Jammu: With the Centre planning to deport all Rohingya refugees, there is distress and panic among the nearly 40,000-strong community living illegally in India. Calling the move counter-productive, most of them say, "We would prefer to die here rather than go back to a situation of conflict and violence."
Facing persecution in Myanmar, 35-year-old Mohammad Yousuf fled to India seven years ago and settled in Jammu and Kashmir, which is now home to nearly 10,000 Rohingya refugees. Yousuf, who works as a labourer, says all he wanted was a life away from conflict for his family - a life of peace and security. Now, he risks losing his home for the second time.
"We haven't come to India to live here permanently, we have come here for justice because back home we have been subject to great cruelty and murder," he says.
Another Rohingya refugee, Mohammad Shafiq, says, "We came to India to save our lives and now the government is saying that it will deport us, it is better to assemble all of us at place and kill us," says Mohammad Shafiq, a Rohingya refugee.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had earlier this month told parliament that the Centre has asked the states to identify Rohingya refugees living illegally in India and initiate their deportation. He said that although the UN has registered the Rohingyas as refugees, India was not a signatory to any accord on refugees.
Rohingyas originally belong to Rakhine province of Myanmar. However, many of them have left the country due to alleged persecution by the majority Buddhist community. The official stance of the Myanmar government is that Rohingyas are mainly illegal immigrants who migrated into Arakan, following Burmese independence in 1948 or after the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.
While the Rohingyas narrated their ordeals they fear facing as a result of the Centre's decision, Union Minister Jitendra Singh blamed the Congress and National Conference for the situation.
"Who brought these refugees to Jammu and Kashmir and helped them to settle here? It was the Congress and the National Conference which were ruling then, perhaps they are living in the hope that the refugees will settle down and eventually boost their vote bank," said Mr Singh.