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Government Plans To Deport Illegal Rohingya Muslim Refugees From J&K As Volatile Summer Forecast In Valley

Security agencies expect upward spike in violence levels before by-polls

04/04/2017 10:20 AM IST | Updated 04/04/2017 11:42 AM IST
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Kashmiri Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Nation) activists demonstrate during a protest in Srinagar on August 17, 2012. The demonstrators protested against sectarian violence on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

NEW DELHI -- Illegal Rohingya Muslim migrants in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are most likely to be tracked down and deported as New Delhi braces for another turbulent summer in the northern state. As per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are an estimated 14,000 Rohingya Muslims who have sought refuge in India. The Ministry of Home Affairs estimates that there are 50,000 illegal Rohingya migrants in India, one official said. Although home to numerous refugees from across South Asia, India is not a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention and does not grant refugee status.

A minority ethnic group in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims belong to the Rakhine area located on the country's western coast and have been rendered stateless in the flow of time and geopolitics. Myanmar doesn't recognize them as an official ethnic group. They call them 'Bengalis' and hold that they are refugees from Bangladesh and should go back there. Bangladesh doesn't recognize them as an official ethnicity either. They face hostility in both countries. Rohingyas are subjected to discrimination and violence at the hands of the Buddhist majority of Myanmar and have been fleeing the country in the thousands. They are known to enter India through the India-Myanmar border or the India-Bangladesh border.

Top officials in the government told HuffPost India that though J&K government has sought a dialogue over the issue, the Centre is not very keen on engaging with them. "A political dialogue is not foreseen in the immediate future," a top strategic affairs official told HuffPost India.

Volatile Summer

Indications that the approaching summer will be fraught with violence in Jammu and Kashmir is already clear. At least six soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a young woman were injured when terrorists fired at a convoy at Panthachok in Pulwama District on the Jammu and Srinagar Highway. The troopers were on their way to Srinagar for election duty. This is the second attack on security forces within a span of 24 hours. On Sunday, one Jammu and Kashmir Police constable was killed and 11 others injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar.

Violence levels in the Kashmir region has been nearly as high 2016--a particularly bad year which saw stone pelting after Hizbul Mujhahideen terrorist Burhan Wani was killed.

Security agencies expect a spike in the intensity and frequency of violence as the by-elections to parliamentary constituencies approach. Srinagar and Anantnag will be choosing their Lok-Sabha representatives on the April 9 and 12, respectively. "The trend of the recent attack indicate, violence level will be high this summer," a senior official in the security establishment to HuffPost India.

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi reviewed the Jammu and Kashmir situation in a high-level meeting at South Block on Monday. Mehrishi is understood have told the state administration that it should start tracking down illegal Rohingya Muslims migrants immediately.

Security agencies have also flagged the presence of Rohingya Muslims in J&K as a potential security threat. The BJP, which is in an alliance with the PDP in Kashmir government, is known to have raised the issue before the state government. No Rohingya Muslim has been arrested or found to be involved in unlawful activities in the valley.

Top Government sources said that there are an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 Rohingya Muslims in the state. The illegal migrants are concentrated in the districts of Jammu and Kathua in the Jammu region from where the BJP won the maximum number seats in the state assembly. The crackdown on illegal Rohingya Muslims in the J&K has political objective as well. The BJP had swept the Jammu region in last Assembly elections. It had aggressively projected and promoted rights of people of Jammu who are largely Hindu. Apart from the political objective, many in the security establishment also worry that Rohingya Muslims could be prone to radicalisation because they have been victims of political violence in Myanmar.

On the other hand, in an all time high in recent years, more than 100 local boys are alleged to have joined the terrorist organisations since 2016, the Government recently told the Parliament. Added to this is the increased radicalisation local youth. Security agencies have claimed that youth are being paid to pelt stones and foment violence.

Not only are the stone-pelting youth blocking anti-terror operations, security agencies have told the government that social media-platforms like Facebook, Instagram and instant messaging services like Whatsapp are being used to mobilize youth to block and disrupt counter-terror ops. "Shutting down internet services in areas during counter-operations is an option, but a clear decision hasn't been taken," a senior officer said.

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