Hyderabad: A few days ago, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Telangana president Bandi Sanjay Kumar shocked everyone with his incendiary comments during his campaign for the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections. Kumar’s statements, while not surprising, seem to be part of a larger Hindutva project, which fits into the BJP’s current narrative.
Kumar indirectly targeted Muslims on two fronts: first by saying that a “surgical strike” should be done on Hyderabad’s Old City, and second, that his party will get rid of Rohingya refugees and Pakistanis from the city. He also alleged that the All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was using the Rohingya refugees for illegal voting.
Busting the BJP’s lies:
First, it must be clarified that the Rohingya Muslim refugees, who are from Myanmar, were in fact allowed to settle in Hyderabad, and also in other cities, by the central government itself about a decade ago. The onus to make them leave, or stay here, is on the central Home ministry and not the state government. The AIMIM, regardless of its politics, was never involved in bringing them here.
Second, the Rohingya refugees are living in India based on refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which are legitimate identification cards that are valid across the world. A coordinator for the UNHCR, who did not want to be quoted, said that there are about 10,000 Rohingyas living in Hyderabad.
“There are 10,000 families or so living here. They have cards from the UNHCR, based on permission from the Centre, to stay here. These refugees have to also apply to the local police for background checks. They can stay here as refugees, for five years, as the UNHCR card is valid,” said the coordinator.
He added that most of the Rohingyas live in areas like Balapur, Royal Colony, Shaheen Nagar, Barkas Salala, and Kishan Bagh, and that they are primarily involved in labour or menial work. In fact, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP, responding to Kumar’s statement, said that if there are illegal immigrants living here then it is a failure of union home minister Amit Shah.
Who are the Rohingyas?
Hailing from the Rakhine state (also known as Arakan) from Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims form a vulnerable ethnic group which has been facing persecution from years. Owing to escalating violence, lakhs of them escaped to other countries, primarily to Bangladesh, which shares a boundary with Myanmar.
As tensions rose between the border, thousands of them came into India as well, and remain stateless. It may be noted that Kumar also spoke to removing illegal Pakistanis from Hyderabad, perhaps out of ignorance about the fact that the Rohingyas are from Myanmar. If he was in fact alleging that Pakistanis are living in Hyderabad’s Old City, then it is the failure of the BJP-led Centre
As far as the Rohingyas are concerned, the refugees are essentially marginalized and stateless. Except for some local NGOs which helped out those who are most vulnerable, like widows and children, the group has been more or less left to fend for itself. The community lives in huts and shanties.