- Myanmar has accepted them as its citizens, government told court
- Rohingya Muslims being deported from detention centre in Assam
- Of 40,000 Rohingya in India, 16,000 registered with UN refugee agency
Seven Rohingya Muslims held at a detention centre in Assam will be handed over to Myanmar after the Supreme Court today refused to stop their deportation, the first such move by the government. "We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken," the top court said, accepting the centre's statement that the Rohingya were illegal immigrants and Myanmar had accepted them as citizens.
The Rohingya are from central Rakhine, from where thousands fled amid violence against the ethnic minority. They had been held in prison since 2012 for illegal entry into the country. They were bussed to the border yesterday to be deported.
The government's top lawyer, Tushar Mehta, told the court that the embassy of Myanmar was ready to give a certificate of identity to the Rohingya.
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan argued that the government's move was against the UN charter.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who took charge as top judge yesterday, asked: "First of all, they have been recognised as Myanmar citizens. What you have to say?"
It is wrong, they haven't been recognised, Prashant Bhushan replied, saying it was the responsibility of the court.
"You need not remind us what's our responsibility," the Chief Justice shot back, dismissing the petition.
New Delhi's move has drawn criticism from the UN, which said their forcible return violates international law.
"The Indian Government has an international legal obligation to fully acknowledge the institutionalised discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection," UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, said in a statement.
Around 40,000 Rohingya live in India after having fled persecution in Myanmar over the years. Around 16,000 of them are registered with the UN refugee agency.
UN officials describe the Myanmar military's action as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has denied the charge, saying its military launched counter-insurgency operations after attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants in August last year.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement said the repatriation of seven Rohingya immigrants was arranged after "reconfirming" of their willingness to return and with "full concurrence" of the Myanmarese government. "Upon reconfirming their willingness to be repatriated (on October 3, 2018), and with the full concurrence of the Government of Myanmar...the government of Assam has arranged for the repatriation of these seven individuals to Myanmar," MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
The government had last year told the court that Rohingya are a threat to national security, have links with terror groups and are likely to be used by the ISIS for terror attacks. It had also asked state governments to identify and deport them.