Recent violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar has brought the immigrant issue back to limelight. Reports have estimated that more than 4 lakh Rohingyas have fled Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh since the violence on 25th of August. This single humanitarian crisis has unmasked the failure of our leaders to take a concrete decision on such sensitive issues. MoS Kiren Rijiju has very enthusiastically termed them as ‘illegal foreign nationals’ and called for their deportation. The reasons mentioned by the govt is that Rohingyas pose threat to the national security and that it also puts pressure on our resources. His reasons are apt and justified to an extent. He has also cited that India is not a signatory to the UN convention on Refugees, 1951 which is also true. But then comes the counter narrative from his own govt. Mr. Rajnath Singh has recently said that Rohingyas are not refugees as they have not applied for refugee status therefore making them ‘illegal immigrants’, implying that if given refugee status they are immune from deportation? When Mr. Kiren Rijiju is talking about India not being a signatory to UN covention and therefore not bound by international law then what is the point of Mr. Rajnath Singh’s comments about refugee status when Kiren Rijiju’s statements clearly indicates that the state will use its powers arbitrarily without any international obligations.
Under Article 51(c) it has been clearly mentioned that the state shall endeavour to ‘foster respect for international law’. India not being a signatory to an international law cannot be justified as the reason to use power arbitrarily and deport ‘illegal foreign nationals’ to a country where they face grave threat to their lives. What the govt should have done was to make our international borders less prone to illegal border crossings. This way we could have saved ourselves this trouble instead of mere rhetoric. Moreover, Article 21 gives Right to Life to every person irrespective of his/her citizenship. Also when the govt says deportation is solely an ‘executive matter’ they are mistaken because of the clear violation of the above Articles and therefore the matter is rightly sub judice.
Also, important is the past cases when India has welcomed ‘foreign nationals’ into India. Tibetans, Chakma- Hajongs, Bangladeshis during 1971 war have found a second home in India. The current tension regarding Chakma-Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh is another such matter. The Supreme Court has already directed the govt to grant them citizenship and the govt can hardly do anything to undo their citizenship because the then Citizenship Act gives them the right to be citizens of India just as Tibetans in India between 1950-1987 are Indian citizens according to Delhi HC. No new law can revoke their citizenship because it is clearly mentioned in the constitution that no new law shall have ‘ex post facto’ effect meaning no retrospective effect. Therefore agitating for revocation will bear no fruit instead student organisations should focus more on finding a realistic solution. People tend to get influenced by rumors easily.