The Reluctant Philanthropist

India’s untenable position on the Rohingya crisis

01 October 2017
On 8 August, India’s home ministry issued an advisory that asked all state governments to take prompt steps in “identifying the illegal migrants and initiate deportation processes expeditiously and without delay.”
Masfiqur Sohan/NurPhoto/Getty Images

On 14 September, an Indian Air Force aircraft landed in Chittagong with 53 tonnes of relief materials, including food, salt, cooking oil and mosquito nets. The delivery was meant to help Bangladesh cope with the vast influx of Rohingyas—a minority community in Myanmar that is facing large-scale violence there. This was the first tranche of assistance India said it would provide, as the refugees continued to arrive, crossing the Naf—the river that marks the border of south-eastern Bangladesh and western Myanmar—and swelling overcrowded, makeshift camps that have emerged on a narrow strip of land that faces the Bay of Bengal to its east. India has pledged to deliver 7,000 tonnes of aid.

The gesture had an immediate effect. Bangladesh shed its apprehension about hosting more refugees and opened its doors. Its prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, said that her country can feed the anticipated hundreds of thousands of people, given that it could already look after its 160 million citizens.

India’s generosity, however, was a departure from how the country had seen the Rohingya crisis barely a month earlier. On 8 August, India’s home ministry issued an advisory that asked all state governments to take prompt steps in “identifying the illegal migrants and initiate deportation processes expeditiously and without delay.” The advisory did not name the Rohingya, some 40,000 of whom are living in India right now, but referred to “infiltration from Rakhine state of Myanmar,” which it said posed “grave security challenges” to the country. On 1 September, two Rohingya men, with help from the lawyer Prashant Bhushan, filed a plea challenging the advisory, and the Supreme Court is hearing the matter. On 18 September, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that the government would abide by the Supreme Court’s verdict, thus passing the decision of whether the Rohingya will be deported on to the judges.

Salil Tripathi lives in London, and is a contributing editor at The Caravan and Mint

Keywords: Bangladesh Aung San Suu Kyi Rohingya Myanmar deportation Political refugees Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army
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