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Recent Deportation of Rohingyas Leads To Refugees In India To Flee

The government in India's northeastern state of Assam announced that it was preparing to deport another batch of 23 detained Rohingya

Hindu nationalist groups put up this billboard in north Indian city of Jammu last year threatening the local Rohingya refugees to leave the region. VOA

India ‘s recent deportation of seven Rohingya men to Myanmar has triggered a panic among the country’s Rohingya Muslim refugee community.

Since the seven men were deported in the past three weeks, many Rohingya refugees have gone underground in India and some others have crossed over to Bangladesh, fearing that they could be arrested, jailed or returned to Myanmar.

“After [some people] set fire to our camp in [the north Indian state of] Haryana, three times we fled to West Bengal. We lived peacefully in West Bengal for seven months. After Indian authorities deported seven Rohingyas to Myanmar we got scared. We began fearing that they could even deport us,” said Abdul Goni, 29, who two weeks ago fled a Rohingya refugee camp in West Bengal and is hiding with his wife and three children at an unidentified location in southern India.

The seven Rohingya men to be deported sit as Indian and Myanmar security officials exchange documents before their deportation on India-Myanmar border at Moreh in the northeastern state of Manipur, India.VOA

“From Haryana, we were around 350 Rohingyas who fled to West Bengal. After the deportation of those seven men we have all fled the West Bengal camp. Some crossed over to Bangladesh. Others have fled to Jammu, Haryana and other places [in India]. I too have moved to another part of India where I am living in hiding now.”

The Indian Home Ministry, which handles the issue or refugees, declined to comment for this story.

Forced to flee

Facing discrimination and violence in Myanmar, minority Rohingya Muslims have for decades fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries, including India.

Currently, approximately 40,000 Rohingya refugees live in different locations across India. About 18,000 are registered with the office of the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Stateless, Rohingyas have no way to travel to any country legally and their status as refugees is not always recognized. India did not sign the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, and thus treats all Rohingyas entering the country as illegal immigrants.

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

India has jailed some Rohingyas. The UNHCR estimates more than 200 Rohingya are in Indian jails after being arrested and charged for illegal entry. Rights groups say that figure is at least 500.

The UNHCR issues identity cards to registered refugees to help prevent their arbitrary arrest, detention and deportation. But after the seven men were deported to Myanmar earlier this month, many Rohingyas in India say they fear deportation despite holding UNHCR ID cards.

Among the Rohingyas who have gone in hiding in India or fled to Bangladesh in the past few weeks, many are UNHCR card holders, said Mohammad Junaid, a Rohingya community leader in Bangladesh.

“I know of over 100 Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh from India in the past weeks. Around 75 percent of them held refugee ID cards issued by the UNHCR Delhi. Yet, they crossed over to Bangladesh because they felt the cards could not protect them from actions by the Indian authorities,” Junaid told VOA.

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya women and children in an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal. VOA

Cheryl D’Souza, member of a Delhi-based legal rights activist group fighting for the rights of the refugees, also said the Rohingyas are anxious about their future in India despite holding the UNHCR cards.

“While those who have been granted refugee cards and protection by UNHCR cannot be arrested, the panic among the Rohingya regarding arrest by the Indian authorities stems from the complete denial by the government of recognizing the Rohingya as a refugee community in India that is in need of protection and the deliberate terming of them as illegal immigrants to buttress their claims in court for their expulsion,” D’Souza told VOA.

Anti-Rohingya sentiment

Rohingya refugees have lived in India peacefully for many years. But sentiment against the Muslim minority group has been surging in predominantly Hindu India after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power following a massive election victory in 2014.

Last year in the north Indian city of Jammu, local BJP leaders began a campaign demanding all Rohingya be expelled from the area. The BJP-led Indian federal government subsequently ordered all states to identify and deport all Rohingya Muslims from the country.

Two weeks ago, the government in India’s northeastern state of Assam announced that it was preparing to deport another batch of 23 detained Rohingya that officials described as “illegal immigrants” to Myanmar.

Rohingya, India
A man from the Rohingya community fills out an identification form provided by local police inside his shop at a camp in New Delhi. VOA

Legal rights activist Prashant Bhushan, who is fighting against the deportation of the Rohingya refugees in India, insists that no Rohingya should be deported to Myanmar.

