Police action on protesting Rohingya refugees at a detention centre in Jammu "killed" a baby, and its parents were taken to the burial site in handcuffs, a group fighting for these refugees’ rights and several other Rohingyas have alleged.
A video uploaded by the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), an India-based organisation, purportedly shows the Rohingya mother in handcuffs as she mourns beside the baby’s body, surrounded by other grieving women.
Another video, shot with camera lights in dark surroundings, shows the handcuffed woman and some others being herded by the police towards a graveyard.
According to the RHRI, the baby was five months old and died after being hit by a tear gas shell and then getting suffocated by tear gas smoke.
The injuries happened, the group said, on Tuesday when police at the Hira Nagar jail turned detention centre in Kathua district, Jammu, allegedly attacked the protesting Rohingyas, mostly Muslims who have fled persecution in their homeland Myanmar.
Two Rohingyas living in Narwal — a village in Jammu district that is 60km from Hira Nagar and where the baby had purportedly been brought for the burial on Wednesday night — told The Telegraph the parents had confirmed the RHRI’s account of the baby’s age and death.
However, Kathua district superintendent of police Koushal Kumar denied any baby had died in police action at the jail. He claimed a six-week-old baby had died of illness on Wednesday.
“The baby had been ill since birth. It was put on a ventilator but did not survive. The death is not related to Tuesday’s incident and did not die in our action,” Kumar told this newspaper.
He claimed the violence had started after Rohingya detainees took three policemen hostage, and that several policemen were injured while trying to rescue them.
The RHRI denied any “clashes”, asserting the Rohingya detainees did not commit any violence.
There is some confusion whether the baby was a boy or a girl.
Local people in Narwal confirmed that the baby's parents were in handcuffs and identified the couple as Salimullah and Nomian Khatoon.
“He (the baby) was born in jail and died in jail,” a Rohingya living in Narwal, who asked not to be identified, told this newspaper
“The tragedy is that both parents were brought here in chains (handcuffs) as if they were dreaded criminals. Even criminals have rights but we don’t.”
Another Rohingya in Narwal, who has close relatives lodged in the Hira Nagar detention centre, said the baby’s parents had told the villagers that it had died in police action.
“They told us that it was suffocated to death by intense smoke caused by tear gas shell. Other people too were injured in the police action,” the Rohingya said. “We have learnt that the police have arrested five of the detainees, including two women, for Tuesday's incident.”
Sabber Kyaw, director of the RHRI, told this newspaper: “There was no clash inside the centre (as the police claim). Police lobbed tear gas shells at them and they ran towards the gate.”