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Hindus fleeing Myanmar violence hope for shelter in India

Nearly 500 people are sheltered in a cleared-out chicken farm in a Hindu hamlet in Bangladesh's southeast, a couple of miles from where most of the 421,000 Rohingya Muslims who have also fled violence in Myanmar since August 25 are living in makeshift camps.

By: Reuters | New Delhi | Published: September 20, 2017 2:20 pm
Myanmar hindus, Myanmar hindu population, Myanmar crisis, Myanmar violence, Rohingya violence The Hindu refugees say they are scared of going back to their villages in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, but also wary of staying in mostly Muslim Bangladesh. (Google maps)

Caught in the crossfire between Myanmar’s military and Rohingya insurgents, hundreds of Hindus who have fled to Bangladesh are placing their hopes on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nearly 500 people are sheltered in a cleared-out chicken farm in a Hindu hamlet in Bangladesh’s southeast, a couple of miles from where most of the 421,000 Rohingya Muslims who have also fled violence in Myanmar since August 25 are living in makeshift camps.

The Hindu refugees say they are scared of going back to their villages in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, but also wary of staying in mostly Muslim Bangladesh. Modi government, meanwhile, is making it easier for Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and other minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan to gain citizenship in India.

“India is also known as Hindustan, the land of the Hindus,” said Niranjan Rudra, sitting on a plastic sheet in the chicken farm flanked by his wife. “We just want a peaceful life in India, not much. We may not get that in Myanmar or here,” he said. Fellow refugees nodded in agreement, stating that they wanted the message to reach the Indian government through the media.

The Indian government declined to comment on the Hindu refugees’ hopes. A government source said it was waiting while the Supreme Court hears an appeal against the home ministry’s plans to deport around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country.

But Achintya Biswas, a senior member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said India was the natural destination for the Hindus fleeing Myanmar. “Hindu families must be allowed to enter India by the government,” Biswas said by phone. “Where else will they go? This is their place of origin.”

Biswas said the VHP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would submit a report to the home ministry on the refugees and demand a new policy allowing Hindus from Myanmar and Bangladesh to seek asylum in India.

India’s Home Ministry spokesman K S Dhatwalia declined to comment. A senior home ministry official in New Delhi, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that no Hindu in Myanmar or Bangladesh affected by the violence had approached Indian authorities.

“At this juncture we have no SOS calls from Hindus,” said the official. “Also, the Supreme Court is yet to decide whether India should deport Rohingya Muslims or not. The matter is sub-judice and any policy decision will be taken only after the court’s order.”

“WANT TO FEEL SAFE”

Hindus make up a small but long-standing minority in both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Refugee Rudra, a barber from Myanmar’s Thit Tone Nar Gwa Son village, showed Reuters what he said was a temporary citizenship card issued in 1978 by the authorities there. The card listed his race as “Indian” and religion as “Hindu”.

Rudra and other Hindu refugees said they had fled soon after Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 Myanmar police posts, triggering a fierce military counteroffensive.

Since then, rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population, leaving many villages in northern Rakhine empty.

“Our village in Myanmar was surrounded by hundreds of men in black masks on the morning of Aug. 25,” said Veena Sheel, a mother-of-two whose husband works in Malaysia.

“They called some men out and asked them to fight the security forces … a few hours after we heard gunshots.”

Sheel left the next day with eight other women and their families, walking for two days to reach Bangladesh.

“There are so many people all around us. No peace here, no peace back in Myanmar,” said Sheel. “We should be taken to Hindustan, that’s our land. Wherever we stay, we want to feel safe.”

Since taking office in 2014, Modi government has issued orders stating that no Hindu or member of another minority from Pakistan or Bangladesh would be considered an illegal immigrant even if they entered the country without valid documents on or before December 31, 2014.

It also plans to nearly halve to six years the period Hindus, Christians and other minorities from those countries need to have lived in India to be granted citizenship by naturalisation.

“We are regularising only those who have come due to religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan,” junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told Reuters last month, adding that there was no policy on refugees from Myanmar.

It will not be easy for secular India to accept the Myanmar Hindu refugees’ demand while the government is pushing for the deportation of Rohingya Muslims.

Modi’s government has already been criticised by activists for not speaking out against Myanmar’s military offensive, and accused of vilifying the Rohingya in the country to seek legal clearance for their deportation.

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  1. Zakir Husaien
    Sep 21, 2017 at 3:56 pm
    Citizenship to Hindus, Budhist and Christian minorities are offered by PM Modi. You didn't mentioned the Muslims! Are they in "other" minorities? Thats the Modis Secular India exceptionally excluded Muslims.
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    1. J
      John Ho
      Sep 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm
      No.
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      1. S
        Singhania
        Sep 20, 2017 at 7:28 pm
        Hindus and Buddhists both are part of "United Hinduism", Lord Buddha was a Hindu Prince, these problem is due to rohniya muslims. Myanmar Hindus are welcome in India, Myanmar Buddhists are welcome in India.
        (6)(1)
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        1. S
          sagar
          Sep 20, 2017 at 7:06 pm
          India should send peacekeeping force without delay like we did in Sri Lanka. We cannot be silent to witness this genocide.
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          1. R
            RR
            Sep 20, 2017 at 5:41 pm
            Why just Hindu Rohangiyas? Give shelter and refuge to all rohangiyas, but with a condition that they quit Islam and convert to any other religion on their wish. Islam can never be trusted. Already u can see how support frm terror organizations and kashmiri separatists is emerging for Rohangiya muslims so that they could swell their population and enhance redical islam. Govt must give a window to Rohgangiyas to settle in ndia on the condition of converting away from Islam. Islam is a world outcasted religion, religion of devils and evils.
            (5)(3)
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              Ni2
              Sep 20, 2017 at 5:44 pm
              They should ALL except that they are Dalits and no one should touch them. Bhagwat Mata Ki jai.
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              1. Zakir Husaien
                Sep 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm
                You're gone mad you rascal! When you feel very comfortable in Dubai's corporate life! When you make your days meal working in gulf countries, its ok. When it comes to supporting a Muslim community then you can't trust a Muslim brother! Go to hell. You're unfit for modern society.
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