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Last Updated Sunday April 22 2018 12:14 PM IST

Hindu refugees from Myanmar look up to Modi for rescue in Bangladesh

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Myanmar Rohingyas Hindu refugees from Myanmar look up to Modi for rescue in Bangladesh: Photo | Reuters

Kutupalong, Bangladesh/New Delhi: Modi may soon have a new crisis in hand, all the way from Myanmar via Bangladesh.

Caught in the crossfire between Myanmar's military and Rohingya insurgents, hundreds of Hindus who have fled to Bangladesh are pegging their hopes on the BJP government of prime minister Narendra Modi for refuge.

Nearly 500 have been sheltered in a cleared-out chicken farm in a Hindu hamlet in Bangladesh's southeast, a couple of miles from where most of the 4,21,000 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 are also wary of staying in the mostly-Muslim Bangladesh.

ROHINGYAS The Hindus who escaped the violence in Myanmar have taken shelter in Bangladesh and are seeking entry into India: Reuters.

Modi's refugee policy

Modi's government, meanwhile, has been 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, one of them, sitting on a plastic sheet in the chicken farm flanked by his wife, sporting a large vermilion dot on her forehead typical of married Hindu women.

"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, caught in a whammy with its affidavit against the Rohingyas in the supreme court, 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.

Rohingya Thousands have taken shelter in India following the ethnic violence in Myanmar: Photo | Reuters.

VHP asks where else can Hindu's go?

But Achintya Biswas, a senior member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), with considerable influence over the ruling dispensation said India was the natural destination for the Hindus fleeing Myanmar.

"Hindu families must be allowed to enter India," Biswas said by phone. "Where else will they go? This is their place of origin."

Biswas said the VHP and RSS, 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.

The Hindu right who form the bedrock of Modi's support have long believed India is the home for all Hindus. India's Home Ministry spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia declined to comment.

Rohingyas The center submitted in the supreme court that the Rohingyas must be deported back as they could emerge as a security threat: Photo | Reuters

Goverment pleads ignorance  

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."

Rohingyas Thousands have ran for shelter after the Myanmar army and Rakhine Buddhists started arson and murder in the Muslim villages: Photo | Reuters

“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 counter offensive.

Since then, rights monitors and fleeing Rohingyas said 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."

Rohingyas Thousands fled violence with nothing more than their life: Photo | Reuters

Villagers recount horror

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 later 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."

Narendra Modi The Indian PM has made the rules easier for the minorities in Bangladesh and Pakistan to come to India: File photo

Who is an illegal migrants in Modi's land

Since taking office in 2014, Modi's 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 Dec. 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 naturalization.

"We are regularizing only those who have come due to religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan," junior home minister Kiren Rijju told Reuters in August, 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 criticized by activists for not speaking out against Myanmar's military offensive, and accused for vilifying the Rohingyas in the country to seek legal clearance for their deportation.

Read more at: Latest in World | Modi, Trump came to power because of unemployment: Rahul Gandhi

The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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