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Jat demonstration turns Haryana into a War Zone

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Rohtak: Shops and malls looted, market areas devastated; Haryana’s Rohtak town turned into a ghost town in mere three days. With Jat people’s demonstration for reservation in government jobs and academic institutes, the area resembles a war zone as troops and security forces patrol the area.

Be it the markets in Rohtak, located just 75 km from national capital Delhi, or Jhajjar or Bhiwani, or buildings and roadways buses in the violence-hit areas of Haryana, everything looks like they are in a war zone.

“The losses of traders and businessmen could run into hundreds of crores due to this mindless violence. This is no way to seek reservation in a democratic set up. There is hardly any sign of Haryana Police in the last one week. The government has abandoned people to fend for themselves,” Rohtak-based trader Rakesh Gupta told reporters.

Despite the army deployment in eight districts – Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Hisar, Jind, Kaithal, Sonipat and Panipat – and curfew imposed in five of them, unruly mobs have been on the rampage in several areas, especially in Rohtak and Jhajjar towns.

With hundreds of Jat youths taking control of the agitation and indulging in arson and looting, the focus of the Jat agitation, which was to demand reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, has led to the mindless destruction of government and private property.

“In Rohtak town, despite the army, the mobs looted several shops and set them on fire. No one stopped the mobs. There is total anarchy. We are stuck in our houses for four days. Our food supplies are finishing fast,” said Sarita Kumari, a housewife in Rohtak’s Civil Lines area.

Hooligans, who have joined the ranks of Jat demonstrators, have run amok by setting government and private property on fire, burning buses and private vehicles, blocking roads and highways, disrupting trains and uprooting tracks and indulging in looting and arson.

Be it police stations at some places, isolated railway stations, state transport buses and private vehicles and even railway coaches – immovable and movable property have been torched and damaged at several places.

With people in affected areas accusing the Haryana Police of inaction in the past one week, the state government is on the backfoot.

“A large number of police officials and personnel are from the Jat community. Many are refusing to act against the Jats since it is an emotional matter for them. The police is divided on this matter,” said a senior Haryana Police official told reporters in Chandigarh.

Haryana Home Secretary PK Dass said the police was being asked to control the situation.

“We have been conveyed the apprehension of Jat officials on taking action. We have issued strict directions to all officials. If they refuse to do so, they will face action,” Mr Dass told the media on Sunday.

Demonstrators uprooted the Delhi-Ambala railway track at Rajlu Garhi in Panipat district, disrupting the crucial rail line which connects Delhi with north India.

The NH-1 was blocked in Sonipat district, 50 km from Delhi, stranding thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles on the busy highway. (IANS)

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Violence And Intimidation Directed Towards Rohingyas In Bangladesh Camps

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies.

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Rohingya, Violence
Rohingya refugees carry a hume pipe in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

The failed attempt to send thousands of Rohingya back to Myanmar starting this month has drawn attention to alleged violence and intimidation by security forces against members of the Muslim minority living in Bangladesh’s sprawling refugee camps.

Bangladesh has boosted its international reputation by hosting more than 730,000 Rohingya who fled a vicious campaign by Myanmar’s military last year that U.N. investigators have labelled genocide – an accusation Myanmar has consistently denied.

But Bangladesh appears keen to demonstrate that Rohingya refugees will not be welcome there indefinitely. The planned repatriations sparked fear and chaos last week as Rohingya went into hiding – and in a handful of reported cases attempted suicide – to avoid being sent back.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Meanwhile, allegations of sporadic beatings, looting and intimidation by Bangladeshi soldiers, police and camp officials have underscored the bleak conditions faced by Rohingya in their host country, where most are denied official refugee status and face restrictions on freedom of movement.

The repatriation of some 2,000 refugees was scheduled to begin last Thursday, but Bangladesh has now put the plans on hold until next year after failing to find any Rohingya willing to go back.

Rohingya in the camps have told VOA that soldiers were stationed near the homes of those who were told they would be sent back last week, fueling fears of forced repatriation and adding to widespread distress in communities already suffering extreme trauma after last year’s violence.

One Rohingya man told VOA anonymously that block leaders in the camps were also “announcing with loudspeakers… that it’s essential for everyone to carry ID with them whenever and wherever they go if they leave their homes.”

Late last month, security forces looted property from Rohingya shopkeepers at the Balukhali camp, said John Quinley, a human rights specialist with the non-profit organization Fortify Rights.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

“Right now the security forces are operating in the camps with total impunity,” he said.

In another case earlier this month, Fortify Rights reported that security forces rounded up 18 Rohingya leaders and slapped and hit some of them while telling them to instruct other refugees to cooperate with a new U.N.-backed project to provide them with “smart cards.”

Many Rohingya oppose the identity cards because they fear the information on them will be shared with the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh’s refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, Abul Kalam, told VOA he was unaware of the allegations of violence but would follow up. “Generally, it is not acceptable that someone would apply force on or beat someone to do or not to do something,” he said.

Quinley called on the U.N.’s refugee agency to “do everything in their power to make sure that the Bangladeshi authorities are respecting human rights.”

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Spokesperson Caroline Gluck said the agency has notified the authorities of a “small number” of reports of violence related to the smart card project. The agency has “been following up with them to ascertain the circumstances of what happened,” she told VOA.

Officials have responded that the incidents were “not linked” to the smart card project, she said.

She added, “The new ID card will enable refugees to be better protected and will streamline access to assistance and services.”

Mohammed Sheikh Anwar, a Rohingya activist, told VOA the Bangladeshi government “needs to keep the lower-level authorities in check. There should be an accountability measure.”

“Committing violence against genocide survivors to make them agree to the authorities’ terms is not the solution,” he added.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
A Rohingya refugee woman draws water from a hand pump at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India.

Last week a Rohingya man named Ata Ullah said he was beaten at the office of an official at the Chakmarkul camp, the Guardian reported, after he failed to provide the official with a list of refugees.

Ata Ullah said in a video circulated on social media that when he couldn’t provide the official with a list he “was beaten with a large stick… they stepped on my neck, I could not stand it.”

Also Read: Bangladesh Government Build a New Rohingya Camp

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies and Rohingya refugees to “create any structures, infrastructure, or policies that suggest permanency.”

As a result, the report said, “refugee children do not go to school, but rather to ‘temporary learning centers,’ where ‘facilitators,’ not ‘teachers,’ preside over the classrooms. The learning centers are inadequate, only providing about two hours of instruction a day,” the report said. (VOA)