In Retrospect

Life and hell: Citizens without a country

They do not have a country, they do not have an identity – They are the Rohingyas of Burma, living in India. Sayantan Ghosh writes on the plight of the residents of Kalindi Kunj in the Capital .

A narrow muddy road from the main road of Kalindi Kunj, Delhi leads to a small refugee colony with nearly 72 families residing there. They do not have a country. They do not have any identity. They are Rohingyas of Burma, living in India.

The continuous downpour has just stopped and streams of muddy water have made their way to Mohammad Shamim's small shanty, violating his mundane life. The 70-year-old is disappointed because nobody has ever taken any permission from him.
It was a midnight of September 2012, Shamim was asleep beside his grand daughter, Tahmina when suddenly a group of people entered his house breaking down their door. They took Tahmina out of the house, beat up her parents and old Shamim. The next day the family left Burma and set out on foot to reach Bangladesh. But, Bangladesh did not allow them to stay, so after walking for a week they reached in India. Since then it has been four years Shamim and his family are staying in India.
Who are Rohingyas?
Rakhine is a state of Myanmar and it shares the border with Bangladesh. This place is home to nearly 8,00,000 to 1 million Muslims who call themselves Rohingya. Several attacks had taken place in this area by various forces against the Rohingyas. According to reports, the last attack was on October 9, 2016, when nearly 400 armed people attacked this state. Many people died in this fight and significantly the Government blamed the Aqa Mul Mujahideen (Muslim militant organisation). Following this, a huge crackdown started against the Rohingyas.
In Myanmar, the name Rohingya is a taboo and is commonly referred to as "Bengali". The majority religion in the country is Buddhism while these people are followers of Islam. Above all, their language has similarity with Bengali, so it is believed that they should leave Myanmar and stay in Bangladesh. But Rohingyas never agreed to this as they consider Myanmar their country. Subsequently, when the crackdown happened, they approached Bangladesh for shelter. The Bangladesh Government accepted them as refugees but they failed to provide shelter as the state was already brimming over with other refugees and immigrants.
The majority religion, culture and the state rejected the ethnicity of these people subjecting them to regular discrimination and consider them outsiders. But they put up with everything since they believed it to be their country where they have spent a good time sharing their lives with the Buddhists.
"We want to study in schools"
With many other concerns, one of the basic problems the Rohingyas face in Delhi is a lack of proper education. Most of the primary and secondary schools in Delhi ask them to submit proper identity card for admission, which they do not have. They have refugee cards issued by UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Nearly 14,000 Rohingya live in India and about 1,000 of them in Delhi. According to UNHCR officials, through these refugee cards, they are authorized to get the basic education and health facilities in India.
Shafaquat Hassan, a 17-year-old boy who is studying in an open school to appear for +2 level examination says, "I wanted to study at an English medium school but not a single school in Delhi accepted my refugee card." He elaborated that every school asked for voter ID card and father's identity proof. "My father is still in Myanmar and here I have my mother and sister. How will I show my father's ID? Nobody believed me and now I am studying in an open school," he added.
The stories are same at every single jhuggi in Kalindi Kunj. The families do not have money to send their children to private schools and the government schools do not have any procedure to admit these people. Most families ultimately ask their children to stop pursuing education and ask start working, since there is no future for them in higher education.
"What will they do after studying? The schools do not even recognise them and afterwards, they will not get any job. So it is better for them to join work and to help the families here," says Fatima Bibi, Shafaquat's mother. Every day they pray to go back to their own country. The families here are mostly broken and scattered. Some of them do not even know where the other family members are. After coming to India the first challenge they faced was with the language. Their language is very much different from any of the Indian languages even though it has some similarities with the Language of Bangladesh.
"It took a long time to learn Hindi. But there was no alternative," says Shafaquat. This is another reason the schools refuse to take them because they have no knowledge of Hindi or English. So the schools worry that it will be difficult to teach these people. "We will learn the language, I am studying in English and I have also learned Hindi. For education if I need to learn any other language then I will do so," says Shafaquat.
"We do not want to die"
The life of Rohingyas in Delhi are becoming tough every day. The place where they stay has only one hand water pump the other one became non-functional a year back. Even after several complaints, no civic authorities ever came to the place.
The jhuggis do not have any power connection. The most important problem they face is with toilet. There is no place to build up proper toilets there so they put some old cloths to make a separate tent-like for the purpose. The drainage system of the place is so bad that everyday garbage from nearby places chokes the drains and during monsoon, the dirty water comes inside their houses. "We hate monsoon here. Every day we spend our time amidst stinking water. The roads are blocked and it takes one hour to reach the main road," said Nafiz. Last year his wife and daughter spent 16 days in the hospital. He never thought that they will ever survive. His family was not alone, more than half of the refugees suffer from malaria every year.
"I thought they will die. Hospitals were not admitting them but they were unconscious due to high fever. I requested three hospitals to admit them again and again," Nafiz said in a choked voice. He could not speak Hindi fluently and failed to make the doctors understand how desperately he needed their help.
The hospitals in Delhi also do not accept their refugee card. He, like many other people, admitted his family members with the help of some NGOs. "We left our country to live, we do not want to die due to diseases," Nafiz said. The stories are same at every house. Mosquitos breed in the dirty residue water in the area and in monsoon it the breeding increases. The NGOs who work for the betterment of refugees have submitted several letters to the civic authorities for cleaning the place but their requests were rejected every time.
With the memories of past
Now they belong nowhere. They do not have any name here but the tag of refugee. However, in the monsoon session of the Parliament, the Indian Union Ministry has informed that they have made a detailed plan to deport nearly 40,000 Rohingyas staying in India.
As evening crawls down and the sun is about to set, darkness takes over the whole area. Like every dark night without electricity, they will spend another night in the hope of going back to their own country to spend the remaining life with family members and friends.
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