51 eminent Indians write letter to Modi to stop Rohingya deportation

The letter comes as Indian Supreme Court begins proceedings into a petition filed by two Rohingya Muslims challenging their deportation by the Indian government


New Delhi: As the Indian Supreme Court prepares to hear a petition challenging the Indian government’s decision to deport the displaced Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar on Friday, 51 prominent Indian personalities penned an open letter to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The letter, signed by the likes of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, former Home Minister P Chidambaram, academic Nivedita Menon, journalist Karan Thapar and actress Swara Bhaskar, urges the Prime Minister not to forcibly deport the Rohingyas.

The two-page letter, released by Amnesty International India, deals exclusively with the Rohingya crisis and the Indian government’s response to it.

The letter starts by reminding the Prime Minister of how grave the situation it is for Rohingyas in Myanmar.

“The United Nations and human rights organisations investigating the violence have termed this as an ethnic cleansing exercise against the Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s security forces and vigilante mobs. There is ample proof to suggest unlawful killing of civilians, mass displacement, sexual violence and the burning of villages,” the letter reads.

“Satellite imagery shows burning dwellings in over 250 villages across northern Rakhine between 25 August and 19 September,” it adds.

The letter then urges the Modi government to lead a “global response” to the “humanitarian tragedy” that is unfolding in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and prepare a “bold vision” that addresses the needs of thousands of Rohingya who have fled their homes in the wake of military violence that has gripped the state.

“It would be against India’s own humanitarian principles and traditions, its obligations under international law, as well as its own constitutional provisions, to deport the 40,000 Rohingya refugees” currently in the country, the letter says.

“The government is constitutionally obligated to protect threatened groups of foreign nationals.”
The letter further states that the Indian government’s justification to deport Rohingya Muslims “is premised on the false assumption that all Rohingya people present a potential threat to national security… This is simply not the case, and the evidence to support these assertions have not held up.”

“If any refugees or asylum seekers are found to be engaging in criminal activities, they must be prosecuted in accordance with due legal processes. However, this should not be used an excuse to mete out collective punishment to an entire community,” it says.

The letter then adds that India must “exert its diplomatic clout to pressurise the Government of Myanmar to end the security crackdown in Rakhine”.

Signatories to the letter include ex-Finance minister P Chidambaram, Congress leader Sashi Tharoor, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former Union Home secretary GK Pillai, Member of Parliament Majeed Memon, former Army officer and columnist Ajai Shukla, activist Teesta Setalvad, journalists Karan Thapar and Sagarika Ghose, filmmaker Sanjay Kak and actress Swara Bhaskar.

The letter comes as Indian Supreme Court begins proceedings into a petition filed by two Rohingya Muslims challenging their deportation by the Indian government.

The apex court has asked the government and the two Rohingya Muslims to compile all documents and international conventions for assisting the court.

The plea, filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, claims they had taken refuge in India after escaping from Myanmar due to widespread discrimination, violence, and bloodshed against the community there.

Many of those, who had fled to India after the earlier spate of violence, are settled in Jammu, Hyderabad, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, and Rajasthan.

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for the petitioner Rohingya refugees, opposed the government stand and said the petition under Article 32 was maintainable as the Constitution guaranteed individual rights.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the government would not like the matter to be heard in a piecemeal manner as it has wide ramifications and added that it would prefer a day for the detailed hearing.

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