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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 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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)

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Mohammad at Hudaybiyyah Provides a Lesson for Muslims Coping with Ayodhya

She made three observations: First, she found a mosque on a high ground jarring in a patently Hindu, temple town

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She had accompanied me to Ayodhya, not specifically to watch the brick laying ceremony in August, 1989, but to be able to spend time with me because soon. Flickr

Should the Supreme Court verdict enable the building of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Muslim fears about the security of mosques in Kashi and the Idgah in Mathura would appear to have been taken care of by the Places of Worship Act of 1991. The Act spells out that all places of worship “except Ayodhya” will be maintained and respected as they were in 1947. Assurances, however, have value only when there is rule of law which has been a retreating value in recent years. In these circumstances, what is the wise course for the Muslims to adopt when the Ayodhya verdict is delivered before November 17? Mohammad.

Already, intemperate whispers are afloat that should the verdict favour the Mandir, some members of All India Muslim Personal Law Board would go in appeal. Years ago, a radically different way out for Muslims was spelt out by my mother, Atia Naqvi. She had accompanied me to Ayodhya, not specifically to watch the brick laying ceremony in August, 1989, but to be able to spend time with me because soon after the Ayodhya assignment I would catch the flight to New Delhi from Lucknow where she lived.

She made three observations: First, she found a mosque on a high ground jarring in a patently Hindu, temple town. Secondly, by her understanding of Muslim names, Mir Baqi, who is supposed to have built the mosque, was quite clearly a Shia. Why, then, was there no agitation in the Shia enclaves of Lucknow? And finally, and most importantly, if the Hindu had claimed it to be the birth place of Ram, why had the Muslim raised their objection to the highest pitch? Let me try to quote her verbatim from memory:

“A Muslim can spread out his prayer-mat anywhere facing the Kaaba and say his “namaz” (prayer). A Hindu consecrates the idol which is then alive eternally for worship.”

Mohammad, Hudaybiyyah, Muslims
Already, intemperate whispers are afloat that should the verdict favour the Mandir, some members of All India Muslim Personal Law Board would go in appeal. Flickr

It is not wise for Muslims to argue against the Hindu claim that Ram Lalla was born under what became the central dome of the mosque, now demolished. What archaeologists say is, in political terms, not as important as what the vast majority of people have been induced to repose absolute faith in. Since this faith is being exploited by political interests towards their agenda of “Hindu Rashtra”, the Muslim opposition to this transformational plan provides grist to the Hindutva mill. It enables Hindutva to sharpen Muslim-Hindu polarisation on an even larger scale.

The boost from two BJP seats in 1984 in Parliament to 350 now would not have been possible without the Muslims having been ensnared into opposing the agenda. This posture of Muslim ironically, served Hindutva’s purpose.

Muslims were first led into faulty politics by Syed Shahabuddin, a brilliant officer of the Indian Foreign Service whom Atal Behari Vajpayee, as Foreign Minister in the first Janata government (1977-80) handpicked as a “Muslim” face of the Janata Party. Shahab fell into the trap of wanting to be a leader of Indian Muslims rather than being a “Muslim leader”. Communal polarisation is built into the approach. Little wonder he found himself digging his heels in for the mosque when the Ayodhya dispute erupted.

The VHP, BJP had reheated an old issue as a strategy to neutralise V.P. Singh’s promotion of caste forces in the Hindi belt. L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra was intended to serve more than one purpose: to contain the ogre of casteism let loose by V.P. Singh and to accentuate the anti-Muslim slant of the BJP. This is where Shahab’s fierce opposition helped the BJP. What Advani initiated has spiralled into the stratosphere where the BJP today is.

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I must, of course, add in parenthesis, that Shahab was far from being communal. He was a deeply religious gentleman. In amoral politics, devoid of honesty, such a person can easily be cast as “communal” by those on an agenda of majoritarianism. Shahab had the honesty to recognise his naivet� and withdraw from politics. He did not have the “tact” which Justice Sibqat Ullah Khan stressed in his 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment on Ayodhya.

Justice Khan gave the example of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which Prophet Mohammad signed with the hostile tribe of Quraysh in 628AD. It had been six years since the Prophet and his followers had left Mecca for Medina. After these years, the Prophet with a caravan of 1,000 men on his way to Mecca for Haj reached Hudaybiyyah. Quraysh had made it known that they would block Muslim entry to Mecca. The Prophet consulted his companions: should the caravan return to Medina or proceed, risking a battle?

Intermediaries carried messages back and forth. All that the Muslims wanted was to perform Haj at Mecca. This, the Quraysh were determined to prevent. Eventually, a truce was agreed upon. Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, drafted a treaty. The Prophet dictated that it was a treaty between “Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah, and Quraysh”. Interlocutors for Quraysh objected. They did not recognise him as God’s prophet. Ali, his cousin, refused to drop the preamble. The Prophet intervened and himself deleted the phrase, thus paving the way for a Treaty which declared a truce between the two sides.

The terms of the treaty were considered a surrender. For instance, despite the compromise, Muslims would not be allowed to perform Haj that year. Next year they could, provided they stayed in Mecca for only three days and so on.

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Years ago, a radically different way out for Muslims was spelt out by my mother, Atia Naqvi. Flickr

In modern military terms, the treaty turned out to be a sort of tactical retreat, because in a matter of a few years Muslims had conquered Mecca. At this stage, the story becomes a parable.

What “conquest” was Justice Khan recommending? If you study Hudaybiyyah as a parable alongside some of Iqbal’s couplets, which Justice Khan so aptly quotes, his message becomes clear: “communal disharmony” is what has to be conquered.

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But that precisely is what majoritarianism does not want. Its meteoric rise since 2014 is based on polarisation and more polarisation. (IANS)