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Indian regional polls 2017: Anti-incumbency, Congress-SP and media management cause big win for BJP

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] Y [/yt_dropcap]ear 2017appears to be an eventful one, for, India as there will be important for Indian politics. Besides facing the crucial Presidential elections, five states such as Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have gone to polls in February-March, Gujarat (PM Modi’s home state) and Himachal Pradesh will go to polls in 2018.

While Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand and Punjab have given clear mandate to BJP and Congress party respectively, Goa and Manipur refused to give a clear mandate either Congress or BJP, but the federal ruling party BJP has got the upper hand as its governors supported BJP to form the government in these states, though the party did not get either a majority or at least maximum seats, though it has got less seats than Congress in both instances.

The BJP is the clear winner in this round of Assembly elections in five states. With an apparently decisive mandate in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and its impressive showing in close races in Manipur and Goa the party is giving all credit to the Modi wave which has apparently succeeded in combating people’s perceptions about demonetisation. For Congress, the only saving grace was Punjab.

The extremely right wing political party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with military support under a highly “sophisticated” and very energetically dynamic leader Narendra Modi has had an easy win in the by-poll held last month in 2 of 5 states in a polarized India’s corrupt polity. At the outset, the election, conducted as a referendum for his demonetization drive to check and end black money flow and stop financing of terrorism operations in the country and around, was out and out PM Modi’s “historic” win. However, many factors like anti-incumbency, indirect support of Congress and Samajwadi Party in UP, absence of any credible honest leader or genuinely people’s party at national or regional level etc, contributed greatly to Modi’s fortunes.

Today after the regional polls, Narendra Modi has become the most important leader of India, above Hazare and Kejriwal who caught the imagination of entire nation with their anti-corruption movement against the Congress-BJP governments. BJP and PM Modi do deserve well wish for the electoral victory for working for equality in the nation. In a democracy, seats in state and federal assemblies decide government formation. However, seats could be won by politicians through cheap and undemocratic means.

The outcomes of the by elections have revealed anger and disappointments of voters towards the ruling dispensations including Congress, BJP, SP, etc and opted for the opposition parties, almost everywhere. Political parties cannot take the voters for granted in polls, at least. People have displayed a great sense of responsibility in punishing the ruling class for being dishonest.

Goa

BJP has sage managed the show in Goa state even without a majority by horse trading the independent MLAs. Congress secured more seats than the incumbent BJP but it did not stake its claim to form a government while BP did exactly that and now ruling the state and now Congress has approached the court, maybe as a mere formality to fool the world. ..

Close races in Goa and Manipur but with bargaining and deflections, BJP staked claim There were four major contenders for the 40 seats in the Goa Assembly – Congress, BJP, Aam Admi Party and the smaller Maharashtrawadi Gomanthak party and the Goa Foward. While the present Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has lost his seat, Congress’s Digambar Vasant Kamat who is also former Chief Minister, has won in his constituency, Margao. During his door-to-door campaign, Digambar Kamat repeated one mantra frequently. “Call me any time, 24×7. You need no agent to come to me. Although the Congress had 17 seats, just one lesser than BJP the latter has staked claim to form government.

Congress, as usual, played mischief and let BJP become the ruling party but when BJP became the winner, it called it a foul play by the governor who just obey he federal government’s orders. . Even as counting as underway it was expected that neither party would be close to the magic figure of 21 seats. The Indian Express reported that the MNP and smaller parties may play the king maker and that is exactly what happened.

The night long negotiations finally sealed the deal for BJP as both the MNP and Goa Forward Party agreed to support the BJP after they were promised ministerial berths by Nitin Gadkari. The Congress leaders, including party general secretary Digvijaya Singh and top state politicians, camped at the iconic Mandovi hotel in Panaji, where for five hours they wrangled over the choice of CLP leader, apart from waiting for Sardesai and other Independents. The Governor invited the BJP to form the government and current Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will be sworn in as Chief Minister.

