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Refugees in India Looming For Basic Rights: Here Is Why India Needs Refugee Law!

Despite being provided with the security by GOI, refugees still strive for livelihood in India as there are minimum laws to protect refugees in the country

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Crisis of Refugees in India
ECHO-funded projects provide extra support to students in the camps who have dropped out of school to help them continue their studies. Wikimedia
  • The dilemma of Refugees in India is nothing dissimilar to that of the world, denied the basic rights, they still struggle for livelihood
  • According to International law, A refugee is a person forced to leave his/her country in order to escape war, persecution or a Natural Disaster.
  • Those who suffer harassment on account of race, nationality, religion are also called Asylum seekers
  • The cornerstone reasons of ‘Refugee Crises’ are war, domestic conflict, natural disasters, environmental displacement, human trafficking and climate change

– by Naina Mishra

June 22, 2017:

As many as there are refugees in India, the status of the growing refugees is substantially poorer followed by a dearth of basic needs such as education, livelihood, sanitation, and health.

BACKGROUND

Refugee at Balloki, Kasur during the partition of India. Wikimedia

The partition era witnessed an exodus of people from one land to another owing to the formation of two different nations – India and Pakistan. The birth of the Independent India is also seen as one of the massive violent instances in the history of migration. UNHCR reported that 14 million people more have migrated at the time of partition as Hindus and Sikh moved to India and Muslims moved to Pakistan. The trauma can be ascribed synonymous to impact of First World War in Britain and Second World War for Japan.

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The trauma was described synonymously to impact of First World War in Britain and Second World War for Japan by Historian Gyanendra as reported by Indian Express.

The refugees who left their property, houses, and families in the pursuit of better living in India have faced bigotry here as well.

According to 1951 census report, 7.249 million Hindus and Sikhs (and very small numbers of Muslims) were obligated to move to India from Pakistan directly after partition.

Existing Situation of Refugees

There are millions of refugees in India from different parts of the world. Nearly twenty-five thousand refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine stay in miserable condition in Delhi. Deprived of the legal framework, these refugees in India have only the UNHCR card as their only identity in India.

In addition to this, India still remains non-signatory to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, which help define the legal obligation of states to protect refugees. The World Refugee Survey by US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reports the number of refugees in India to be 456,000. However, the numbers of refugees who have registered with UNHCR are about 200,000.

The populace of India is broadly divided into Indian Nationals and foreigners. All the refugees are housed under foreigners, and hence there is no differentiation between Illegal migrant and Asylum speaker as defined by the section 2A of Indian Foreigners Act. In the absence of a specific refugee law, refugees are fundamentally protected under the Constitution of India only.

Submerging Cultural Identity of Tibetans

A Tibetan Buddhist monastery Hunsur, Karnataka, India. Wikimedia

India has observed an exodus of more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees over the last 50 years following the 14th Dalai Lama footsteps. Nehru agreed to provide assistance to Tibetan refugees believing that they will soon make a return to their land. Now, the Tibetan Diaspora maintains a government in exile in Himachal Pradesh. Migration of people from Tibet in India is a serious concern as it poses threat to their identity and culture.

Lost Paradise of Kashmiri Pandits

The Maharani of Kashmir gives charitable help to Kashmiri refugees in Delhi, 1948; a news photo. Wikimedia

Caught up in the armed resistance to Indian rule broke out in the Kashmir valley in 1989, the Hindus of Kashmir – Kashmiri Pandits who lived there for centuries were forced to leave their homeland.

On being asked by BBC to an old man the reason behind leaving Kashmir, he replied “Our people were killed. I saw a girl tortured with cigarette butts. Another man had his eyes pulled out and his body hung on a tree. The armed separatists used a chainsaw to cut our bodies into pieces. It wasn’t just the killing but the way they tortured and killed.”

Many refugees in Jammu are living in abject conditions in refugee camps.

