Syed Junaid Hashmi

Jammu

A day after President of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Rakesh Gupta openly threatened Rohingya Muslim refugees, fear has gripped the community. The question being loudly asked in the tented locality is: where to go now?

Rohingya kids sitting outside a makeshift camp in Narwal, Jammu.

Though most of the newspapers blacked out the threat hurled in a press conference addressed by President of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Rakesh Gupta but the video of the same has gone viral and reached the Rohingya Muslim refugees living in various parts of Jammu region. Video message has alarmed Rohingya Refugees and some have even begun packing-up but without any idea where to go.

What has worried them is the manner in which tenants, mostly Muslims have at certain places asked them to vacate their land without giving any idea of an alternative place to live. A retired police officer wants three Rohingya Muslim families to vacate his land in Talab Tilloo without assigning any specific reason.

Refugees living in tents 

In Bhagwati Nagar area of Jammu City, 20 to 30 men sneaked into a cluster of the refugee camps and burnt down five huts belonging to five Rohingya refugees namely Zafar Alam S/O Sayed Amin, Noor Islam son of Ulah Meah, Zafar son of Kamrul Hoque, Mamtazul Hoque s/o Noor Mohammed and Ruhul Amin s/o Sultan Ahmed. The refugees living in these huts were first asked to come out and then, beaten with sticks and rods, after which petrol was used to burn down the temporary shelters.

Zafar Alam son of Sayed Amin who was one of the sufferers told Kashmir Life: “We were dragged out, beaten and humiliated. Then our temporary sheds were burnt down.” He said that they lodged a complaint with local police but no action was taken. “We are outsiders. That is the only crime. Being Muslim makes it more difficult,” said Zafar.  He added that two more huts were burnt down in the morning of February 20, 2017 when the refugee families had gone to the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to inform them and seek help from them.

Another incident took place in Kanachak area of Jammu city where police harassed the Rohingya Muslim refugees with a policeman allegedly telling them to vacate on their own or they would be made to run naked out of Jammu. They misbehaved with ladies and left but not without giving them a 48 hour ultimatum to leave the place. This all happened in the last one month and more importantly after the PIL was filed in the High court on February 1, 2017 seeking identification and deportation of the Rohingya Muslim refugees from Jammu and Kashmir.

With the Chamber openly threatening the refugees, their fears have got compounded. A small protest in Muslim dominated Talab Khatikan area was held after the Friday prayers where demand was made to throw out all the refugees living illegally in Jammu and Kashmir led to Police issuing a strict order to find out who led the protest and reprimand him for trying impair communal harmony and vitiate peaceful atmosphere of Jammu by his vitriolic speech.

This has the concurrence of the secular Muslims leaders of Jammu province, said a police official while adding that Rohingya Muslims should not become cause of any major communal flare-up in Jammu. “What have you to do with Rohingyas? They are foreigners. They should be thrown out since they have been thrown out by the country from which they have come. Why do u have sympathy with them?,” is what all this Journalist was told when he began asking a police official about the threat by JCCI and the subsequent action against those who protested.

A Rohingya boy at Narwal, Jammu camp. 

It needs to be mentioned here that the issue of Rohingya started taking political colour after the valley based political parties started expressing concern over the issuance of identity certificates to the West Pakistani refugees, who migrated from Sialkot and other neighbouring belts in 1947 and settled in Jammu. However, these refugees are still neither state subjects nor citizens of India.

Amid all this, the Rohingyas are a worried lot. They have nowhere to go. We had come here to save our lives but now, we are being told mobs will come rampaging to kill us if we do not leave before April 20. We are back to from where we started. And we are unable to understand, why this campaign now against us when for eight long years we did everything to convince people in this state that we were guests and had no intent to get permanently settled here in this part of the world,” said Mohammed Shafi, a 52 year Rohingya Muslim refugee.

“Where will we go?,” Maulana Shafiq, 52, who was among the first batch of refugees to arrive in this city, said, as he caressed his four-year-old daughter near his Juggie. “It is not easy to find a place to live and make a living,” he adds. Shafiq and his family were the first Rohingya Muslims to make Jammu their home in 2009. Shafiq, like most of the Rohingya refugees settled in Jammu, said that he has nothing to do with politics and moved purely for economic reasons.

“We get good wages, the vegetable market is close by, we get the things very cheap, that’s why we prefer to live in Jammu,” said Zahid Hussain. But the rush of Rohingya refugees is now at the centre of a controversy – one that comes at a time when identity certificates for refugees from West Pakistan have sparked a debate.  There are about 1,219 Rohingya (Burmese) families comprising 5,107 members who are staying in Jammu. Nearly all of the refugees live in the Jammu district alone, most of them in Narwal area of the city.

‘Out of the total Rohingya refugees living in Jammu province, 4,912 members are having United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards and 186 members are without the cards,’ said Sayeed. Their children are reportedly being provided education in six Madrasas (Islamic seminaries) in many city areas.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti assures action against JCCI

When asked state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in Islamabad where she was addressing a gathering about the threat of JCCI, she said “all those who will try to take the law into own hands will face action.

However, IGP Jammu Shiv Dev Singh Jamwal told Kashmir Life that no incident of the harassment of refugees has been reported to him. “I am not aware of any such incident. Had any such thing happened, this would have come to my notice since these Rohingya refugees are continuously under surveillance for varied reasons? So there is no reason for me to believe that any such thing happened anywhere in Jammu region,” added Jamwal.

IGP Jammu Shiv Dev Singh Jamwal

“Regarding the refugees, we strictly go by rules and regulations. After having got asylum, we are bound by international conventions,” said Jamwal. He stressed that state has nothing to do with refugees. “It is all in the purview of the Union Ministry of External Affairs. I know only this much and rest, every step would be taken to ensure peace and harmony is not disturbed in Jammu region,” said IG Jammu. He stressed that police is alert and ready to take on any eventuality.

 

 

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