BBC News – Myanmar Muslims fear further ‘turning of the tide’

Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News

Yangon, 16 October 2017. For Tun Kyi, Myanmar is home. He was born and brought up in the country and, like thousands of other Burmese, he was also protesting in the streets for democracy during the military junta’s rule. He spent 10 years in prison.

Today, he is playing an active role in the Former Political Prisoners Society of Myanmar. He was one of those Muslims who hoped the community would get its rightful place in society after the end of military rule in 2010.

“The situation changed after the violence in Rakhine state in 2012,” he said. “The tide is not just against Rohingya Muslims but also against the Muslim community as a whole.”

Mr Kyi’s ancestors migrated from India to Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma, generations ago.

The clashes between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas in western Rakhine state in 2012 drove 140,000 people out of their homes. Most of those displaced, particularly Rohingya Muslims, ended up seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

I was invited to a mosque in Yangon during Friday prayers. Hundreds of men, many wearing their Islamic caps, were streaming in and getting ready for prayers.

The discussions I had with some of the worshippers reflected a sense of uneasiness among the community following the latest round of violence in Rakhine.

The violence was triggered after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), a Rohingya Muslim militant group, launched simultaneous attacks on Myanmar security check posts in the region on 25 August. The Myanmar military swiftly launched what it described as counter-terrorism operations.

More than half-a-million Rohingya Muslims have since fled the violence, bringing with them reports of rape and extra-judicial killings.

Senior UN officials and human rights groups have described the exodus of Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing”- a charge vehemently denied by the government of Myanmar.

“The problem there in Rakhine state is terrible,” says worshipper Muhammad Yunus. “There are concerns that the violence may spill over to Yangon and other places.”

He says that Muslims in other parts of the country are very careful about what they say and do in their day-to-day affairs.

“There are people who were born and raised in Rakhine state now living in Yangon,” says Mr Yunus. “They are worried about their family members and relatives back home.”

Senior UN officials and human rights groups have described the exodus of Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing”- a charge vehemently denied by the government of Myanmar.

“The problem there in Rakhine state is terrible,” says worshipper Muhammad Yunus. “There are concerns that the violence may spill over to Yangon and other places.”

He says that Muslims in other parts of the country are very careful about what they say and do in their day-to-day affairs.

“There are people who were born and raised in Rakhine state now living in Yangon,” says Mr Yunus. “They are worried about their family members and relatives back home.”

The elections in 2015 brought Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power, but even the NLD did not field any Muslim candidates.

“We feel that we are being discriminated against in every way, you name it,” says Al-Haj U Aye Lwin, the chief convener of the Islamic Centre of Myanmar.

He says that has been the case since 1962 – when the military seized power – and Muslims have been weeded out from important government positions.

“Now you don’t find even one junior [Muslim] officer in the police force, let alone the army,” says Mr Lwin. He argues that the discrimination mainly emanates from the government and is not so widespread at grassroots level.

Mr Lwin is one of the members of an Independent Advisory Commission, headed by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to find solutions to the conflict in Rakhine state.

The commission was set up by Ms Suu Kyi in 2016. It submitted its recommendations on 24 August – a day before the latest round of violence started.

Mr Lwin says Ms Suu Kyi may not be perfect, but “she is our only hope”. He argues that the state counsellor has done whatever she could to solve the Rohingya issue.

“If she comes out openly and started to speak for the Muslims, it will be a political suicide for her,” he says. “We don’t want that to happen.”

He warns that the West should understand that if she is discredited and removed from power, Myanmar risks a return to authoritarian rule.

“Only the dictators will come back,” he cautions.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41587478

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The Hindustan Times – Supreme Court says human rights of Rohingya refugees cannot be ignored

The top court set the next date of hearing for November 21, and asked petitioners to approach it in case the government begins any deportation exercise.

New Delhi, 13 October 2017. The Supreme Court on Friday said that problem of Rohingya refugees is of a “great magnitude”. However, there is a need to strike a “right balance” to address concerns of national security that might arise due to their stay, it said.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was about to issue a directive to the Centre not to deport Rohingya refugees but was stopped by additional solicitor general, Tushar Mehta, who said an order of this kind would embarrass the government on international fora.