Struggle of Bangladesh between East and West 

Bangladesh Refugee. Wikimedia

At the time of Independence, Bengal was partitioned into India West Bengal and Pakistan East Bengal. Pakistan faced political disturbance right from its inception, which resulted in disintegration and emergence of Bangladesh liberation war of 1971. The brutal oppression of Pakistani Army upon the supporters of Independence of Bangladesh led to an exodus of refugees from East Pakistan to India.

The year 2001 saw many Bangladeshi Hindu families crossing the border into India to escape repression in Bangladesh.

Desire for Belongingness: Pakistan Hindu Refugees

A convoy of evacuees of India from West Pakistan in 1947. Wikimedia

There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in many Indian cities including Surat, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Bikaner. The year 2011 witnessed influx of the first few Hindu families from Pakistan, which settled Majnu ka Tila in Delhi and the league has continued since then. The police, here at the refugee camps have assaulted them and at times even seized their carts on repeated occasions.

In 2015, Government of India granted citizenship to 4300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Trepidation of War: Afghanistan

Two men sitting in a wagon passing by a woman wearing a burqa and a child in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Wikimedia

Afghan refugees in thousands of numbers have been coming to India since 1979 after the Soviet-Afghan war in the country. Approximately 60,000 Afghan refugees have fled to India since then. The government does not recognise Afghan refugees in India as refugees till now but has permitted UNHCR India for them.

Unprivileged Rohingya Refugees

People from the Burmese Rohingya Community from Myanmar, sit in an open air madrasa, or a religious school, at a camp in New Delhi. VOA

Described as the least wanted and one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, Rohingya Muslims are deprived of the right to free movement and higher education.UNHCR estimates there are 5500 registered Rohingya refugees spread across India living in makeshift camps in precarious conditions without proper sanitation, food and education. The government of India has allowed UNHCR India to operate a program for them.

Why India Needs The Refugee Law?

Although India is an abode of a high number of Refugees, the country lacks legal framework and resources for their sustenance and there is no such term like “Refugee law India”. India has ignored the topic altogether hitherto. Countries like India that believes in peace, harmony and global brotherhood are a natural haven for refugees. Conversations about India’ asylum policy have risen with government highlighting human right abuses in Baluchistan. It remains the duty of the state especially one with a democratic setup to keep its doors open for people in distress.

The problems of Refugees in India is nothing dissimilar to that of the world. Women and girls face sexual violence. Despite being provided with the security by GOI, refugees still strive for livelihood in India as there are minimum laws to protect refugees in the country.

A Clear framework on entry, accommodation, rights and, responsibilities of refugees needs to be implemented. Clear roles for agencies, database and monitoring to refugee and asylum seekers should be monitored.

The government considered Tibetans and Sri Lankans in settlements and refugee and provided assistance to them, but since it regarded other groups as economic migrants, especially Bangladeshis, it did not provide them with aid.

Currently, it is religion specific and country specific. Since independence, India has kept a humanitarian stand on refugees, despite its own security concerns and economic challenges and population pressure. The need of an hour is to enact a uniform legislation and comprehensive guideline before they face crises like that of EU.

– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: Nainamishr94

 

 

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Ground Report: How ISIS is ruining lives of people in Syria and Iraq

For the families in Sarran, the fear of ISIS has now been replaced by the wreckage of a displaced economy left behind by the terrorists.

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End of Islamic State rule in Saran
In Sarran, no lives were completely untouched by tragedy at the hands of IS militants Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)
  • IS rule in the city of Sarran ended eight months ago 
  • The IS did not murder or behead residents in Sarran, but no lives were completely untouched by tragedy
  • Displaced families from Raqqa currently survive in refugee camps in the area that run short of basic amenities like food, clean water, and medicine

Syria, August 24, 2017: For 100-year-old Tamam Shaheen, the day Islamic State militants took over her village was not particularly memorable.

“One night Free Syrian Army rebels were occupying our village and the next day it just changed,” she said, sitting on the concrete floor of a one-room house with an unlit cigarette in her hand. “All those bearded people were here.”

