'Rohingyas are refugees, not illegal immigrants'
New Delhi: A Rohingya petitioner has told the Supreme Court that they are not illegal immigrants but refugees who fled Myanmar and came to India for shelter in the wake of their persecution on the grounds of their religion and community identity and are entitled to all protection under the international conventions on refugees and treaties.
Contesting the Union Government's stand that they enjoy no protection under the Indian Constitution as they are foreign nationals, Rohingya refugee Mohammad Salimullah, who has moved the top court seeking its protection from being deported, observed that protection under Article 14 — guaranteeing equality before law — and Article 21 — guaranteeing protection of life and liberty — is available to both Indian citizens and non-citizens alike.
In his rejoinder to the Centre's affidavit, he said, "The Rohingyas are not involved in any act of militancy. They are a fleeing persecuted ethnic minority whose only claim is to peaceful asylum. Any individual case of involvement in militancy may be dealt with by the governmental in accordance with the law of the land... there cannot be a general assumption that the entire Rohingya community in India is involved in militancy related activities."
Denying the Central Government's assertion that some of the Rohingyas were involved with ISI/ ISIS, Salimullah described this as a "mere assumption" and, in this context, referred to the concern expressed by the UNHCR that "States may be inclined to expel groups or individuals based on religious, ethnic or national origin or political affiliation, on mere assumption that they may be involved in terrorism".
Arguing that there cannot be any blanket restriction on the movement of Rohingya or their deportation, Salimullah said that " it is clear that these Rohingya are helpless and have fled prosecution in their home country and cannot, thus, be sent back to the place where they fear bodily harm or threat to their lives".
Deportation of Rohingyas, the rejoinder said, would be a complete violation of their human rights and India's commitment to international law on refugees. On October 3 the Supreme Court will hear the plea by Salimullah challenging the Government's move to deport Rohingyas.
The Centre has already told the apex court that the decision is entirely within the domain of the government and that the SC should keep off it as it has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter.