Union Minister HS Puri’s sudden announcement regarding the accommodation of Rohingya refugee families in the National Capital Territory of Delhi is either inspired genius or a cat’s paw for Hindutva dispensation to explore the process of forced ghettoization, starting with the Rohingyas.
Disclaimer: This is an allegory. This is an entry for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Numerous truths, in-depth analysis, plausible guesses and a healthy imagination stemming from knowing the main actors reveal an intoxicating cocktail, the classic thriller. It is advised to read it with a healthy attitude of voluntary suspension of disbelief.
What had Puri tweeted?
EARLY yesterday morning, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, tweeted, “India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country. In a landmark decision, all #Rohingya #refugees will be relocated to EWS apartments in Delhi’s Bakkarwala district. They will be provided with basic amenities, UNHCR ID cards and 24 hour @DelhiPolice protection”.
The tweet is, interestingly, tagged to Delhi Police and the Prime Minister’s Office. This tweet, in the most powerful language group in the world – “bureaucrat” – alludes to an element of prior consultation with the two people copied in the tweet.
It ignores the fact that Rohingya refugees and others seeking sanctuary in India have been classified as ‘termites’ by the Honorable Union Home Secretary. He fails to mention that the Supreme Court, in a baffling order, allows eviction, but after considering motions for procedural fairness. Don’t you know there’s an abundance of due process in the Aliens Act?
Also read: Supreme Court’s Rohingya eviction order is unlawfully flawed and ignores principles of natural justice
It does not refer to Rohingya and other Burmese refugees in prisons in Jammu, West Bengal, Manipur and Assam, among others. More than 170 Rohingyas alone live in the Hira Nagar sub-prison in Jammu in abominable conditions!
And then the good minister Puri commits the ultimate blasphemy; he calls the Rohingya “refugees”. According to the gospel enunciated by the Vatican aspirant of Hindutva and all his major religious orders ranging from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, they are nothing but illegal infiltrators.
Good Minister Puri commits the ultimate blasphemy: he calls the Rohingya “refugees”.
Barely recovered from Puri’s left hook, he delivers an upper cut, also mentioning that identity cards from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (‘UNHCR’) will be provided to the Rohingyas in Delhi. Obviously, the minister’s ukase suffices, and any process of individual determination by UNHCR’s non-existent protection mandate for urban refugees in Delhi receives the final blow! It is left to the reader’s imagination whether UNHCR in India or Geneva was aware of this huge shift in recent Indian refugee policy.
And then the coup de grace in the disposable words, “24 hour @Delhi police protection”. It has an ominous ringtone. Shades of ghettoized detention centers. Detention centers in Assam still exist. Everyone remembers how and why our friends downstairs from the QUAD imagined the “peaceful solution” for the boat people!
CNBC TV 18, a channel not known for straying from the official truth, quotes Asian News International (“ANI”), which is akin to Hermes or our own Narada, carrying news from all locals of the lower world, from Sardar Patel Road to Sardar Patel Bhavan and everything else in between. ANI is quoted to say that during a high level meeting “chaired by the Chief Secretary of Delhi was held in the last week of July in this regard, in the presence of senior government officials and the Delhi Police.” The Delhi Chief Secretary and the Delhi Police are responsible to the Union Home Ministry, while nominally holding the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, another person appointed by the Union Home Ministry Union, simply informed on occasion.
Referring to the proposal to relocate barely 1,100 Rohingyas to the 200 one-room apartments in the Bakkarwala neighborhood outside Delhi, CNBC says that “ANI has further signaled that these buildings will be handed over to the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Offices), which will promote the resettlement of Rohingyas in these apartments.” Although the working knowledge of the English language is not the strong point of the news agency. It is the worst-kept secret that most civil servants working in the FRRO belong to the ubiquitous Intelligence Bureau (“IB”). The FRRO is a department of the Union Home Office. It also indicates that the Union Home Office was aware of the consultations on the matter.
