Rohingya refugees in Haryana’s Nuh district have alleged harassment on the part of the police days after a special search operation was carried out at their camps to ensure that “anti-national elements had not taken shelter” there.
Refugees at three camps – Chandeni-2, Saddik Nagar and ward 7 near Jogipur – that The Indian Express visited on Friday said hundreds of policemen arrived for a “verification” drive and searched their houses for at least two to three hours. The police later impounded motorcycles, rehris (carts) and other vehicles from the camps, they said.
Superintendent of police (Nuh) Varun Singla, however, said no one was harassed during the raids. “The raids were conducted as part of a special operation to ensure that no anti-national element had taken shelter in the Rohingya camps. We have a database of all Rohingya refugees and we verified their information. No one was harassed. Over 30 vehicles were seized as they did not have valid documents.”
At the Chandeni-2 camp in Ferozepur Namak, Mohammad Ismail said that on July 26 around 5 am, police personnel arrived and told everyone to assemble outside in a line along with their UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) cards for “verification”.
“We were all asleep when the police knocked on our doors. Bola checking karna hai… thoda darr lag raha tha ki arrest toh nahi kar rahe (The police said it is for checking… We feared that we were being arrested). They took out a list and checked the names and documents of people living here. The police searched each house. Since I came here from Myanmar in 2012, such a raid has happened only twice, but no vehicles were seized previously. I assumed that this was a random checking, but then we got calls from other camps that their camps were also raided the same day,” said Ismail.
“It reminded us of the harassment that we had faced back home,” said Mohammad Rafique, a construction worker at the Chandeni-2 camp.
A person at the camp in ward 7, requesting anonymity, alleged that he was beaten up with a stick by the police. “For hours, they made us stand in the open and we were not allowed to eat anything. I walked to a shop to get some biscuits for my children when a policeman hit me with a stick,” he said, showing his bandaged leg.
At ward 7, Taiyab – who goes by his first name – said around 5.20 am on Tuesday, policemen arrived and made announcements on a mike asking everyone to assemble in an open ground behind the camp. “People were panicking, so they called me and assured me that a verification drive was being conducted. They said they are looking for anti-social elements who may have taken shelter in or infiltrated the camps,” he said.
The police said raids were conducted at Rohingya camps in Shahpur Nangli, Chandeni-1,2, 3, Ferozepur Namak, Saddik Nagar, Punhana, ward 7 near the bus stand, and on Jogipur Road.
The refugees complained that with the police seizing their vehicles, their livelihoods had been affected. “We don’t have any documents apart from the UNHCR card and, hence, we cannot purchase vehicles. People here have bought second-hand vehicles from locals in Nuh so they can sell vegetables or scrap. The police have impounded vehicles citing that we do not have valid documents and we will have to pay hefty fines to get them from the court. My livelihood has been affected. How will my family survive? I have got a challan of Rs 23,000 for a motorcycle that I bought for Rs 8,000,” said Abdul Matlob at the Sadikk Nagar camp, showing a copy of the challan.
SP Singla said they had received many complaints from across the district regarding vehicles plying illegally, especially in the context of illegal mining. “As part of a district-wide operation, we have seized 361 suspected vehicles and challans have been issued to 268 vehicles under the Motor Vehicles Act, while vehicles, including dumper trucks, earth moving machines and others which were used for illegal mining, have been confiscated. There is no link between the raid at the Rohingya camps and the DSP murder investigation,” he said, in an apparent reference to the murder of a Haryana Police DSP who was allegedly mowed down by a truck during a raid to check illegal mining in Nuh.