The Rohingyas are a security threat, throw them out -this is the government’s official stand. They are not refugees, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and Dhaka should be financially supported to take them back and look after them, say strategic experts. Openly communal hostility to these Muslims who have been driven out of their home and hearth by murderous mobs bays in the background, as experts weigh in on what stand India should take visà-vis some 40,000 Rohingya from the Rakhine state of Myanmar who have reached safety in India.India has happily offered refuge to communities fleeing persecution, time and again, in its long history.Assorted bands of Jews have made India their home. Fire-worshipping Zoroastrians fled religious persecution in their homeland and found refuge in India. Buddhist Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama sought and were given refuge, even when India had the best relations with Beijing then. Victims of Pakistani repression in East Pakistan crossed over to India and found shelter. To give refuge to those who come seeking it has been India’s tradition and India has only gained from it.
In the case of the Rohingyas, there are solid reasons, atavistic passion for fealty to Indian tradition aside, to give them shelter. One is to play a constructive role in combating global jihad, in defeating which India has a major stake.
It is indisputable that Rohingyas are victims of ethnic cleansing in the Arakkan hills by the Burmese army and Buddhist mobs. Their homes burned down, women and children raped, old slaughtered, the Rohingyas who managed to flee Myanmar are a textbook example of a group deserving of humanitarian support.
But they are victims not just of Buddhist communalism. They are victims, also, of jihad. The latest round of attacks on the Rohingyas was triggered by an attack on Burmese armed forces by a selfstyled Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that killed a dozen soldiers late in August. Retaliation was predictable and predictably brutal.
Why would any bunch o f Rohingyas attack the security forces, if not to exacerbate the conflict and bring on vicious attacks on the community that could lay the ground for extending global jihad to the Rakhine state?
The Islamic State has been routed from Iraq and Syria, for all practical purposes. But it is waging war in the Philippines, specifically on the Mindanao island, and seeking recruits in Indonesia, India and Pakistan. It would like to extend its presence in Asia. And what better platform can it get than a conflict in which a Muslim minority is being pummelled out of existence, as in Myanmar’s Rakhine state?
The Buddhist communalists gunning for the Rohingya and a weakkneed Myanmar government that cannot find the resolve to intervene on the side of democracy and justice in a communal conflict but goes along with majoritarian hatred are playing into the hands of the Jihadists. The Jihadists want them to more than just play into their hands, they want the Rohingyas to be savaged into indisputable proof of the need for jihad against a world that is out to destroy Islam.
India would help the jihadist cause by refusing to take in the 40,000 Rohingyas who have made it to India.India should, instead, expose as mere hateful propaganda the jihadist claim that no non-Mulsim would help Muslim refugees, that the non-Muslim world is out to get the Muslims.
What about the expert claim that the Rohingya are not refugees but illegal migrants, because, one, they crossed over from Bangladesh, and two, they did not apply for refuge but tried, on their own, to get Indian documents?
Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans wound their way to Ger many through Turkey and, in the case of many, several other states. That 80-million nation took in 1.2 million refugees in the last four years and is well on its way to integrating them into German schools, jobs, ways of living and society. Can’t India, a nation of 1,290 million people, absorb 40,000 hapless souls without losing its cultural moorings or endangering its national security?
What about the charge that Rohingyas did not apply for refugee status? Is it not possible, at least just about, that these people, fleeing genocide in a land where they were born and made their life but denied them statehood, did not have the legal acumen or practical knowledge that suffuse Indian strategic experts on proper conduct by foreign nationals entering a new country of sticklers for the law?
But this is not just about humanitarian kindness to those who clearly deserve it. It is also about defeating the vile ideology of jihad, not only among the Rohingya but also among Indian Muslims. Humanity , democracy and justice are on offer to all those who seek it -this is the message that India must send out, not only to the Rohingya but also to the jihadists and the wider world. Great power, to spin a cliché, comes with great responsibility. Greatness cannot just be arrogated but has to be earned, accorded by others, respected and admired.India’s tradition and India’s present call for such greatness, not the insecure pettiness that would cast the Rohingya refugees out.