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.

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