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Lawyer finds fault with India’s security threat bogey

A Rohingya Muslim girl Yasmin Ara stands in front of her shanty at a camp for refugees in Hyderabad, in this Sept. 18, 2017 photo. (AP)
NEW DELHI: “I’m really scared. Where I will go if the Indian government throws me out of the country?” asked Ali Chan, a 31-year-old Rohingya Muslim living as a refugee in India since 2011.
Fellow Rohingya Muan Rafique said: “Until the situation in my country (Myanmar) improves, we should be allowed to stay in India.”
But a senior lawyer representing India’s government told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the “Rohingya are a threat to national security.”
Intelligence agencies have credible information that some Rohingya leaders are in touch with militant groups in Pakistan, the lawyer said.
The government’s submission came in response to a petition filed at the court challenging the government’s decision to deport Rohingya refugees, some 40,000 of whom are in various parts of India.
“I’m representing 6,000 Rohingya in Jammu, and not a single one has been arrested for any crime despite staying here for many years,” Colin Gonsalves, a senior lawyer and one of the petitioners, told Arab News.
“Legally, the government doesn’t have the right to deport them. Mass deportations are like genocide, and the bogey of national security is being blown out of proportion.”
Fellow petitioner Rafique said: “No Rohingya settled in India is involved in any terror activity. We’re fighting for survival, and we’re grateful to the Indian people for giving us space to live here.”
The opposition Congress Party has warned the government against this “blanket approach,” urging “restraint” on the Rohingya issue.
“I think it’s incumbent, obligatory, on the part of the government to take every part of the political spectrum — opposition, regional and national parties — into confidence in a collective sense on this very important and sensitive matter,” said Congress Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi at a press conference on Monday.
Last week, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said he deplored “current measures in India to deport Rohingya at a time of such violence against them in their country.”
He added: “India can’t carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.”
But Rajiv Bhatia, a former Indian ambassador to Myanmar, said one should look at the Indian government’s stand “holistically.”
He added: “You have to judge India by what they’re doing on the ground. They’re helping refugees, asking the Myanmar government to show restraint, and looking at what can be done with these 40,000 Rohingya who have taken shelter in India. Nobody is being deported tomorrow, but serious scrutiny is going on as far as I know.”
Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “To call Rohingya a security threat is a little exaggerated, but security concerns can’t be overlooked.”

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