The bench fixed November 21 to give a detailed and a holistic hearing on the petitions filed against the government’s decision to deport Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar.

At the request of senior counsel, appearing for representatives from the community, social activists and NGOs, the bench gave them liberty to approach it in case any contingency arose during the intervening period.

“It is a large issue. An issue of great magnitude. Therefore, the state has a big role. The role of the state in such a situation has to be multipronged,” the bench said.

Mehta was told that the government should not be oblivious to the plight of children and women. “They do not know anything. We expect the executive will not be oblivious to their condition. Do not deport them. You take action if something wrong is found,” the bench said.

On behalf of the petitioners, senior advocate Fali S Nariman said that all Rohingyas, be they Muslims or Hindus, are not terrorists as the government has stamped them to be. “It (Centre) cannot pass a blanket order like this,” he submitted.

The bench felt the government’s concern over national security, too, cannot be ignored. “There is no iota of doubt that a humanitarian issue is involved but national interest has to be kept in mind,” said the judges.

They also emphasised that the court will go by the letter of the law and not get swayed by the “emotional arguments” offered by the two sides.

Centre should deal with migration: MHA

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) said the issue of Rohingya migration had to be “dealt with only by the Central government” as it is an executive function of the government.

“The central government is of the opinion that deportation of illegal immigrants has to be dealt with only by the central government because it is essentially an executive function of the government,” said an MHA spokesperson after the hearing.

The spokesperson added that the apex court had not stayed the deportation of Rohingyas.

“No interim order has been granted. The SC has merely recorded the statement of the learned counsel for the petitioner to the effect that in case of any contingency he can move the court for appropriate interim order.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/human-rights-of-rohingya-refugees-cannot-be-ignored-says-supreme-court/story-P1QnPPLgdQdzsQPOWkwH9M.html

The Statesman – Deport Rohingya Muslims, save Hindus: VHP

New Delhi, 27 September 2017. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Wednesday urged the Narendra Modi government to deport Rohingya Muslims but grant refugee status to Rohingya Hindus and provide them a “secure and blissful life in India”.

The VHP’s International Joint General Secretary Surendra Kumar Jain said in a statement that Rohingya Hindus need to be seen in a different light from the Rohingya Muslims, who he alleged were “indulging in terrorist activities”.

“To handle the Muslim Rohingyas, the policy of ‘no more newcomers, oust the existing ones’ needs to be implemented,” he said.

He claimed that Rakhine’s Rohingya Hindus don’t want Indian citizenship but are ready to relocate to any Hindu or Buddhist majority area in Myanmar.

“It is the government’s moral and constitutional responsibility to grant them refugee status and provide a secure and blissful life in India,” he said.

“VHP also appeals to the central government to pressurise the Bangladesh government to provide security to the Rakhine Rohingya Hindus. The central government should appeal to the Myanmar government to relocate and settle the Rohingya Hindus to a safe place,” the statement added.

Jain said that a VHP delegation will meet the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as well as the envoys of Myanmar and Bangladesh to request them to take quick action for the security of Rohingya Hindus.

http://www.thestatesman.com/india/deport-rohingya-muslims-save-hindus-vhp-1502500812.html

BBC News – Are the Rohingya India’s ‘favourite whipping boy’?

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi, 25 September 2017. At home in Myanmar, they are unwanted and denied citizenship. Outside, they are largely friendless as well. Now the government says that Rohingya living in India pose a clear and present danger to national security.

First, a government minister kicked up a storm earlier this month when he announced that India would deport its entire Rohingya population, thought to number about 40,000, including some 16,000 who have been registered as refugees by the UN.

The Rohingya are seen by many of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Fleeing persecution at home, they began arriving in India during the 1970s and are now scattered all over the country, many living in squalid camps.

The government’s announcement has come at what many say is an inappropriate time, as violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state has forced more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh since August.

When petitioners went to the Supreme Court challenging the proposed ejection plan, Narendra Modi’s government responded by saying it had intelligence about links of some community members with global terrorist organisations, including ones based in Pakistan.

It said some Rohingya living here were indulging in “anti-national and illegal activities”, and could help stoke religious tensions.