Also read: India’s treatment of the Rohingya reaffirms the need for a national refugee law
Possible reaction and justification
Later in the afternoon yesterday, the Home Office awoke from its sleepwalking trance. “Regarding the reports in some sections of the media regarding Rohingya illegal aliens, it is clarified that the Ministry of Interior [MHA] gave no instructions to provide EWS flats to illegal Rohingya migrants at Bakkarwala in New Delhi,” the Ministry of the Interior tweeted from its official handle.
Puri, a former diplomat who previously served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (“UN”), is arguably the most knowledgeable person in the BJP cabinet on the workings of the United Nations system in New York and Geneva.
It is no coincidence that suddenly he or someone from the Union government saw fit to save him from being pharaoh Amenhotep or Heminunu, the great architect of the pharaoh. The grandiose project of Central Vista was too restricted a geographical space to leave its imprimatur there. Or perhaps being one of the few members of the Union cabinet with a liberal education, he had read the sonnet of the English poet PB Shelley, Ozymandiasand signaled that with the end of the Central Vista project, he was ready to take on greater responsibilities in his area of expertise.
Curiously, it was not the Union Foreign Minister who made the announcement. The UN Division, which deals with everything related to the UN, comes under their jurisdiction. The Union Home Secretary also did not make the announcement. The FRRO is a major department with its own joint secretary.
Puri’s sudden announcement regarding the housing of Rohingya refugee families in the National Capital Territory of Delhi is either inspired genius or a cat’s paw for the Hindutva dispensation to explore the process of forced ghettoization, to start with the Rohingya. The New Delhi Municipal Corporation comes under its administrative control.
The Union Home Ministry is to be commended for agreeing to delegate one of its inherent powers to the Delhi State Government as the battle rages on in vsthe extent of powers available to the Delhi State Government.
Was he watching what the stars foretold? The recent visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh will cast her shadow in the deliberations of the upcoming Executive Committee, popularly known as the ExCom, of the UNHCR in October.
The international policy towards Rohingya refugees
Many non-Western members of the UN are aware that blond and white Ukrainian refugees are welcomed with open arms, while African, Middle Eastern and Asian refugees commute around the Mediterranean to whether they are dying or about to die. Many states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are no longer so supportive of Naypyidaw’s military junta. They are more sensitive to Bangladesh’s concerns about the major shortfall in voluntary contributions for its upkeep of Rohingya refugee camps. They contrast this with China’s unwavering support of Burmese generals, the generous military training provided by the Japanese, and the sale and donation of weapons by India and the European Union allowing all its companies to make Chin Chin Choo with the brass hats in Naypyidaw.
Read also: Rohingyas: Genocide in the backyard
India is a member of the UNHCR ExCom. Interestingly, he is one without having signed or ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. He will be re-elected in October 2022. It will be a shoo-in given the pusillanimity of the UNHCR on refugee protection in India. Yet there are many in the Afro-Asian Nations committee who, other than replicating the old Indian record of “burden sharing,” have done very little for refugees of color. Interestingly, UNHCR this year provided generous grants to its NGO partners for on-site work with Rohingya refugees, who number 20,009 in Delhi; 2,367 in Haryana (mainly in Mewat, with a few in Faridabad); 416 at Jaipur in Rajasthan; 392 in Aligarh and 135 in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
Home Office clarification adds to confusion
The Union Home Ministry in its tweet yesterday used the term “illegal aliens”. According to today’s edition of The Hindu, “The Home Ministry also said it had ordered Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to immediately declare the Madanpur Rohingya area as a “detention centre”, which it did not do until ‘now”.
The Union Home Ministry is to be commended for agreeing to delegate one of its inherent powers to the Delhi State Government as a battle rages in the courts over the extent of the powers which has the government of the state of Delhi. North Block is also to be commended for agreeing earlier to delegate one of its sovereign functions to a UN agency, namely the recognition of urban refugees.
Puri, meanwhile, makes a brief comment that the position of the Union Home Ministry is “correct”. While you and I focus on this riddle, I’ll fall back on Hindu philosophy. That’s all “Maya(Sanskrit: “magic” or “illusion”). Mayathe magical power with which a god can trick human beings into believing what turns out to be an illusion.