Goa and Manipur experiments of letting the Hindutva party control government show that there is a consensus between Congress and BJP that the latter should rule India and its states to solve many issues (like Muslims, Pakistan, China, security, etc)

Manipur

In Manipur also, BJP stage managed and formed the ministry and Congress party that ruled it for many years has quietly gave in, almost signaling that its time is over as ruling party and BJP could take its place and communal pride. With the BJP and its alliance of regional parties together got 30 seats. By using ‘security issues” and using Sharmila as a serious threat to India as she wants all extra military laws withdrawn to let people live without fear, the BJP made a stunning debut in Manipur, winning 19 seats and leading in two of the 60 assembly seats in the states. The party’s concerted efforts to make inroads into the conflict state paid rich dividends. Ram Madhav of the BJP said that the performance of the BJP has been satisfactory given that the state unit was weak. Manipur too saw a record turnout of almost 86% in the second phase of polling as BJP intensified its security campaign.

The Congress has been ruling the North-eastern state Manipur for almost a decade and a half and faced a tough challenge from the BJP which, supported by the military establishment, as usual, made security issues to win poll. Since Manipur does not have any Muslim population it needs not to target anti-Muslim sentiments for Hindu votes but Sharmila gave the stuff for the BJP to talk at length about the security issues threatening India.

With communal agenda on cards, the BJP has very cleverly exploited anti-military feelings in Manipur state being represented by Irom Sharmila to expand its vote share in the Northeastern state.

On 11 March, as the results for Manipur Elections started coming in, Thoubal constituency was among the first few seats from where the results started coming in. This valley seat from where Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh was contesting the elections, had another key player who for 16 years was on fast for Manipur’s rights. Social activist Irom Sharmila Chanu aka ‘Iron Lady’ was the icon of Manipur who with her decade-and-a-half long fast against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (Afspa) garnered a lot of national attention sympathy and support. Upon ending fasting, Sharmila soon formed the PRJA which garnered support and attention from national parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Left and Democratic Front (LDF), etc. The party with its clear intention to revoke the draconic military law Afspa and redraft Inner Line Permit system set about campaigning through the state and gathering political funds.

In a state which is rife with violence, corruption, administrative struggles, and development deficits, her fight seemed watered down. While the BJP gathered votes by making promises about removing the economic blockade, creation jobs, removing corruption, ensuring rights to the Nagas, etc. Sharmila kept mum on all these issues.

Military played important role in the defeat of Sharmila and she lost so badly in her maiden election contest that she became panicky and vowed to quit politics altogether. Sharmila was mostly treated as a laughing stock by both Congress and BJP and its chief minister, because victory for Sharmila can be disastrous for both parties. When they all joint tempered with m voting machines remains to be investigated.

But the story in this 60-Assembly seat state is very different as there seems to be anti-democratic operations during poll day. Sharmila’s party Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) failed to secure a single seat in the state and its leader lost the fight against Manipur’s three-time chief minister Ibobi who won with 18,649 votes, Sharmila didn’t get more than 90 votes, giving rise to genuine suspicion of voting machine tampering during the poll by the Modi regime.

Many in the national media hailed this as a tragedy that an internationally renowned human rights activist couldn’t manage to secure even a 100 votes. However, the local populace has a different picture to share. When the 44-year-old decided to quit her 16-year-old fast in 2016 and join politics, it was welcomed by both national media and political parties. She soon formed the PRJA which garnered support and attention from national parties like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Left and Democratic Front (LDF), etc. The party with its clear intention to revoke Afspa (through legislative means) and redraft Inner Line Permit system set about campaigning through the state and gathering political funds.

In a state that has some 1,500 cases of extra-judicial killings, she was the face of the revolt against Afspa. When she ended her fast, people perceived it as the end of the movement. This angered a lot of people. Her popularity also tanked after she revealed her plans to get married to Goa-born British national Desmond Coutinho, whom her supporters have always accused of diverting her attention from the fight against Afspa. She had plans to tie the nuptial knot after the 2017 polls but Desmond recently said the marriage would not take place before 2019. While the party has allied with the Nagaland People’s Front of the neighbouring state, it chose to not announce an alliance with the regional party in Manipur. The reason, a senior party leader said, is a clause in the NPF’s manifesto that talks of Naga integration. “That made the party a bit uncomfortable,” the party leader said. A post-poll alliance, however, is not ruled out, the leader added.

Congress and BJP one and same!

