“It became clear that Amir had lived in an open-air prison”: The history of brutality in a Rohingya refugee’s hometown

02 April 2021
Amir Hakim's letter addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner.
Courtesy Suchitra Vijayan
Amir Hakim's letter addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner.
Courtesy Suchitra Vijayan

Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India, published recently by the journalist and lawyer Suchitra Vijayan, explores the lives of communities living along India’s borders, and through their stories, presents “a critique of the nation state, its violence and the arbitrariness of territorial sovereignty.”

This excerpted section focusses on Amir Hakim, a Rohingya refugee who fled his hometown, Buthidaung, because of Myanmar’s ongoing genocide against the Rohingya. He was held in Assam’s Goalpara District Jail from 2009 onwards, and released in 2020. There are an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India, living in camps in Jammu, Hyderabad and New Delhi, and over three hundred incarcerated in Indian jails.

Vijayan writes that “Buthidaung Prison, in Amir’s hometown, was full of people arrested and sentenced to up to five years ‘for offenses relating to marriages,’ and for travelling within Rakhine state without proper documents.” 

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    Suchitra Vijayan is a barrister-at-law, writer and researcher. She is the founder and executive director of The Polis Project, and the author of Midnight’s Borders: A People’s History of Modern India, recently published by Context, Westland.

    Keywords: Rohingya Myanmar refugees prisoners
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