India deports 7 Rohingya as SC refuses to intervene

Police personnel seen around the India Myanmar border. Image courtsey Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

India's top court on Thursday allowed the first deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar since the federal government ordered their identification previous year. "They were found to be illegal immigrants and their country of origin Myanmar has recognised them as Myanmar citizens", CJI Gogoi said.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, that "the action with respect to the seven individuals is taken in accordance with law as an administrative decision involving diplomatic and other considerations including an overwhelming consideration of national interest".

The illegal immigrants were detained in 2012 and since then they were lodged in Cachar Central Jail in Assam's Silchar. In 2016, the seven Rohingya wrote to the Myanmar embassy via the Silchar district magistrate and the foreign ministry requesting the Myanmar government to issue travel documents to facilitate their return.

The Rohingya approached the Supreme Court after India's junior home affairs minister, Kiren Rijiju, told parliament a year ago that state governments had been asked to identify and deport people who entered the country illegally, including Rohingya.

The deportation came after a last-ditch effort by advocate Prashant Bhushan for an urgent hearing of a PIL in the Supreme Court to restrain the government from deporting Rohingya refugees failed.

The Myanmar diplomats have affirmed the identity of the seven Rohingya immigrants and have given them access to be deported from India. They were bussed to the border yesterday to be deported. Around 700,00 Rohingyas fled from Myanmar and illegally took shelter in the nearby countries, mostly taking refuge in the Cox Bazar of Bangladesh.

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When the bench headed dismissed Bhushan's plea, the lawyer said this court must realise its responsibility to protect right to life of Rohingyas, reported Times of India.

The refugees, almost 7 lakh according to United Nations agencies, are living in camps in Bangladesh, but some did cross over into India also.

The UN special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said India risked breaching its global legal obligations by returning the men to possible harm. This is the first deportation of Rohingya immigrants from India to Myanmar.

The Rohingyas, who fled to India after violence in the Western Rakhine State of Myanmar, are settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR and Rajasthan.

On August 2017, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 24 police posts in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar, followed by which the military of Myanmar cracked down on the Rohingya Muslims. It had also asked state governments to identify and deport them.

UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said in a statement, "The Indian Government has an global legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalised discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection".

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