BJP could easily target both Congress and Sharmila to victory. In a state hit badly by anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress government, the neglect that the various hill tribes suffered under Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s government helped the BJP make inroads in the hill areas. Of the 60 assembly seats, only 20 seats are set aside for the hill areas, while the Valley has 40 seats. While the hill areas account for 85% of the state’s geographical territory, the Valley accounts for 15% of the total area.

BJP didn’t just have a national appeal, it also went door-to-door to campaign about the party. They had swayamsevaks (volunteers) who regularly held meetings to discuss local issues, way before the elections were announced. The people in the hills (Naga districts like Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong) saw an alternative to Congress, which with the creation of the seven new districts in December 2016, had lost the vote of the Naga tribes.

Sharmila, who has won several international human rights awards, said in her interview with HuffPost India that both the leading national parties — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress — were practically “the same”. However, this did not stop either of the two national parties — Congress or BJP — from using the funds in their deep pockets, to campaign extensively in the state. The state which rarely received any national attention was suddenly getting visited by senior leaders of the BJP like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Prakash Javadekar, etc. Their rallies gathered thousands of Manipuris, whereas Sharmila’s PRJA went house to house to campaign for their party.

Sharmila decided to compete from a Meitei populated seat against a Meitei favourite Okram Ibobi and expected victory. In the interviews before the polling began, she reiterated that she hopes to win against the three-time chief minister. However, she forgot that the highly seasoned Congress politician had managed to snag the Thoubal constituency in two consecutive Assembly elections and that too with high margins. This time too he secured the seat with a margin of 11,470 votes against BJP leader Leitanthem Basanta Singh. Even the BJP didn’t put up a strong candidate for that seat. Sharmila’s misguided political judgment cost her MLA seat.

While the core media lords we are being harsh on the celebrated human rights activists, it is a matter of concern that the state which has a million female voters failed to support their female icon. An abysmal 90 votes are what the ‘iron lady’ got for her 16-year penance.

People’s mandate does not matter in Goa and Manipur; dictatorship or democracy?

In both Goa and Manipur BJP regime has played well to deny the party that got maximum seats to form government but let BJP form the government. In doing so, PM Modi has made the BJP ideology of”BJP only” crystal clear. The message is simple: If any other party is unable to get a clear majority BJP alone can form the government by purchasing MLLAs and MPs.

In Goa and Manipur, the BJP was in a minority. It won 13 seats out of 40 in Goa, with the Congress winning 17. In Manipur, its performance was just as poor, winning 21 out of 60, to the Congress’ 28. However, the party which rules at the centre has manipulated legal provisions to ensure that a state does not remain headless to claw its way to power against the will of the people. In Goa, it put together a coalition after negotiations with a party that had projected itself as secular – the greatest sin of the virulent anti-national, in the lexicon of most supporters of the BJP.

The narrative of the BJP (even Congress) has been that the minorities have been given too much leeway, and the trolls its leaders – including a Sikh Prime Minister – follow feel the minorities should acknowledge that they don’t deserve to be treated as more than second-class citizens. The minorities they attack include Muslims, Christians, and those unfortunates with intellect. The one democratic procedure in which the minority has no right is what follows the outcome of an election.

In a country that is becoming increasingly more bigoted and hostile to minorities, people must ask themselves what strategy makes leaders out of people who have, on the surface, no qualifications to run a country. The most powerful man in the world is Trump, a businessman with no political, diplomatic, or policy-making qualifications. The most powerful man in India is a healthy orator Modi who stays silent on the most burning issues of the day, asks others to react, recently deputing his Home Minister to handle the Kashmir crisis.

Standing in long queues in extreme weather is seen in the context of soldiers dying in battle for their country. How are the two comparable? A soldier dies in the uniform he volunteered to wear, for a country that he is defending of his volition against an enemy. When a pensioner has a heat stroke or a cardiac arrest while waiting through the day to exchange notes that he was saving for an emergency, where is his volition, whom is he defending, and who is the enemy?