“A fact finding report by the United Nations Human Rights Council has concluded that [the] Myanmarese military have been responsible for committing crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. Various other international organizations have warned that conditions are not conducive for the safe return of Rohingya refugees who have been subjected to torture and detained on repatriation. It is in this context that we are opposing the deportation of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar,” said Bhushan.

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya children and a woman at an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal. VOA

“Refoulement of the seven men to Myanmar was in grave violation of India’s international obligations. The principle of non-refoulement is [indeed] binding on India. It is enshrined in various conventions that India has ratified, such as the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the Convention on Rights of the Child,” he said.

Myanmar’s government has consistently denied allegations that its troops have committed atrocities against the Rohingya.

Altaf Hossen, a Rohingya who fled a camp in West Bengal two weeks ago and crossed over to Bangladesh, said he made a wise decision by leaving India.

Also Read: Rohingya Influs is a Threat To Common Security Of The Entire Region

“Hindu majority India is growing hostile for Muslim Rohingya refugees. We were facing violence. We held UNHCR cards. Yet, we faced threats of being deported to Myanmar,” Hossen told VOA. “India is unsafe for all Rohingyas. All Rohingyas should leave India for Bangladesh or other countries.” (VOA)

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India: Sugar Mills, Distilleries under The Scanner of Special Task Force of UP Police for Links with Hooch Syndicates

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol

India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

As more than a hundred people died in ‘poisonous hooch’ tragedies in Uttar Pradesh during the past one year, a few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Working round the clock to bust ‘killer syndicates’ supplying cheap industrial alcohol to bootleggers and gangs involved in manufacturing of illicit liquor, STF has seized more than 10,000 litres of rectified spirit in raids across the state in the past one month.

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol and is usually used in manufacturing of paints, fragrance, printing ink and coating. As it is cheaper, the liquor syndicates get it smuggled from distilled ethanol manufacturing units. On June 16, STF seized 5,750 litres of rectified spirit (high concentration alcohol) from the possession of a big time crime syndicate active in Lucknow and Kanpur.

The STF rounded up the kingpin, Suraj Lal Yadav, along with six other members of the gang. During interrogation it was discovered that Yadav was well-connected with some distilleries in Haryana. Large quantities of industrial alcohol was smuggled out of Haryana and pushed into hooch manufacturing dens in UP.

Concerned about frequents deaths in UP due to consumption of poisonous hooch, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a statewide crackdown on illicit liquor manufacturing gangs after 21 people died in a hooch tragedy in Barabanki two months ago. The STF, considered the state’s premiere crime busting agency, subsequently geared up to intercept scores of tankers and private vehicles being pushed into UP from Delhi and Haryana.

India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

“The syndicate involved in smuggling of rectified spirit has spread its tentacles in the state. Even murders have taken place in disputes relating to the smuggling. But our raiding parties are determined to bust the gangs. Innumerable cases have been registered by us in the past one-and-a-half years,” said Amitabh Yash, Inspector General(IG) of STF.

Even though the STF, after rounding up the accused handed over the investigation of the case to the district police, the agency is said to have the most precise data on organised crime in North India.

“We seldom investigate the cases as it involves prolonged court work, so our main aim is focused on cracking heinous crimes, particularly organised by crime syndicates. At the moment, gangs involved in illicit trade of hooch are our target,” said Amitabh Yash, known for his skills in dealing with underworld operations and syndicate crimes. When asked whether a few officials of the excise department and a couple of distilleries could be linked with smugglers of rectified spirit, the IG said a report was given in this connection to the government.

While high excise duty makes liquor expensive, hooch, on the other hand, is available for less than Rs 20 per bottle. At places the rates are less than even Rs 10 per liter. A report, in connection with the Saharanpur hooch tragedy in February 2019 which took the lives of over 50 people, reveals that the quantity of rectified spirit mixed in the drink was so high that it had the effect of poison.

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The report says that rectified spirit was smuggled by criminal gangs which were hand-in-glove with local authorities.

“The gangs have links in distilleries and chemical factories from where industrial alcohol is smuggled out at a very cheap price. It is later re-packed in drums and transported to hideouts of manufacturers (of illicit liquor),” said a source in the police.

With widespread sale of hooch across UP, CM Yogi Adityanath has instructed DGP O.P. Singh to take stringent measures against the culprits and ensure that police secures conviction of those accused who are put on trial in cases of hooch smuggling or hooch-related deaths. (IANS)