Kyaw Min alias Sabbir was 17 when he crossed the India-Bangladesh border in Binapur. With Rs 43,000, which he had saved while living in Bangladesh for over two years, Sabbir’s destination of choice was Mumbai. “I had grown up watching Hindi movies starring Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. For the 15 days that I was in Mumbai, I went looking for locations where they might be shooting. I had also heard that India was a great democracy and wanted to come here,” said Sabbir.
On Tuesday morning, Sabbir stood in the heart of Delhi — a country that does not want him or any of at least 16,500 Rohingyas living in across various cities — protesting. Hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to reach Myanmar, Sabbir and several other Rohingyas residing in the capital gathered at Jantar Mantar and demanded that “genocide against Rohingyas in Myanmar” be stopped.
Sabbir last spoke to his sister a few months ago, when the fresh round of violence hit the northern state of Rakhine in Myanmar. “She got married around a year ago and had a child recently. She was crying on the phone, asking me to save them. I did not know what to say. I came here in 2005 but my parents and eight siblings still live there,” he said, adding that his elder son had recently asked him if he could stay back in Delhi since he was born here.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told reporters that Rohingyas “were illegal immigrants” and “they stand to be deported”.
But ahead of Rijiju’s statements, Ali Jauhar, another Rohingya, who was part of the protest, said, “The Myanmar government is headed by a Nobel Peace Prize recipient but violence continues there; human rights are being violated. International organisations maintain that 1,000 people are feared dead but we do not know if these estimates are true. The Indian government should speak out against the genocide there. If they send us back, the government will kill us within a few months, if not by guns then by stopping access to healthcare, education and other basic amenities.”
Alleging that since August 25, “the Myanmar military and forces have been indiscriminately killing Rohingyas, torturing and plundering their homes and villages”, the group claimed to have approached the Indian government on the issue.
“The UN investigation team should be allowed to probe in Arakan. They should allow aid workers and international media to work freely in Burma. Around two lakh Rohingyas are suspected to have crossed the border to enter Bangladesh to escape the humanitarian disaster. There is an acute shortage of food, medicine and other essentials,” said Sabbir.