Indian protests generally are just a show and never intent on real changes or reforms or at least further development. BJP’s one of the main agendas is to somehow acquire majority in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of parliament) to pass all bills and enact new bills as per RSS designs. But the move that upset the RSS agenda and brought the nation literally to a standstill was demonetisation. For weeks, even months, people struggled to pay each other. People literally died from standing in queues. Yet, despite all the chaos, there was no public protest – unlike the outrage in Venezuela, whose government attempted to follow India’s move. In that country, the people will saw the government withdraw the demonetisation move. In India, though, months after the dramatic decision was announced, when the memories of standing in queues for hours only for the ATM to run out of money before one’s turn came and notes being rationed out on a war footing are still vivid, the BJP has made a clean sweep of two Northern states. BJP has enough money to get votes.

Punjab

Punjab, ruled by BJP led coalition until the poll, has now opted for Congress party – of the 117 seats, the Congress was leading on 64 seats – and brought the AAP to focus by giving it a historic status with 28 seats. Two years ago, AAP had scored a sensational victory in Delhi, decimating rivals BJP and Congress. It also debuted in parliament by winning four seats in Punjab in 2014 – the equivalent of 33 seats.

While the entire country was full of energy during the counting of votes, the social networking websites were as silent as a grave with the AAP leaders going silent on the election results. The Twitter account of most of the AAP leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal did not show any activity since the results started pouring in.

In the initial phase of counting, it became quite evident that the AAP party scored zero in Goa while it backed 2nd position in Punjab. The exit polls had predicted that either Congress or AAP would win. Whereas Shriomani Akali Dal (SAD)- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance which was written off by all political pundits and journalists before the elections, has sprung a surprise by becoming the second largest party in the state. While the leaders were quite excited in the morning and tweeted motivational messages on Twitter before the results, their account became dull after the initial trend. AAP leader Ashutosh tweeted in the morning saying the result will set the tone for the future politics in India. “It’s a historic day,” he tweeted. Kumar Vishwas was among the few AAP leaders who came out in open and spoke about the elections. The leader congratulated BJP and the Congress on their win. Accepting the defeat in his style, he also tweeted a poem. The AAP, which fought its first assembly elections in Punjab, was at third place with 22 seats.

BJP is increasing its national presence step by step, indirectly supported by Congress, SP and other essentially anti-Muslim outfits.

Congress party with largest black money owners’ does not oppose BJP. What is even more shocking than that is that the BJP has ensured that it will form the government in two states where another party had garnered more votes than it had.

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Has Modi Conceded ‘South Asia’ to the United States?

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Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pursuing an assertive and confrontational foreign policy. From carrying out ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of control to unilaterally scrapping Kashmir’s special autonomy, Modi has shown that he has no aversion to undertaking bold actions. For the last seven years, he has essentially reshaped India’s foreign policy to match the brand of muscular nationalistic politics that he and his party have pursued for decades. In other words, like India’s domestic politics, its foreign policy has been (excuse the pun) Modi-fied. However, no other foreign policy position of the Modi government would be as consequential as his decision to align India with the Quad, a NATO-like strategic coalition centred on the Indo-pacific. By joining the alliance, Modi has removed the last Nehruvian pillar of New Delhi’s foreign policy: Non-alignment.

Following Independence, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru crafted India’s foreign policy on the Principles of Anti-Imperialism and solidarity among the third world states recently broke free from the shackles of colonialism. Nehru was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement along with Nasser and Sukarno. Despite being a comrade and disciple of Gandhi, Nehru was in no way a pacifist. He was not hesitant in using force to pursue Indian national interest wherever and whenever it was possible. Under Nehru’s leadership, India invaded and occupied Goa from the Portuguese. He also initiated India’s nuclear program. Nehru envisioned India as the hegemon of South Asia, which he believed was the country’s ‘manifest destiny’. He proposed a ‘Broad doctrine’ that hinged on the idea that New Delhi has an exclusive right to protect its national interests within its landmass and its periphery. In Nehru’s words, “any attempt by a foreign power to interfere in any way with India is a thing which India cannot tolerate, and which, subject to her strength, she will oppose.” However, this ‘Broad doctrine’ achieved maturity under Indira Gandhi, who pursued a policy of aggressive use of military force to deter external powers from interfering in South Asia. Her interventionist foreign policy led to the breakup of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Indira’s and later Rajiv Gandhi’s foreign policy revolved around keeping external powers at bay and maintaining Indian primacy in South Asia. New Delhi was so opposed to the idea of external powers gaining a foothold in South Asia that it intervened in Sri Lanka’s civil war out of fear that the United States might secure a naval base in the strategic port city of Trincomalee.