Experts agree the threat from Myanmar’s newly-emergent Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), should not be underestimated. Analyst Subir Bhaumik describes Arsa as “strong and motivated”, although its exact size and influence remain unclear.

The current crisis began in Rakhine in August with an Arsa attack on police posts which killed 12 security personnel. Reports say the group has at least 600 armed fighters.

Bangladeshi officials claim that Arsa has links with a banned militant group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which was held responsible for the July 2016 cafe attack in Dhaka in which 20 hostages died. Delhi believes groups like Arsa pose a threat to regional security.

But critics of the move wonder how much credible intelligence India has on Rohingya refugees on its soil with terror links.

They say India has fought long-running home-grown insurgencies with rebel groups in the north-east and Maoists in central India, which have arguably posed a greater threat to national security than what they say is a rag-tag and scattered Rohingya population.

Also, many question a proposed move to punish a community for the perceived crimes of some – in other words, is it right to consider all Rohingya a security threat?

On the other hand, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh insists Rohingya are not refugees or asylum-seekers. “They are illegal immigrants,” he said recently.

But critics say this is untenable because India is legally bound by the UN principle of “non-refoulement” – meaning no push-backs of asylum seekers to life-threatening places.

Also, India’s constitution clearly says that it “shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another”.

Like much of Asia, which is home to a third of the more than 20 million displaced people in the world, India has a curious track record in refugee protection.

Although the country is not party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol and doesn’t have a formal asylum policy, it hosts more than 200,000 refugees, returnees, stateless people and asylum seekers, according the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

These include more than 100,000 Tibetans from China and more than 60,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka.

At the same time, India has always taken in refugees based on political considerations. It took in tens of thousands of refugees from Bangladesh during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan even as it trained and supported pro-liberation guerrillas, for example.

Many like Michel Gabaudan, former president of the advocacy group Refugee International, believe that India distrusts the international refugee process partly “because it [has] received little recognition for taking in refugees” in the past.

Unenviable

A 2015 paper by a group of Indian researchers said the image of Rohingya in India was “unenviable – foreigner, Muslim, stateless, suspected Bangladeshi national, illiterate, impoverished and dispersed across the length and breadth of the country”.

“This makes them illegal, undesirable, the other, a threat, and a nuisance,” the paper said.

This also makes them, says analyst Subir Bhaumik, “a favourite whipping boy for the Hindu right-wing to energise their base”.

“Remember how the issue of the Bangladeshi illegal migrant was invoked by Mr Modi and his party during the 2014 election campaign?” he said, referring to the prime minister’s efforts to generate support from his Hindu base in areas with many migrants.

In the end, many say, what is is deeply troubling is a country talking about returning Rohingya people to Myanmar even as they appear to be the target of what the UN says “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

“Any nation has a right, and indeed a responsibility, to consider security risks, but that cannot be confused as an excuse to knowingly force an entire group of people back to a place where they will face certain persecution and a high likelihood of severe human rights abuses and death,” Daniel Sullivan of Refugees International told me.

That is something India would possibly do well to remember.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41318225

The Hindu – BSF pushes back Rohingya from Tripura

17 illegal migrants caught and handed over to police; 75 vulnerable locations have been identified on a 21-km stretch in the State

Vijaita Singh

New Delhi, 26 September 2017. On instructions from the Home Ministry, the Border Security Force recently pushed back four Rohingya Muslims who were trying to cross over an unfenced stretch on the Bangladesh border in Tripura.

This is the first instance of Rohingya being pushed back since the Home Ministry circular on August 19 to identify and deport them.

An official said the BSF had identified 75 vulnerable locations on a 21-km stretch in Tripura.

NHRC opposition

The National Human Rights Commission has opposed the government’s move to deport and push back the Rohingya and sought a report from the Ministry.

The Hindu reported on September 15 that Assam and Manipur had asked the State police and the BSF to push back any Rohingya attempting to enter the country.

“This year, 17 Rohingya Muslims were caught along the Tripura and Assam border. They were handed over to the police and action is being taken against them,” said a BSF official on condition of anonymity.