During their rule over her village, Sarran, has militants ruined the local economy and forced villagers to adhere to dress codes. They tried, unsuccessfully, to enforce a strict no-smoking policy, but none of this impacted Shaheen’s life greatly.

ALSO READ: Civilian Deaths Surge in Raqqa as Islamic State (ISIS) Tactics Slow US-backed Advances

But even the most benign corners of formerly IS-held territory were not spared personal tragedies. Shaheen’s grandson is now imprisoned amid the post-IS chaos, accused of fighting with the militant group.

“Militants ordered me to wear a veil on my face,” she said. “But I rebuked them. I told them ‘It is not your job to tell me what to wear!’”

Authorities holding 22-year-old Abdulrahman now, she said, are not so easy to rebuke.

The arrest

In other parts of IS-controlled Syria and Iraq, IS beat husbands and fathers of women who refused to cover their faces. Locals have been imprisoned or even killed for smoking cigarettes.

Islamic state rule in syria
One-hundred-year-old Tamam Shaheen refuted IS orders to veil her face or quit smoking, but in the wake of IS rule, her grandson is now accused of having fought alongside the group, in Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Militants are now fighting to the death in the nearest large city, Raqqa, 60 kilometers away, but eight months ago in Sarran, IS just left.

Around the same time, Abudulrahman was returning to the village when he was arrested, according to his mother, Wahda Mustafa. The family and neighbors say he is disabled from a car accident and may have accidentally agreed he was guilty of crimes he didn’t commit.

“My son was coming home from Raqqa but the roads were blocked,” said Wahda Mustafa. “They picked him up at a checkpoint, but I don’t know why.”

Stigma after Raqqa flight

During the course of Shaheen’s 100 years, Sarran’s population grew from about four families to roughly 700 people. As IS is slowly being defeated in the region, the village is growing again.

Across a brown field of dust, displaced families from Raqqa crowd into a schoolhouse. Refugee camps in the area are notoriously short of food, clean water and medicine, baking in the desert in the hot summer sun.

Islamic state rule in Syria
Farming comprises the main industry for many Syrian villagers which yields just enough profits for survival. However, high taxes and corruption under IS rule created increased difficulties than extreme ideologies for many rural farmers, near Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

But families say they pay a high price for the small comforts of settling in a village rather than a camp after fleeing IS. The displaced Raqqa residents are noticeably more conservative than the villagers, with the women remaining secluded inside, while local women in colorful dresses cook and smoke cigarettes in public.

Raqqa families are shunned and often presumed to be IS supporters, despite multiple investigations concluding they are innocent, according to Khalid Abdullah, 40, a former oil worker from Raqqa and a father of 11.

“I saw beheadings and hands cut off in the city,” he said under an awning near the school. “It was raining mortars when we ran away. But still, they call my son ‘IS’ when he goes out.”

IS Corruption

The more lasting tragedies touching the lives of the people of Sarran come not from IS extremism, but from ordinary corruption. Before the war, the Syrian government had mandated that wealthy landowners in the area dole out portions of their fields to local farmers.

Islamic state rule in syria
Camps for displaced persons in Syria are short of food, clean water and health care, with some fleeing urban families saying they prefer to face stigma in villages than endure hardship in camps, in Ain Issa, Syria, Aug. 17, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

The farmers survived by working the land and reaping the profits. Under IS, bribes were paid and profits from the land reverted back to the rich, according to Ayman Kalaf, 19, one of Shaheen’s many grandsons.

Surrounded by other farmers, who nodded in agreement as he spoke, Kalaf described how under IS, his poor village became even poorer and families are still struggling to recover.

“Long ago this area was under a feudal system, with all of the valuable farms owned by the rich,” he said. “But modern governments required owners to divide some of their lands among local farmers. When IS came in, they gave the land back to the rich.”

And while their suffering may not be as dramatic or even traumatic as the suffering of families living under siege or hunted and sometimes slaughtered by IS, villagers say they already lived on the edge of survival in the best of times, and they barely made it through their time under IS.

