JAMMU: Having fled persecution and sectarian violence in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims, who have been living in the only Muslim majority state in India for many years, are in the eye of a political storm over their settlement in Jammu and Kashmir.
Political parties in Jammu consider them a security threat and bat for their deportation, suspecting them to be part of a design to change the demography of Hindu majority Jammu. Kashmir-based mainstream parties, particularly NC, also want Rohingya Muslims to be thrown out of the state.
A refugee from Myanmar, Mohammed Rafiqi, 44, referring to the statements of various leaders and political parties in the state, said, “We came here in 2009. Jammu is a second home to us now. But people should not make this an issue. We want to live in peace.”
“We have suffered a lot. Do not involve us in a controversy,” said Rafiqi, who has five children and works as a labourer to earn a livelihood.
“No assistance is given to us. We are not citizens but Jammu is much better than our country. Here, no one has troubled us so far. We are alive, getting two square meals and have a shanty to live in,” he said.
The refugees are now feeling threatened in the current situation.
Another Rohingya refugee, 46-year-old Shah Alam said, “We have come here to earn a livelihood and live in peace. We feel threatened when it is made an issue. I work at a shop and my wife, eldest daughter work as servants. We live in the shanty on payment. Some NGOs help us.”
For Rohingya Muslims, the choice of settling in Jammu and Kashmir was natural due to the Muslim character of the state.
Zahid Hussain and his family were the first Rohingya Muslims who made Jammu their second home.
“We came here to earn and live in peace. There is no other aim for us here as we are not citizens and are only refugees,” he said.
The state government had said last year, “1219 Rohingyas (Burmese) families comprising 5107 members are staying in the State. Out of them 4921 members are holding UNHCR cards and 186 are without UNHCR cards.”
As per the state Home Ministry, one NGO and members of Jamat-e-Islamia distribute clothes, religious books, cash and goods among these families from time to time.
“There are no reports of their radicalisation. However, their children are receiving education in six madrasas in Bathindi, Sujwaan and Narwal,” the ministry had said.
Migrant Maulana Shafiq, 37, runs a madarasa for Rohingya children in Narwal Bala where a sizable number of these stateless people live.