Appeal to PM for 'bold' Rohingya line

New Delhi, Oct. 12: Over 50 prominent citizens including a former minister have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to craft a "bold, new approach" so that India could lead a global response to the Rohingya crisis that they said had assumed monumental proportions.

The open letter, sent today, asked Delhi to "exert its diplomatic clout to pressurise the Government of Myanmar to end the security crackdown in Rakhine, respect the rule of law, and ensure the eventual safe and unhindered return of those Rohingya who wish to go home".

The signatories pointed out that India, as an aspiring world leader of the 21st century, could not afford to adopt a short-sighted approach to what has now become a global crisis.

"We urge the Government of India to lead a global response to this crisis, and embark on a strategy that includes concrete actions..., starting immediately," the letter said.

Among the signatories were former Union home minister P. Chidambaram, former home secretary G.K. Pillai, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, the NCP's D.P. Tripathi and the Swaraj Abhiyan's Yogendra Yadav, besides civil rights activists and lawyers.

"We stand ready to support your leadership," they wrote, urging Modi to step up and craft a "bold, new approach and pave the way for a new kind of global leadership".

More than five lakh Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since late August this year to escape a military crackdown in strife-torn Rakhine state that a UN human rights official had described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

In India, the government plans to deport around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims who live in the country.

The signatories differed with the government's move to deport the Rohingya Muslims, pointing out that it would be against the country's humanitarian principles and traditions, its obligations under international law, as well as its own constitutional provision.

"These people of course possess the right to return home in safety and dignity, but the present situation is far from safe for them to return," the letter said.

As for the government's contention that security considerations necessitate their deportation, the signatories said this was premised on false assumptions. "If any refugees or asylum seekers are found to be engaging in criminal activities, they must be prosecuted in accordance with due legal processes. However, this should not be used as an excuse to mete out collective punishment to an entire community," the letter said.

The matter is now in court as two Rohingya community members have moved the Supreme Court against the plan to deport community members who have taken refuge in India.

In Myanmar, Indian ambassador Vikram Misri was among 50 diplomats and UN officials taken to visit different areas of strife-torn Rakhine state where the crackdown had led to the exodus.

Foreign office spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the Indian ambassador got to visit Maungdaw and Rathedaung in Rakhine state.


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