Asked how they identified the Rohingya, he said, “The Bengali dialect they speak is different from that spoken in India and Bangladesh. It is not difficult to identify them. They could have travelled from the Cox Bazar area [a large number of Rohingya has taken shelter here] in Bangladesh all the way to the Tripura border.”

Centre’s affidavit

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on September 18, the Centre said Rohingya were a threat to national security and “some of the unauthorised Rohingya immigrants had linkages with Pakistan-based terror organisations.”

It said there was an organised influx of “illegal” immigrants from Mynamar through agents and touts facilitating illegal immigration of Rohingya into India via Benapole-Haridaspur (West Bengal), Hili (West Bengal), Sonamora (Tripura), Kolkata and Guwahati.

The first four points are authorised immigration checkpoints and manned by customs, immigration and BSF officials.

Asked to clarify if Rohingya were using authorised immigration checkpoints to enter India, a Home Ministry spokesperson said “illegal immigrants avoided the legal routes”.

“Such illegal immigration takes place surreptitiously through different possible entry points,” the spokesperson said.

In June, the Home Ministry constituted yet another committee to examine various methods to curb the misuse of free movement along the Myanmar border, a friendly country, with which it shares unfenced borders and unhindered movement of people across the border.

The committee, headed by Rina Mitra, Special Secretary, Internal Security, visited the border areas last week.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bsf-pushes-back-rohingya-from-tripura/article19758132.ece

The Asian Age – BSF using chilli spray, stun grenades to stop Rohingyas

A chilli grenade makes use of a naturally-occurring compound in chilli powder to cause severe irritation and temporarily immobilise its target.

New Delhi, 24 September 2017. India has stepped up security along its largely porous eastern border with Bangladesh and is using “chilli and stun grenades” to block the entry of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from violence in their homeland of Myanmar, officials said on Friday.

Border forces in India, which wants to deport around 40,000 Rohingya already living in the country, citing security risks, have been authorised to use “rude and crude” methods to stop any attempts by the Rohingya to cross the India-Bangladesh border.

“We don’t want to cause any serious injury or arrest them, but we won’t tolerate Rohingya on Indian soil,” said a senior official with the Border Security Force (BSF) in New Delhi.

“We’re using grenades containing chilli spray to stop hundreds of Rohingya trying to enter India … the situation is tense,” added the official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to media.

More than 420,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when a coordinated attack by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces triggered a counteroffensive, killing at least 400 people, mainly militants. The UN has called the assault a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Bangladesh is struggling to shelter all the refugees desperate for space to set up shacks, sparking worries in India that the influx could spill into its territory.

R P S Jaswal, a deputy inspector general of the BSF patrolling a large part of the border in West Bengal, said his troops were told to use both chilli grenades and stun grenades to push back the Rohingya.

A chilli grenade makes use of a naturally-occurring compound in chilli powder to cause severe irritation and temporarily immobilise its target.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is growing increasingly hostile towards the Rohingya in India, with home minister Rajnath Singh calling on Thursday for their deportation as “illegal migrants”.

Seeking to get legal clearance for the deportation plan, the home ministry told the Supreme Court this week it would confidentially provide it with intelligence information showing Rohingya links with Pakistan-based militants.

Most of the refugees had no link to criminal activity, two Rohingya men protesting against the deportation move told India’s top court on Friday.

An official of India’s federal investigations agency said it was seeking help from Muslim religious leaders to step up surveillance of the Rohingya.

Police have arrested a suspected al-Qaeda member who they say was trying to recruit Rohingya in the country to fight security forces in Myanmar. More than 270 Rohingya have been in Indian jails since 2014.

“Our investigations have revealed that al-Qaeda wants to use India and Bangladesh as their base to start a religious war against Myanmar,” said New Delhi police official Pramod Singh Khuswah. “Clearly they are a threat to our security.”

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/240917/bsf-using-chilli-spray-stun-grenades-to-stop-rohingyas.html

BBC News – Rohingya crisis: Are Suu Kyi’s Rohingya claims correct?

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been speaking about the violence and refugee crisis in Rakhine State.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, who has been covering the story of the Rohingya people from both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, assesses her claims.

Rangoon, 19 September 2017. Aung San Suu Kyi: “There have been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations.”

