The right balance

India ought to engage Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis; expelling refugees will diminish its stature on the global stage

By: Editorials | Published: October 18, 2017 1:40 am
Rohingya muslims, rohingya crisis, rohingya deportation, supreme court, SC on Rohingya, Rohingya hearing date, rohingya issue, myanmar, india myanmar, india news, rohingya terrorism, indian express, indian express news India ought to engage Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis; expelling refugees will diminish its stature on the global stage (File)

The Supreme Court’s observation that there is a need to balance human rights with national interest in the Rohingya case, and that there is a case for “holistic” hearings, is most welcome. A comparison with the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees may be useful. Even after the LTTE was banned as a terrorist group in India following the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination, there were several influxes of Sri Lankan Tamils through the Tamil Nadu coast.

They were allowed to enter and register as refugees. Implicit in that was an acknowledgment that all Tamils were not LTTE. No Rohingya currently living in India has been blamed for any terrorist act. Indian security agencies believe the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — Myanmar began referring to it officially as a terrorist group only at the beginning this year’s violence in August — has links with Pakistani jihadi groups, but they have not said the group is operational in India, unlike the LTTE, which was present and operating out of several places in the country.

Adding to the confusion is the term “illegal immigrants”. There are thousands of illegal Indian immigrants in Europe and the US today, but the term cannot be legally or morally applied to people fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine State. If there was no military operation in Rakhine, and Rohingya were flooding India, arguably a case could be made out for using the term, applied usually to those who have crossed international borders without documents, looking for better economic opportunities.

The bone chilling, almost too difficult to read accounts of rape and massacre by the Myanmar security forces are not about people who simply upped and decided to head to India to make a better life. The Rohingya have never had papers as they have been denied citizenship of the country where they lived; they fled to save their lives. Beginning May 2012, there were clashes between Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists, in which thousands of Rohingya had to abandon their burning villages.

The Centre still seems intent on “deporting” the Rohingya. The logistics of this “deportation” are still not clear. But if it means sending more than 40,000 people back into the fires in Rakhine, India, with its high global aspirations, will end up looking very small in the eyes of the world. It would be better off using its good offices with Myanmar to find a solution to this long-festering problem.

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  1. B
    Oct 21, 2017 at 9:28 am
    The article is unclear about what was the Courts opinion and what is the editor's opinion. The opening paragraph clearly seems to be the court's opinion on the matter. I am unsure if the court was concerned about the logistics of the deportation - courts rarely are... (diwali cracker ban!). This seems to be more like the editor passing his opinion as the court's opinion!
    1. R
      Oct 20, 2017 at 1:27 am
      Many points to consider against this editorial. Firstly, the Supreme Court does not have the authority or indeed the right to dictate foreign policy or refugee policy - that is the sole prerogative of the representatives of the PEOPLE of India - ie Legislature and/or Executive. The Judiciary issuing sermons on "balance" and proportion is meaningless as it is neither the Judiciary's job to issue moral sermons nor is it the job of the Judiciary to decide who may be allowed to enter India as a refugee. Compassion cannot be enforced through a writ of the courts and being "incompassionate" is not illegal nor is putting the interests of India first. Secondly, the attempt to compare the Rohingyas with the LTTE is false and spurious. The LTTE were not a group that posed a threat/danger to the Union of India - their conflict was with the Sri Lankan state. Further, the people of Tamil Nadu were eager to help their fellow tamils in Sri Lanka and volunteered to offer them sanctuary.
      1. Anil Bharali
        Oct 18, 2017 at 8:08 am
        MI6 and CIA design of mass migration is creating dilemma to pro-colonial humanists. White racist are superior in intelligent design.
        1. H
          Oct 19, 2017 at 5:04 am
          May be but don't be stupid. India should encourage Mayanmar Rohingas to start dialogue. May be it is time for Rohingas to become Maynmaris again and become Buddhist again. Secu, After all Islam is there due to colonial rule. Hindus Sikhs left behind by Nehru dynasty in Pakistan became Muslims, so why should it be different for Muslims?