NHRC’s notice to state government of Tamil Nadu over Burmese refugees

The National Human Rights Commission of India has issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu and Commissioner of police, Chennai calling over alleged harassment of refugees from Burma, according to NHRC press release on September 7. According to a media report about alleged mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in Chennai, the rights body asked the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and Chennai police commissioner to file a report within four weeks, the press release mentioned.

Justice D Murugesan, NHRC member, taking notice of a report in media, said refugees including women and children, were made to wander in “utter disregard to their human rights.”

“The state authorities have the duty to protect the human rights of the refugees and to provide shelter to them…the report, if true, raises a serious issue of violation of human rights,” the commission said.

The 64 refugees belonging to 14 Rohingya Muslim families had arrived in Chennai three years ago and were staying in a private accommodation at Koman Nagar in Thaiyur and were working as daily wage labourers and rag pickers. On September 3, an agent took them to Manali for some work, but when local people there objected to the presence of refugees in large numbers, police shifted them to a place at Kovalam on the East Coast Road. They were subsequently shifted to a community hall at Kelambakkam on September 5 after the district administration intervened. They have been provided food and security, said Chengelpet RDO Paneerselvam.

Police have been drafted for duty at the community hall, he said.

But, Refugee stated that they were forced to leave the land where they are living since three years by land owner. As they approached some local Muslim leaders, one Kabir Bai took the initiative to take them to Manali to settle them.

When the land owners asked refugees to vacate the area, the local Muslims tried to transfer them to Manali. But, the Manali people did not accept them, forcing them again to stay at Kelambakkam, temporarily.  For a few days, the refugees have been staying in makeshift camps in Kelambakkam with uncertainty that they might have to shift to another place, said Rofique from New Delhi refugee camp.

Kancheepuram district collector V K Shanmugam said the government had identified a poromboke land at Thaiyur where the refugees could be relocated. “We are yet to take a final decision on this.”

One refugee and a driver, Abdul Salam (39) said he arrived two months ago with wife and a child. He paid Rs 6,000 to a broker in Kolkata, who sent him to Jammu and Kashmir. From there he moved to Chennai. But without a license, he is unable to work.

Another refugee, Yousuf (35) said he came to Chennai with his wife and two kids. He paid money to multiple brokers in Bangladesh and Kolkata and added that he was keen on returning to Arakan, Burma.

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