SRINAGAR: Scores of Rohingya Muslim refugee families who were beaten and threatened by a group of goons in Jammu a couple of days ago are facing expulsion as the land owner who had provided them space for erecting makeshift shelters is forcing them to vacate the land.
A group of about fifteen goons had burned down the store of scrap of a poor Rohingya Muslim family in Bori area of Jammu, besides beating and asking the Rohingyas to leave the area. The incident created a sense of fear among the poor refugees, more so as the government maintained a silence over the assault.
Karimullah, a refugee and a scrap dealer, said that on March 10, three people arrived at his jhuggi at about 12 noon and insisted that he sell the scrap to them. “As I had already sold it to some other dealer and had even taken advance money from him, I humbly refused to sell them the scrap telling them that it will be dishonesty,” Karimullah told Kashmir Reader.
The trio left without saying a word to him, only to return a couple of hours later along with a dozen more goons.
“When they left silently the first time, I thought they were convinced by my response. But only a couple of hours later at least fifteen masked people came and started shouting, abusing and beating me. Since most of the males were out on labour work, they thrashed even little kids and women who tried to raise an alarm,” Karimullah told Kashmir Reader over phone.
He said that the goons also sprinkled petrol on the scrap and burnt it.
The goons also threatened the refugee families of killing them if they did not leave Jammu within days.
“We kept on asking them what was our sin but they did not listen. They told us to vacate within days or else we would be killed,” Karimullah said.
Soon after the incident, the refugees lodged a complaint with the police.
“After I lodged the complaint, the policemen called me and said, ‘You will have to accompany us during searches in the nearby locality and identify the people involved’. This I refused to do,” Karim said. “The people were masked. How is it possible for me to identify them? I have been living in the locality for years. How can I accompany the police for searches and identification when I don’t know who were the people involved.”
Last week, the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries had announced a ‘catch and kill’ movement to oust Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees if the government failed to deport them within a month.
During the winter session of the legislative assembly, the Panthers Party had erected billboards across Jammu city describing these Muslim refugees as a threat to Dogras. The billboards had urged Dogras to join hands in shunting out refugees from Jammu.
Another Rohingya refugee, not wishing to be named, said that they had come to live in Jammu after being forced to leave their homes in their country of Myanmar. “The attack by a group of goons on us a few days ago has created such fear among us that we cannot sleep at night,” he said. At least nine Rohingya refugee families are living in the area for several years.
Karimullah said that the nine families are registered refugees and are paying rent not only to the landlord for erecting shelters but also charges for electricity and water.
“We have been living here for years. I fail to understand how we suddenly became unwanted here. After the attack by the goons, the land owner who had rented out a patch of land to us has set a deadline for us to vacate. We are poor people and are worried about our safety. Where should we go along with little kids? The local authorities should make clear their policy towards Rohingya refugees,” Karimullah said.