Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India

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Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India

Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Development & Aid, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8. JAMMU, India, Mar 6 2018 (IPS) – In the semi-lit makeshift tent covered with strips of cardboard, five women sit in a huddle. As their young children, covered in specks of mud and soot, move around noisily, the women try to hush them down. Hollow-eyed and visibly malnourished, all the women also appear afraid. Aged 19-30, they have two things in common: one, they are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and two, they all live in fear of being sent back to the country they were forced to flee.“In Burma, they are still killing our people. Here, they say we are Bangladeshis. We do not even speak Bangla. Where shall we go? –Ansari “I came here when I was 13. Now I am 19,” says Nur Kalina, the youngest. She faintly remembers running with her parents from their village in Myanmar’s violence-wracked Rakhine state. “From Akhyep (Akyab, currently known as Sittwe) we started. We ran through rice fields, then by the river. When we came to Cox’s Bazar (across the border in Bangladesh), our fellow villagers were there. My aunt was there. They said, there is no food, no work, no future here. So my parents came here.” All the other women in the room – Leila, Shamshida, Taiyyaba and Rahena – nod. Their stories are not very different from Kalina’s. Each one of them came to Jammu in 2012. Since then, the rows of huts in the Kiriyani Talav neighborhood of northern India’s Jammu city have been their home. They all got married here and became mothers. Each one of them has relatives who are still living in Sittwe who call every now and then to talk about the current situation. Every time, they share news of fresh attacks and new names of relatives and neighbors who have been murdered. “They always tell us, don’t come back here,” says Laila. Rohingyas in Jammu There are around 5,743 Rohingyas in Jammu & Kashmir state, according to the state government. Scattered over Jammu, the summer capital of the state, and neighboring Samba district, their number is a fraction of that in Bangladesh (858,898) or Pakistan (350,000). Yet this tiny population is at the center of a controversy with some local factions accusing them of indulging in criminal activities such as land grabs, illegal settlement and aiding terrorists, and demanding their repatriation. One of the political parties spearheading the opposition against the Rohingyas is the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JNKPP), a Jammu-based right-wing group led by Harshdev Singh. Singh, formerly a minister in the state, would not talk to IPS despite granting an appointment, but his party has been very vocal in demanding a quick repatriation of the Rohingyas. On March 3, he led a protest march in Jammu and urged the home minister of India to send back the Rohingyas, who he described as a security threat. “The illegal immigrants pose a threat to communal harmony and pluralism of Jammu. The Union Home Minister should personally intervene and direct the state government to take necessary action in this regard otherwise the situation in Jammu could take an ugly turn like in Kashmir,” Singh was quoted as saying by local media. Opposition to the Rohingyas intensified after a terrorist attack on an army camp in Sunjwan, an area on the city outskirts. Right after the attack, Kavinder Gupta, a local politican, accused the Rohingyas of being involved in the attack. Although he was criticized by other lawmakers, his party members stood by him. India, which has not signed the International Refugee Convention, asked the states in August 2017 to identify the Rohingyas for a possible deportation. The decision, however, has since been challenged in the Supreme Court of India by some Rohingya refugees. Fear in the air Hazara, who asked to go by her first name only, is a 29-year-old Rohingya refugee woman living in a hut bordering the army camp in Sunjwan. Like all the other women Rohingya refugees, Hazara never went to school. With no education and no specific skills, the single mother of two was earning her livelihood by shelling walnuts for her non-Rohingya neighbors. The wages of INR 12 (less than a quarter) for each kilogramme of walnuts were not very high, but they helped the woman feed herself and her family. However, since the attack on the army camp, it has become difficult to find work.Related IPS ArticlesWomen Peace Laureates Condemn Inaction on Rohingya “Genocide”Monsoon Season Threatens More Misery for RohingyasFate of the Rohingyas – Part One “The next day when I went to work, they said, ‘You are troublemakers, we don’t want you here.’ Everyone was looking at me suspiciously, as if I have done someth
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On March 6, 2018
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