“I have to take care of my house and children, and I work as a farmer,” said Umm Mohammad, a local women’s activist. “We build our own houses with bricks we make from the earth. Life here is hard.” (VOA)

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Tibetan Ladies Tie Rakhi on wrist of RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat on the event of Raksha Bandhan

On each Raksha Bandhan, Tibetan ladies from Gothangaon tie rakhi on Bhagwat's wrist

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Rakhi
A group of Tibetan women from neighbouring Gondia district tied rakhi on the wrist of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Wikimedia Commons

Nagpur, August 8, 2017: A bunch of Tibetan ladies from neighboring Gondia locale today tied rakhi on the wrist of RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat on the event of Raksha Bandhan.

On each Raksha Bandhan, Tibetan ladies from Gothangaon in Gondia area visit the RSS base camp here so as to tie rakhi on Bhagwat’s wrist.

ALSO READ: August 7 is Rakshabandhan: Hindu Festival that Celebrates Brother-Sister Bond can be traced back to Indus Valley Civilization

After their flight in 1959 to India, Tibetan fugitives were restored in different parts of the nation.

Gothangaon is one such fugitive settlement.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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Heard of Tandoori Momos? : Tibetan Refugees Contribute to Indian Cuisine

The Tandoori Momos have become so popular in the Indian cuisine thanks to the contributions of Tibetan Refugees

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Tandoor Momos
Momos. Wikimedia
  • The momos are a delicious contribution to the Indian street food
  • Given an Indian touch, the Tandoori Momos have gained popularity very rapidly
  • Some even call this soft power strategy branding it as a threat to Indian culture

July 12, 2017: The Indian public loves Tandoori Momos but that is due to the  Tibetan Refugees, who sheltered in India and have successfully added the dish to the Indian cuisine.

It is not clear if momos are exclusive to Tibetan tradition considering the strong influence that China has exerted in the region. It is more likely a Chinese tradition if we look at the wider Dim-Sum categories.

Momos was a cheap dish, making it favourite among the peasants. Made of flour, meat, and local spices, the momos became a part of every common household.

The Dalai Lama’s entry to India in 1959 in search of a new home (in the form of Dharamshala) brought with it a few Tibetans. A sizeable number more penetrated in the 1960s. Not surprisingly, the Indian government that was accommodating refugees from other different states also welcomed the Tibetan people with housing.

ALSO READ: “Do not Stand and Drink Water” : Here is Why it is often said so!

Slowly, the diaspora came to the capital Delhi, providing them with an opportunity to set up road side stalls to sell their special artifacts and decors, particularly Janpath which is a busy street.

The diaspora was now in Delhi, continuously shifting towards east and northeast. They saw the Punjabi idea of food becoming the quickest way of recognition and interaction. Momos, as it seems, were easy to make roadside. Pork was added upon entering into Calcutta.

By the 1980s when its popularity peaked, other cultures like Bengalis, Nepalis, and Khasis entered the momo-making business.

It soon became like the present situation today. Momo sellers could be spotten in every Delhi market. Outside colleges, offices, bus stands, everywhere.

Once again, momo business started growing again, even entering the region of Jammu and Kashmir.

It so happened recently that a BJP legislator, Ramesh Arora, organized a protest against momos even going till the extent of branding the food “more dangerous than alcohol or psychotopic drugs” as the teenagers are getting hooked on to it.

ALSO READ: Food Lovers: Indulge in Gluttony this Dim Sum Festival in Maharashtra

According to www.scmp.com report, Mr. Arora and co. actually feel that the momos are a threat to the Indian culture and cuisine, and that the dish is a soft power strategy of China (unaware of the fact that dumplings is more closely associated with India than China).

The protests were carried out with slogans and signs such as “Momo- the silent killer”. Going one step further, in the only air time that he is expected to get in his lifetime, Arora tried warning the nation that Chinese cuisine causes cancer of the intestine!

Demonstrations and protests, as it seems, can emerge out of nothing and for absolutely nothing. This cruelty to momos was watched by thousands who took it as a part of the daily media coverage, only with hilarity.

– prepared By Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394