The tough stand the Union government has taken with respect to the status of the Rohingya people is welcome. While we recognise the plight of all stateless people across the globe, India’s compassion towards the needy has achieved little other than burdening the country’s economy with overheads in some cases and threatening its internal security in others. The romantic concept of world citizenship, once pursued virtually by Jawaharlal Nehru and advocated intellectually by Rabindranath Tagore, received such rude shocks in the hands of expansionist neighbours and terrorist infiltrators after Independence that the Indian state thankfully decided to turn pragmatic in managing its foreign policy some two decades ago. Permanent Representative of India to the UN Ambassador Rajiv K Chander rightly snubbed the sermonising human rights chief of the world body yesterday, accusing the latter of inadequate knowledge of the country he had questioned for refusing to shelter the Arakanese ‘Indians’. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein must be asked whether he is complementing the threat al Qaidah has issued to Myanmar, wherein the terrorist outfit will “punish” Burma for creating an atmosphere where Rohingyas had to flee that country and the envoy will heckle India if it does not accommodate the people who are unwelcome in all the countries of the south-east Asia region! The mediaeval and modern history of the subcontinent has been such that the Indian country today, on its own, cannot be held responsible for all the diverse peoples that once inhabited the geographically bigger, spiritually unified Indian nation. It’s heartrending that the Rohingyas, settled in today’s Myanmar since the 8th century, are denied the freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs by the 1982 Burmese citizenship law, but there is nothing India can do about it. One may recall that the then US president Barack Obama had questioned India during his visit to this country under the UPA rule for not intervening in the Burmese people’s struggle against the military junta. Whether that was right or wrong on the part of this country, if we are not acting as an international policeman unlike the United States, why should we be an international destination for refugees?
Internally, the leftists are making an attempt to confuse the discourse by pointing out that the Rohingya people comprise not only Muslims but also Hindus — a clear bid to drive a wedge in the support base of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The immaturity of getting upset over the high-handedness of a supposedly Buddhist regime in dealing with ‘Hindus’ gave us the foolhardy IPKF operations in Sri Lanka that soured the relations with that country on the one hand and, on the other, led to the assassination of a former prime minister by the same group of people he had sought to protect. In the case of the Rohingyas, the situation is fraught with further danger as, the minuscule Hindus among them notwithstanding, the large Muslim section of the infiltrators will soon be enticed by different terror sleeper cells in the country with the knowledge that the Muslim society thrives on grievance mongering and there can be nobody more ‘aggrieved’ than a refugee. If the dispossessed have been wronged, they might well ponder over the activities they had been a part of since the era when they were a favourite of the British government and the days when they used to get elected to the Burmese parliament and hold senior positions in the government. If Sultan Mahmud had not demanded a separate province for Rohingyas in 1960, things might not have come to such a pass for the ethnic minority of Myanmar. This proclivity to demand separation that the religious community betrays would make any potential asylum wary of embracing them. How Parsis and latter-day Hindus never caused uprisings in the name of their respective religions either in pre-1947 India or in its truncated form later — and are, therefore, trusted and absorbed in the local milieu — is a subject matter of academic research.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh must be thanked for stating the government’s unambiguous position on Rohingyas in the course of his tightrope walk on the status of Jammu & Kashmir where he has left the nationalists bewildered with the assurance that Article 370 and Article 35A will stay unaffected. Abandoning the bogus idea of universal Muslim brotherhood, the Muslim citizens of India should be the first to oppose any shelter offered to the Rohingyas. For, if the illegal foreigners are accepted as “Muslims” rather than as general citizens — which is how, unfortunately, the Indian version of secularism works — they will soon be entitled to the resources (education, jobs, PDS, etc) dedicated to the minorities. And the risk these newcomers would pose to the life and property of the natives can never be overstated.