border are arrested by BSF and then handed over to local authorities. Several human rights organisations, including the United Nations, have been working to procure refugee status for those arrested, officials added.
In its petition, WBCPCR has said that the Centre’s order for deportation is against articles 14, 21 and 51 C of the Constitution. It stated: “In the case of NHRC vs Arunachal Pradesh (1996), the court held that ‘our Constitution confers certain rights on every human being and certain other rights on citizens. Every person is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of laws. So, no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Thus, the state is bound to protect the life and liberty of every human being, be he a citizen or otherwise’.”
It added that according to Article 51 C, a Directive Principle of State Policy, international law and treaty obligations must be respected.
The petitioners claimed that despite this, the Home Ministry “has failed to carry out its obligations” to ensure protection of the Rohingya children by proposing to deport them to Myanmar, “where they face serious prosecution”.
“India being a signatory to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)… is clearly bound by Article 22 of UNCRC… cannot deport children in the arbitrary-inhuman manner,” the petition stated.
It added that according to news reports, the children have escaped Myanmar as a result of “violent and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya community”. The 2016 UNHCR report on human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar have noted that security forces and other officials indulge in “summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, including that of women and children, torture, forced labour, severe beating, sexual humiliation and abuse, denial of medical treatment and deaths in custody among others.