After being stranded for four days in Tripura near the international border of India and Bangladesh, thirty-one Rohingya migrants on Tuesday were arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) and were handed over to Tripura Police.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Abdul Sukkur, one of the Rohingya migrants arrested, said the group came from Jammu and Kashmir to Tripura via train.
“We were trying to cross the border and enter Bangladesh when Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) arrested us and pushed us back. We have been stranded for four days on the border since then. BSF arrested us today,” Sukkur said.
He added that Rohingyas were forced to flee from Jammu-Kashmir. “We were told by people and government at Jammu and Kashmir to vacate their state. We’re trying to enter Bangladesh where my father lives,” he added.
Muhammad Shahjahan, who is also among those arrested, said nearly 2,500 Rohingya families were living in Jammu and Kashmir in the last six years. Most of them entered the Indian territory via Kolkata in the face of severe military onslaught in Rakhine State of Myanmar and worked as construction labourers ever since.
“We have UNHCR refugee cards. The cards were taken away by BGB and BSF personnel. We just want to live safely,” Shahjahan said.
Another Rohingya migrant, Shahjida Begum, said her child has been unwell in the last few days but there was no medication.
Confirming the arrests, Amtali Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Ajay Kumar Das told reporters: “They were sent to a local hospital for medical check up. We shall forward them to the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court. A FIR was registered under Passport Act since they were trying to illegally infiltrate into Indian Territory.”
A BSF Public Relation Officer (PRO) said that the Rohingya migrants came from Myanmar but their journey to the Indo-Bangla border was yet to be ascertained. Meanwhile, Tripura Police has admitted their Jammu origins but denied to confirm it on the grounds of lack of evidence.
Amtali SDPO Ajay Kumar Das said that preliminary interrogation revealed some of the Rohingyas came from Jammu and Kashmir. “Some of them have verbally admitted to have come from Jammu and Kashmir. However, we haven’t obtained any UNHCR refugee cards which are usually issued to Rohingyas living there”, the official said.
In a letter in October, 2017, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered immediate steps to all state governments identify and monitor Rohingya refugee. MHA Joint Secretary Dilip Kumar said in the letter that the Government of India viewed “infiltration” from the Rakhine State of Myanmar into Indian territory as burden on limited resources of the country and claimed it aggravated security challenges to the country.
Myanmar’s military regime stripped Rohingya Muslims of their nationality as per the Burma Citizenship Law, 1982. Since then, many who fled the country were living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Though some tried to return home, the conditions in Rakhine State have not significantly improved. The UNHCR termed the alleged mass killings and burnings Rohingya villages by Myanmarese Army as ‘ethnic cleansing’.