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India must open doors to Rohingya Muslims if Narendra Modi wants to prove opponents wrong Featured

Picture courtesy : The Hindu Picture courtesy : The Hindu
  • Gurpreet Singh 

The Rohingya refugee crisis has put the diversity of the word's so-called largest democracy to test. 

Persecuted by the Buddhist extremists and Myanmar army, thousands of Rohingyas are seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and India. 

Mostly Muslims and far fewer Hindus, these refugees are being subjected to what the UN's top human rights official has described as "ethnic cleansing". 

The Indian response to the situation has so far remained very negative. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi—a long-time flag bearer of democracy who had fought against the military regime in her previous avatar—and did not raise the issue at all.

Aung San Suu Kyi too has come under criticism for remaining noncommittal on dealing with the issue in a rightful manner. So much so that she went to the extent of rationalizing the violence putting entire blame on Islamic extremists in the region.

The two leaders mostly spoke about enhancing cooperation in tackling with terrorism. The underlying message was how to fight together against Muslim extremism. 

The facts speak for themselves. While Myanmar is a Buddhist-dominated country, Hindus form the majority of India's population. Modi represents the right-wing Hindu Nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which is known for its strong anti-Muslim bias.

Notably, under Modi violence against minorities has grown. Muslims are mostly at the receiving end of the attacks by BJP supporters who wish to see India transformed into a Hindu theocracy. 

Much like Islamic activists In Myanmar are fighting for autonomy and citizenship rights, Muslims in Indian Kashmir are fighting for the right to self-determination. In both cases their resistance is met by brutal state violence and often ordinary Muslims are made to pay the price. 

The emergence of the threat of Islamic extremism, both real and imaginary, has made it easier for Modi and Myanmar to scapegoat all Muslims for their political survival in majoritarian democracies. 

In the meantime, Modi supporters have started shouting that India should send the Rohangiya Muslims back to Myanmar. Some have shamelessly suggested that only Hindu refugees be allowed to stay in India whereas Muslims should be forced to return. The argument being given by them is "security concerns", as if only Muslims indulge in terrorism and violence while the rest of the communities are peaceful. 

From the overall response of the Indian state, it appears that it has buckled under pressure from the Hindu right. 

It isn't the first time that India is facing such situation. In the past India had opened its doors to Tibetan refugees, Hindus migrating from Muslim-dominated Pakistan, and Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka during armed conflict between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil separatists. 

The anti-Rohingya rhetoric is part of the larger design to keep India as an exclusionary Hindu state. This not only goes against the spirit of India that has always been known for its openness and pluralism, but also the values of Hinduism that is based on this principle: the whole earth is one family. 

On one hand, the BJP wants to recreate Ram Rajya—or the rule of Lord Rama, one of the most revered gods whose kingdom was kind to those who came into its refuge—while on the other it is trying to raise walls against those who are trying to escape tyranny.  

We all know what Modi and his party stand for. It is entirely up to him now to prove his critics wrong and let the Rohingyas stay in India till the peace returns.

 
Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster and the cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. 
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