However, it seems that Narendra Modi has reversed India’s long-standing opposition to the presence of external powers in South Asia. New Delhi has openly backed a defence agreement between Maldives and United States. Among other things, it seeks to increase cooperation between the two countries. Though Indian officials have stressed that the agreement would not “impinge on India’s role as a ‘Net security provider’ in South Asia”, it begs the question: would such policy reversals have specific implications on the geopolitical status quo in South Asia? Have India conceded its role as the primary guarantor of security of South Asia to the United States?

It certainly seems that the Modi government has abandoned India’s ‘move alone’ policy. The concept of an alliance is becoming more and more attractive to Indian policy makers. This shift signals one crucial factor: India is no longer confident of its capabilities to resist the Chinese juggernaut’s inroads into South Asia. Beijing has established a significant presence in South Asia over the years. China is now the largest source of investments in all of India’s neighbouring countries. The BRI initiative has gained many tractions among South Asian countries. New Delhi is concerned that Beijing is strategically funding infrastructure projects which could be used for military purposes in future. The very fear of encirclement by China has led India to welcome more American engagements in South Asia. But what would be New Delhi’s role in this strategic arrangement? There is no doubt that New Delhi holds a central position in US indo-pacific strategy, but the power asymmetry between the two countries overwhelmingly favours Washington.

On 7 April, US Navy’s 7th fleet conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) without consulting with New Delhi. It is interesting to note that the US generally carries out such operations in the backyards of its rivals, like in the South China Sea or Black Sea. But conducting these operations in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of an allied nation is unusual. This action indicates that Washington is unwilling to concede any space to India just for the sake of the alliance.

Historically, any partnership between a greater power and a lesser power had never been treated as ‘equal’. No matter what officials in New Delhi might believe, this is the conventional wisdom in Washington. Indo-US relations might have come a long way but, if such cooperation continues through the upcoming decades, the position of the lesser power, in this case, India, is bound to relegate to a role of a ‘junior partner’, and the United States is making no ambiguity in signaling it.

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India’s Decision to Deport Rohingyas- How Fair?

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A young Rohingya girl holds her brother © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

India’s Apex Court recently ruled in affirmative the deportation of about 170Rohingya refugees who were detained in Jammu’s Jail. Critics have been uneasy with this decision, for this sharply contradicts the principle of non-refoulement – a principle that places human lives on the highest pedestal and prevents states from returning refugees to those places where their lives will be threatened. Simultaneously, critics have also been vocal about their displeasure with the current dispensation that is no longer willing to extend its magnanimity vis-a-vis refugees. This shattering reality marks the defeat of human right champions. In the light of these attacks, it is necessary to evaluate the current Supreme Court decision vis-a-vis International Law and whether India is justified in taking the stance that it has taken.

International Law on Refugee Rights

International regime has given the 1951 Refugee Convention as well as the 1967 Refugee Protocol that inter alia define who a refugee is. The definition clearly enumerates those who have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion in their country of nationality or in their country of residence. The definition also covers stateless people in its ambit. Convention also envisaged the right to non-refoulement which affords the basic right of refugees to not be returned to the place where they are likely to face persecution on the abovementioned grounds. This is a natural corollary to the very foundation of refugee law, for in the absence of provision of non-refoulement, the instrument would be a mockery. Suffice to say, non-refoulement remains the basic provision and has obtained the status of customary international law. In fact, its incorporation in numerous international instruments as well as regional instruments has underscored the significance States attribute to human lives. To scholars, the concept of non-refoulement has attained the status of jus cogens or peremptory norm of general international law from which no derogation is permitted. In fact, as per UNHCR’s experience, states, including non-parties to the convention, have overwhelmingly accepted the practice of non-refoulement.

