New Delhi: In the latest development in the slugfest over the status of Rohingyas in India, following two tweets of Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri boasting of having offered to the community that is not welcome in most countries EWS flats in Delhi, the union government on 17 August released a letter claiming it was the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government that wanted the houses for the Rakhine Bengalis of the Arakan area of Burma/Myanmar.
In the letter dated 2021, the AAP government had written to North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and sought that Rohingya refugees be shifted to a new location in the national capital.
— BJP (@BJP4India) August 17, 2022
The union minister for housing and urban affairs had tweeted that India had always welcomed those who had sought refuge in the country and that all Rohingya refugees would be moved to EWS flats in east Delhi's Bakkarwala area. But in a few hours, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that the Rohingyas were illegal foreigners. Saying that the ministry "gives out the correct position", it said, "With respect to news reports in certain sections of media regarding Rohingya illegal foreigners, it is clarified that the MHA has not given any directions to provide EWS flats to Rohingya illegal migrants at Bakkarwala in New Delhi."
The ministry said further that the Delhi government "proposed to shift Rohingya Muslims to a new location". But Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia attacked the BJP-led NDA government, alleging that the union government was trying to blame the AAP government after "'secretly trying to give permanent residence to the Rohingyas in Delhi" and the Delhi government will not allow this "conspiracy".
The MHA did nothing more than verbal jugglery after the tweets of Hardeep Singh Puri stirred a hornet's nest. Puri did not slip up. If he had, he would have deleted his tweet about Rohingyas. Those two tweets are still there. Both Puri's assertion and the MHA clarification are correct. The MHA used the adjective "illegal" before refugees, who it said would not be given state privileges but instead be kept in detention centres until their deportation, which implies that there are legal Rohingya refugees too, whom Puri's tweets had referred to — without his feeling the need to precede the word "refugee" with "legal". However, there is a problem. India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951. So no Rohingya can legally stay in India. Where Puri was wrong was in dabbling with the issue, which should have been left unaddressed if India does not have the stomach to stir up the politically correct comity of nations and say bluntly it will never shelter these people. The union minister tried to make the Narendra Modi government look good to leftists/Islamists. He said indeed that those who feared that the government would enforce the CAA should take heart from the fact that these Rohingyas were being accommodated.
It's one of the innumerable instances where some government or Sangh functionary (PM's exhortation to follow Mohammed, Sarsanghchalak's DNA theory, referring to SriRama as "Imam-e-Hind" etc) decided to speak on a matter where silence would have been a more judicious option. Because those that the Modi government is trying to please — communists and Muslims — will never be pleased whereas a section of its core constituency of political-religious Hindus gets alienated due to such statements. This section is constantly growing. The sizable Hindu opponents of the regime can no longer be wished away with the conspiracy theory that the opposition has planted them. Modi is walking the dangerously slippery Vajpayee Road, which led to the fall of the otherwise great previous PM from the BJP.