Rohingya Conflict

What is India’s policy on the Rohingya?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rohingyas

Mains level : Global refugee crisis

In a major boost to India’s policy on the Rohingya, the MHA would shift Rohingya refugees to flats meant for EWS in Delhi.

Why in news?

  • This is seen as a response to the fundamentalists who claims that the NRC, CAA are against any particular community.
  • India respects & follows the UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed.

Who are the Rohingyas?

  • Rohingya, an ethnic group, mostly Muslim, hail from the Rakhine province of west Myanmar, and speak a Bengali dialect.
  • They comprise one million out of the 53 million people that live in Myanmar, forming the world’s largest stateless population in a single country.
  • Universally reviled by the country’s Buddhist majority, they have been oppressed by the government since the late 1970s when the government launched a campaign to identify ‘illegal immigrants’.
  • Serious abuses were committed, forcing as many as 250,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh.
  • The 1982 Citizenship Law in former Burma made the Rohingyas stateless people.
  • They have often been called the most persecuted minority in the world.
  • The 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims squeezed precariously into the northwest state of Rakhine, in mainly Buddhist Burma, bordering majority Muslim Bangladesh, are stateless and unwanted.

Why are they stateless?

  • To qualify for citizenship, Rohingya applicants had to renounce their identity and accept being labelled as ‘Bengalis’ on all official documents.
  • They also had to prove that they could trace the presence of their family in Rakhine back three generations.
  • This is extremely difficult as many Rohingya lack documents or had lost them in 2012.

Why did the Crisis happen?

  • Since World War II they have been treated increasingly by Burmese authorities as illegal, interloping Bengalis, facing apartheid-like conditions that deny them free movement or state education.
  • The army “clearing operations” sparked the mass exodus of Rohingyas in both October 2016.
  • In August 2017, were launched after insurgents known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked several paramilitary check posts.
  • Rohingya activists claim the insurgents are mainly young men who have been pushed to breaking point by relentless oppression.

Security Implications

  • The Rohingya issue and its spill over impact on Myanmar`s western peripheral region and security implications figured in the discussions is not clear.
  • In all probability, the import of the ferment caused by the Rohingya migration, efforts of radical Islamists to influence some of the Rohingya youth, and the Pakistan attempts to capitalise on the situation.
  • Rising anger in the Muslim world about the plight of the Rohingya has compounded fears of home-grown militancy as well as support from international jihadists.
  • Illegal movement of people, combined with human trafficking and cross-border migration, can weaken Myanmar’s relations with its neighbour Bangladesh and its ASEAN partners.

Where do the Rohingya live in Delhi?

  • The Rohingya live in hutments in the densely populated Kalindi Kunj and Madanpur Khadar areas in Delhi which are contiguous with Uttar Pradesh.
  • Officially, about 1,200 Rohingya have been identified as among the first batch to have arrived in Delhi in 2012.
  • After they protested outside the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) office in Delhi, they were provided with refugee cards.

Total Rohingyas in India

  • In December 2017, the MHA informed Parliament that there are around 40,000 Rohingya in India, of which around 5,700 are in Jammu and also in Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.
  • Of these, only 16,000 are said to be registered with the UN refugee agency.
  • The MHA claimed that the exact number is not known as many of them enter the country.

How is the Delhi government involved?

  • The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), responsible for tracking foreigners and their visas, has been requesting space at a new location for the Rohingya from the Delhi government since 2021.
  • The FRRO is under the administrative control of the MHA.

When did the Rohingya come to Delhi?

  • A/c to MHA, they first came to Delhi in 2012.
  • They were forced to leave Myanmar in large numbers after several waves of violence, which first began in 2012.
  • The Myanmar army revived the attacks in 2017 and lakhs took shelter in Bangladesh.
  • Around five lakh Rohingya fled to Saudi Arabia in 2012.

What is the process of deportation?

  • According to the MHA, illegal immigrants are detected, detained and deported under provisions of the Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • Once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, without any document, he or she is produced before the local court.
  • The powers to identify and deport them have also been delegated to State governments and UTs.
  • If the accused is found guilty, they can be imprisoned for three months to eight years.
  • After completing their sentence, the court orders deportation.

Have any Rohingya been deported?

  • Any foreign nationals who enter into India without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants.
  • In 2018, seven Rohingya were deported to Myanmar.
  • It was the first time that Myanmar issued a certificate of identity to the seven Rohingya. They had been picked up in Assam in 2012.
  • Many Rohingyas have expressed their desire to return to their country and gave an undertaking that they were returning out of their free will.

India’s stance on Rohingyas

  • Amid fears of fresh exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, the MHA in 2017 cautioned all the States about infiltration from Rakhine State of Myanmar into Indian Territory.
  • It cited the burden on the limited resources of the country that aggravates the security challenges especially in the North-East.
  • It also said the rise in terrorism in the last few decades is a cause for concern in most nations and that illegal migrants are more vulnerable to getting recruited by terrorist organisations.

What is India’s stand on refugees?

  • India is NOT a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
  • All foreign undocumented nationals are governed as per the provisions of:
  1. The Foreigners Act, 1946
  2. The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
  3. The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and
  4. The Citizenship Act, 1955

Way forward: A humane approach is needed

  • India must enact a National Asylum and Deportation Law. Since certain exoduses cannot be prevented due to international pressures.
  • We need a proper framework to make sure that refugees can access basic public services, be able to legally seek jobs and livelihood opportunities for some source of income.
  • The absence of such a framework will make the refugees vulnerable to exploitation, which is again detrimental to our own national security.
  • Our judiciary has already shown the way forward on this: In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that the state has to protect all human beings living in India, irrespective of nationality since they enjoy the rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, and 21 of the Constitution to all, not just Indian citizens.
  • The enactment and enumeration of refugee rights will reduce our dependence on judge-centric approaches — or even worse, the whims of Home Ministry bureaucrats, police officers and politicians.

Try this

Q. In the absence of a uniform and comprehensive law to deal with asylum seekers, we lack a clear vision or policy on refugee management. In the context of this, examine the need for law to deal with asylum seeker and suggest the various aspects the law should cover. 


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