JAMMU: A young poor Rohingya Muslim couple is busy in conservation in a small dark shed in Narwal area of Jammu. Two bare-footed little kids of the couple are sitting and playing on dusty ground just outside the shed. A local man approaches the shed to look more closely at the children in rags fiddling with dirty things. As this man is about to say something, the father of the kids tells him to ignore the kids.
“What are you watching? Poor children are used to such things. Let them play,” the father tells the man. The man goes away.
This reporter asked the father where he had come from, to which he began narrating the story of his exile from his country, Myanmar. “Our only concern is that we should not be rendered homeless again. Some political people here have started a campaign for our expulsion. We see it on billboards and posters and we are very worried. We just want to be allowed to live in peace,” the poor refugee said.
While speaking, he suddenly stopped and asked for my introduction. “I am a reporter,” I told him. At this, the man stood up and virtually begged me to leave.
“I thought you were from some NGO,” he said. “Please don’t write anything. Leave us alone. We are caught in a fight between big political people. If we are facing expulsion from here, it is because of the press,” he said.
He repeatedly requested that his name not be mentioned. “I am a registered refugee. My record is available with the local government. If my name comes in the press, they will force me to leave this place,” he said.
The Rohingya family lives in a slum along with 87 registered refugee families of Rohingya Muslims. They live in 73 sheds made of small pieces of plywood and broken tin sheets. Until last year, when a fire destroyed the slum, these refugees used to live in makeshift tents. “It was only after the fire broke out, in which three people were killed, that some NGOs and religious groups rendered some financial help to us and built these sheds. Till then, we were living under the open sky,” said another refugee who also requested anonymity.
These refugees have rented a space from a local man for erecting shelters after they were not allowed to live on state land by the authorities.
” When we first came here five years ago, we had erected tents on state land in Janipur area. After some time, officials came and demolished our shelters overnight, forcing us to rent another space. I wonder why some political parties here have started a hate campaign against us,” he said.
Most of these refugees want to return to their country. “You ask anyone living here and he will tell you that he wants to return to his home. But the fear of oppression stops us from returning. We keep praying for an end to the atrocities on Muslims there,” a group of Rohingya youth said.