Plea filed in Supreme Court seeking the release of Rohingya refugees detained at ‘holding centres’ in Jammu

Published : March 12, 2021 16:44 IST

Rohingya refugees during a verification process initiated by the Jammu and Kashmir police outside their makeshift camp on the outskirts of Jammu, on March 9. Photo: PTI

A plea seeking the release of Rohingya refugees who were detained by the Jammu and Kashmir administration and put up temporarily at “holding centres” in Jammu was filed in the Supreme Court on March 11.

Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, both of whom are Rohingya refugees, filed the petition in the court. They are represented by senior advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza.

The petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court to “release the detained Rohingya refugees immediately and direct the Union Territory government and the Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant refugee identification cards through the FRRO for the Rohingyas in the informal camps”.

The application said: “This follows the Union Minister Jitendra Singh’s statements two months ago that the Rohingya (identified as Muslim refugees by the government) would not be able to secure citizenship. These refugees have been illegally detained and jailed in the Jammu sub-jail, which has been converted into a holding centre with the IGP (Jammu) Mukesh Singh stating that they face deportation back to Myanmar following verification by their embassy.”

The petition further pleaded the apex court to issue a direction to the Ministry of Home Affairs to expeditiously grant refugee identification cards through the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for the Rohingya in the informal camps.

The plea argued that there was a need to protect rights guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 21, read with Article 51(c) of the Constitution, against the deportation of Rohingya refugees who fled to India to avoid widespread violence and discrimination against their community in Myanmar, their native country. It pleaded the court to ask the government to refrain from implementing any orders on deporting the Rohingya refugees who have been detained in the sub-jail in Jammu.

On March 6, the Jammu and Kashmir authorities rounded up as many as 168 Rohingya refugees, including women and children, from their makeshift camps/shelters in Jammu.

The Rohingyas are a persecuted community in Myanmar who speak the Bangla language and have been at the receiving end of the Junta regime, which was recently in the news for its military coup. Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by the military regime, did littlle to assuage the Rohingyas’ condition in Myanmar while her party was in power, attracting worldwide condemnation.

A section of the persecuted community entered India illegally through Bangladesh and some of them took shelter in Jammu. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have time and again raised it as an issue in elections, promising to flush the Rohingyas out.

Those rounded up on March 6 have been placed at “holding centres” and it is expected that they would be deported to Myanmar once the necessary formalities are completed.