- Rohingya handed over to Myanmar at Moreh border post in Manipur
- They were detained for illegally entering India in 2012
- Myanmar said they were its citizens and had verified their addresses
India on Thursday deported seven Rohingya to Myanmar, in the first such move, despite UN warnings that the men faced persecution in a country where the army is accused of genocide. The men, who had been in detention for illegally entering the country in 2012, were handed over at a border crossing in Manipur, hours after the Supreme Court refused to stop the deportation.
"Seven Myanmarese nationals have been deported today. They were handed over to the authorities of Myanmar at Moreh border post," said senior Assam police officer Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta.
Photos showed the seven men seated in a bus bound for the border. Then, in a widely criticised image, the men were seen posing while sitting on their haunches, with Indian officials standing behind them.
NDTV spoke to some of the men and asked them where they were from. They said Arakan - the old name for Rakhine state, the epicentre of a Myanmar army offensive that over the past year has driven an estimated 700,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh.
One of the men, 28-year-old Mohammad Younis, said: "I have nothing to say but I can say that we are satisfied that Burma is taking us back."
His statement and that of the others was in consonance with the foreign ministry's version: "Those sent back to Myanmar were willing to be repatriated."
The government said Myanmar had confirmed that they were its citizens and had verified their addresses in Rakhine.
A legal effort to stymie their deportation failed when the Supreme Court refused to interfere in the government's decision and agreed that the men were illegal immigrants.
"Even the country of their origin has accepted them as its citizens," said a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who took charge as the country's top judge yesterday.
The Rohingya are despised by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which refuses to recognise them as citizens and falsely labels them "Bengali" illegal immigrants.
The UN had said their forcible return violates international law, that the government had an international legal obligation to fully acknowledge the persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country.
India, in a sharp response, said it had continued a long tradition of playing host to a large number of refugees despite developmental and security related challenges.
According to home ministry sources, the presence of Rohingya has been detected in eight states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal, Haryana and Delhi.