On the morning of 31 March, Delhi Police officials picked up four members of a Rohingya family from Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj refugee camp. The four members were the 70-year-old Sultan Ahmed, his 45-year-old wife, Halima, and their two sons, 28-year-old Noor Mohammed and 19-year-old Osman. A week earlier, the police similarly detained a family of six. Anwar Shah Alam, a 33-year-old community leader from the Kalindi Kunj camp, told me that both families were taken to a detention camp operated by the central government’s Foreign Regional Registration Office, in west Delhi’s Inderpuri area. Alam and other camp residents said the police refuse to reveal why the families are detained. “We went after the police, asked them why they have taken the family,” Minara, another community leader from the camp, who is also Halima’s niece, said. “The police said, ‘don’t interfere or you will be next.’”
Minara recounted waking up at 8 am to urgent cries for help from her neighbors. “I was told they are taking my aunt and family away,” she said. “We rushed to the spot and there were around five policemen, including one woman police official.” The 35-year-old community leader told me that her family was given no time to pack their belongings before they were rushed out of the camp. “My aunt was sick, she was on medicine for stomach ache for the past ten days, and they didn’t even let her pick up her medicines.”
Fazal Abdali, a human-rights advocate who has been working with Rohingya refugees in India since the past ten years, was at the camp when the police came to pick up the family on 31 March. Abdali told me he followed the police to the Kalindi Kunj police station and inquired why they had picked up that family. “The SHO told me he had orders from the centre and he was merely following them,” Abdali said.
That evening, I went to the Kalindi Kunj police station, to meet the station house officer, Sukhdev Singh Mann, who refused to answer any questions. “I am not authorised to speak on the matter. You should approach higher authorities. The police have no jurisdiction over the matter,” Mann said. Queries regarding the detention sent to Rajender Prasad Meena, the deputy commissioner of police for South East Delhi, were also unanswered.
Minara and other residents at the camp insist that both the families who were picked up from the Kalindi Kunj camp had cards issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees—the UN’s refugee agency. India does not have any national refugee law or any formal refugee-protection framework, and the government has allowed the UNHCR to register refugees in the country. The UNHCR conducts refugee-status determination processes and issues refugee cards to individuals who are unable to return to their home countries due to war, violence, or a well-founded fear of persecution. According to Chander Uday Singh, a senior advocate who represented the UN special rapporteur on minority issues in the Supreme Court, the UNHCR card ought to protect the Rohingya refugees but it does not in practice.