However, this fundamental norm is subject to exceptions. The first exception is when the said person is a threat to the national security of the state in which he has taken refuge. This remains an important parameter since national security weighs heavily in a state’s radar, and any such threats would necessitate measures such as expulsion or deportation. However, the threats must be assessed and weighed against the threat to one’s life in case of refoulement. Lauterpacht and Bethlehem have suggested certain criteria such as, whether there is a prospective threat to the security of the country of refugee; whether there is a threat to the country of refugee and not to a third country or international community at large; and whether there exists a reasonable threat, the criteria for which must be set high, bearing in mind the adverse consequences of refoulement; and whether the said measures are proportional to the said threat.

The second exception is when the person has been convicted by a final judgement of a particularly serious crime and constitutes a danger to the community. For the purpose of our analysis, the first exception requires focus.

India’s Position vis-a-vis Refugees

India has been a gracious host to the refugee communities that have sought refuge in its territory, despite it not having signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or Refugee Protocol. Tibetans who sought refuge in India after a failed revolt against Chinese in 1959 were allowed a government in exile and have received active support from the Indian government since. Similarly, many Sri Lankan Tamils, who fled the war ravaged country have been living in India with the support of the government. India has also accepted many of the refugees who escaped the wrath of Pakistan in the months preceding the Bangladesh Liberation War. Fair to say, India’s record on sheltering refugees has been exceptional and has been consistent with the principles enshrined in its constitution, granting the right to ‘life and liberty’ admirably.

However, India’s stance on Rohingyas has taken a different road. While India prides itself on being the champion of individual rights and rightly so, its response was largely muted during the 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine. And its current stance to deport Rohingyas is in consonance with its initially muted response. But that can largely be attributed to the threat that India had already perceived vis-a-vis these refugees.

Rohingyas and Extremist Nexus

Scholarship on this issue has pointed to an early connection between Rohingyas and extremist organizations. A Paper by European Foundation for South Asian Studies has highlighted the nexus between the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) and extremist groups. This group, which was founded in 1980s by Mohammad Yunis, had links to Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh and Pakistan, Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in the 1980s-90s. Many of the members (of RSO) received training at Afghan facilities in the early 1990s. Afghan instructors have also trained RSO in camps in Bangladesh, a claim that can be corroborated by a 2005 Congressional Research Service Report on Terrorism in South Asia. The same report pointed out the connections between Al-Qaeda and Rohingyas. Another organization, Harkarah al-Yakeen (HaY), founded by Ataullah Abu Amar Janani, that later changed its name to Arakan Rohingyas Salvation Army (ARSA) was also noted to have connections to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where they received training. It has further been noted by a 2016 report of the International Crisis Group that ARSA has clear links to elements in Pakistan.

The fact that Rohingyas remain a fertile ground for terrorism and can be used by non-state actors to further their political agenda has been noted by Lt. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardy (Retd.). In fact, a piece by The Week has pointed that Lashkar-e-Taiba has been making inroads in the refugee camps and has been providing the youth with arms, ammunition and training. The growing terrorism in Bangladesh and its spillover effect in the Rohingya community had already alarmed Indian security officials. However, with many of the Rohingyas living in India, more specifically in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, doubts have been raised. Of course, the first question remains, why Jammu and Kashmir despite its distance to Myanmar? Shouldn’t Rohingyas instead seek refuge in the Northeast, which is geographically closer? A clear answer is not present.

What is apparent is that many of these refugees in the Union Territory have been receiving training from Pakistani terror groups. The same European Foundation for South Asian Studies report has pointed out that many of the Rohingyas have fought alongside Pakistani terror outfits in the Indian Administered Kashmir, which is an imminent threat to India’s national security. Besides, there is a clear proof of Pakistani based terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) lending support to Rohingya terrorist outfits such as Aga Mul Mujahideen (AMM). This, coupled with their proximity to Pakistan, via Kashmir, has naturally heightened India’s security concerns.

Pakistan’s enthusiasm to use proxy wars as a way to seek revenge from ‘Hindu India’ has frequently disrupted peace in the region. India, unfortunately, has suffered the brunt of Pakistan’s ill-decision making. With Pakistan effectively losing respect in the international community due its active support for terrorists, it has channelled its funding to many of these refugees through Bangladesh. This concern has been backed by South Asia Democratic Forum’s Director, Siegfried O. Wolf, who has pointed out to Inter-Services Intelligence’s support for camped Rohingyas in Bangladesh who can serve Pakistan’s long term goal of annihilating India.

