Denting the country's image


Indian media, more particularly TV news channels, are busy in a malicious propaganda campaign against the hapless Muslims of Rohingya—described by the United Nations as the most persecuted people on earth. It is perhaps the most cherished prime time evening news segment for the TV channels to find ‘terror’ connections of Rohingya Muslims. They are linked with “Al-Qaedah and ISIS, trained and supported by Pakistan’. Some tamed experts in these debates come with imaginary arguments to establish their terror connections. One news channel, the other day, tried to connect Rohngya Muslims with HUJI (Harkat-e-Jihand-e-Islami), a Bangladesh-based international militant outfit. The objective of these news channels is not too difficult to understand. By connecting Rohingya Muslims with international terrorism, they are trying to justify the carnage Myanmar army and Buddhist monks and their followers have been carrying out against them. The other objective is to stop the migration of fleeing Rohingyas to Bangladesh and India. It squarely exposes the communal mindset of the Indian media. Rohingya migrants are hated only for communal reasons that they are Muslims. Ironically, this stand of India media is akin to political position of the government on the issue. Indian government, which headed by pro-Hindu BJP, is in, no circumstances, ready to accept yet another foreign Muslim flock on its soil as they are already fed up with the indigenous Muslims population of the country. The Muslim hate in the present dispensation can be understood from the fact that in Assam a Muslim soldier who retired from Indian army as JCO last year was asked to prove that he was an Indian national. Mohammad Azamul Hoque has served Indian army for 30 years. During his service period nobody ever doubted his integrity. But with BJP coming to power in the northern state, the tirade against Muslims (of being illegal Bangladeshi immigrants) has intensified. Many extremist Hindu leaders (who are directly or indirectly associated with the ruling BJP) are on record to have said that they wanted Muslim-free India. The Indian government’s decision to deport Rohingya Muslims who have taken shelter in India in recent time to escape the murderous campaign of Burmese army should be viewed against this backdrop. On August 8, the central government issued an order to all state governments to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingya. Despite the escalation of the crisis after 25 August in Burma when counterinsurgency operations in the Rakhine State have led to large-scale killings, human rights violations, and an exodus of more than a half-million people to Bangladesh, the response of the government has remained obdurate. It has authorised border security forces to use "rude and crude methods" to block infiltrators. A Border Security Force officer recently admitted to media that they had started using chilli sprays and stun grenades. In some states, forcible removal of Rohingya refugees has begun. The stance of the Indian government regarding the Rohingya crisis is a source of consternation, to put it mildly. The central government has decided that ethnic Rohingya who are already in India - around 40,000 - should be deported and others should not be allowed to enter. The government stand is unconstitutional and violative of customary international law. It is biased, discriminatory and conservative. This unlike-India stand is a departure from previous practice and represents an abdication of India's moral and political responsibility as a member of the international community. India's record as far as the principle of non-refoulement is concerned has been fairly good so far. Moreover, India is a signatory to several International Conventions which include, inter alia, the principle of non-refoulement; India is also signatory to the recent "New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants" (dated October 3, 2016) that recognised the rights of refugees to asylum and also affirmed the principle of non-refoulement. But the BJP-led government’s stand of Rohingya crisis has dented India’s image as a responsible nation-state. It is a serious reflection on India, and the present government owes an explanation to the people of the country.