This brings India to the position where it stands. India has credible evidence to showcase that its national security has been heavily compromised due to the nexus between Rohingya Refugees and Pakistan backed terror groups, and that its decision is hinged on national security imperatives. The presence of these refugees in the fragile Union Territory of Kashmir has added to India’s concerns, given the precarious state of affairs of the UT especially since the revocation of its special status. Global Terrorism Index 2020 has pointed out the same reality – India’s biggest threat comes from Islamist terrorist groups. Thus, India stands very well within its rights to turn back the said refugees who pose a glaring threat to India’s national security, and it does not amount to a violation of customary international law on non-refoulement. Nor does it diminish India’s credibility as a magnanimous host that tries to uphold the tenets of ‘life and liberty.’ To the keyboard warriors, this marks the death of ‘democracy’ at the hands of a communally blind government, but to the patriot it is another rightful step in safeguarding the country’s integrity.

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Rohingya crisis: How long will Bangladesh single-handedly assume this responsibility?

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Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al

At least 8,60,000 Rohingya FDMNs, mostly women and children entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape by the Tatmadaw in Rakhine, what the United Nations has decried as textbook example of ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning on August 25, 2017. The latest influx of Rohingyas brought the number of undocumented and registered Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to more than 1.1 million. Not a single Rohingya returned home to Rakhine when the Myanmar government blocked the repatriation process in various ways. Owing to critical socio-economic, environmental and security concerns, the Bangladesh government launched a project of relocating one-tenth of the Rohingyas to Bhashan Char on a voluntary basis. So far 18,334 Rohingyas have been relocated to Bhashan Char and they expressed “high satisfaction” over the existing considerable safe, secured and crime-free environment compared to the mobbed camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh government invested more than US $310 million from its own funds to develop the 13,000-acre island with all amenities and facilities of drinkable water, electricity, sanitation, agricultural plots, 120 cyclone shelters in each cluster, two hospitals, four community clinics, mosques, warehouses, telecommunication services, police station, learning centers and playgrounds which is far better than the facilities in the Cox’s Bazar camps. From the outset, the initiative was called into question by some human rights organizations and NGOs. However, in the wake of recent visits by high officials of the international community and donor states, it has been proven that the allegations against Bangladesh were merely political and propaganda.

Delegates from the EU, the OIC and the UN all demonstrated their prima facie satisfaction by seeing the facilities and living conditions of the Rohingya refugees in the Bhashan Char. Previously, a few INGOs and interest groups disseminated that the conditions in Bhashan Char are inhabitable and the relocation plan is a wrong decision of the Bangladesh government. But now all the foreign delegates and human rights proponents agreed that the decision to relocate some 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char under the Ashrayan-3 project was a timely decision for the well-being of the Rohingya community itself. Since the massive influx of Rohingya into Bangladesh in August, 2007, Bangladesh has actively carried out its humanitarian role. But, has the international community fulfilled its duty, apart from criticizing Bangladesh’s initiatives and raising funds for refugees for the time being? Bangladesh has done its part, and it is now time that the international community shares the burden and puts pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya refugees.

Bangladesh is trying to solve the crisis with its utmost efforts using all of its diplomatic maneuvers in the bilateral, trilateral and multilateral levels. Acknowledging the outstanding assistance in hosting 1.1 million Rohingya in Bangladesh, the US special envoy for climate change John Kerry during his recent visit to Bangladesh said that the global community must hasten its efforts to resolve the crisis as it is not merely responsibility for the country. Bangladesh in every multilateral forum has been desperately raising the issue of the Rohingya crisis as it has a far reaching social, economic, environmental and security concerns not only for Bangladesh but also for the South Asian region. For instance, Bangladesh raised the Rohingya issue at the 10th D-8 summit held in Dhaka and sought international support.  But it is ironic, due to lack of goodwill of the concerned parties, the situation is protracting. All the international community including the UN, the EU and the OIC members should work in a coordinated way to find a comprehensive and durable solution to the Rohingya crisis.

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