On 7 September, I was on a government-organised media trip in the town of Alel Than Kyaw, where we heard automatic weapons fire in the distance and saw four large columns of smoke, indicating villages being burned.

Later that same day, we came across the Rohingya village of Gaw Du Thar Ya being set alight by Rakhine Buddhist men, in front of armed policemen and close to a police barracks.

Now, from Bangladesh, we have seen columns of smoke on the other side of the Naf River large enough to suggest villages being burned.

Aung SanSuu Kyi may not term these “clearance” operations, but given the heavy military and police presence in these areas, close to the riverbank, it is difficult to believe they do not have at least tacit approval from the authorities there.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “Action will be taken against all people’s regardless of their religion, race or political position who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community.”

In more than 70 years of recorded abuses by the Burmese armed forces, there are almost no records of military officers being disciplined in Rakhine State or in the many other areas where armed conflicts continue inside the country.

It is hard to see that happening now, with the military insisting all of the more than 400,000 Rohingyas who have fled did so because of their involvement in the attacks by the militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

One colonel in Maungdaw told me the many allegations of rape made by Rohingya refugees could not be true because his men were too busy fighting to rape and would find the Rohingya women too unattractive.

Aung San Suu Kyi: “All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and health care services without discrimination.”

This is patently untrue. Rohingyas have been subjected to discriminatory restrictions for many years barring them from moving, even getting married, without official permission, which often involves paying bribes.

Since the 2012 communal violence, Rohingyas have had even tighter restrictions imposed on them.

Many in the displacement camps within Myanmar are confined to those areas unless they have special permission to leave, which is hard to get.

I know students inside the camps whose education has been halted for the past five years.

Four years ago, I visited the Rohingya village of Ah Nauk Pyin, south of Rathedaung, where the inhabitants were unable to leave even for medical treatment because of the hostility of the surrounding Rakhine Buddhist communities.

On Monday, in Bangladesh, I met Abdulmajid, from Gaw Du Thar Ya – the village I saw being burnt.

He told me for “the last five years, we couldn’t go outside our village for work”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41312931

The Times of India – Convince Myanmar to end violence against Rohingyas, Bangla Desh urges India

Indrani Bagchi

New Delhi, 12 September 2017. “India has good relations with Myanmar, we are both members of BIMSTEC. India must emphasize to Myanmar that conditions must be created so that these refugees can return to their country.

India can call for the immediate implementation of the Kofi Annan report,” said Syed Muazzem Ali, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India as Bangladesh grapples with a huge influx of refugees, which now total 6,70,000, in the midst of one of the worst floods in recent years.

The Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali proposed a plan of action to tackle the crisis. This includes asking Myanmar to stop the violence in Rakhine province, create safe zones to protect civilians “irrespective of ethnicity and religion”.

“Myanmar must engage with Bangladesh to ensure repatriation of all of its nationals living in Bangladesh through international joint verification as also proposed by the Kofi Annan Commission,” the Bangla envoy said.

Muazzem Ali conveyed Bangladesh’s concerns regarding what they saw as India’s unhelpful stand on the issue during PM’s visit to Myanmar. “I explained to the foreign secretary that we have no hesitation in decrying the terrorist attack that was launched against the security forces of Mynamar.

We condemned in the strongest possible terms. My prime minister has emphasized that Bangladesh would show zero tolerance to any acts of terrorism and Bangladesh could not be allowed to be used by anyone for any terrorist acts.”

Bangladesh’s response coincides with the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, roundly criticizing Myanmar, calling the ongoing violence “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“The Myanmar government should stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages,” saying “another brutal security operation is underway in Rakhine state this time, apparently on a far greater scale.”

Unconfirmed reports also said the biggest militant group, ARSA, has announced a month-long ceasefire for aid agencies to access people in Rakhine.

He said “Bangladesh had offered to Myanmar if necessary joint patrols on our border. But we did not get any response from Myanmar.” In the weeks before the August 25 terror attack, “security agencies of both India and Bangladesh had alerted Myanmar about an impending attack, because we saw some activities in this area, and intercepted some telephone calls.”

India had stood by Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar leadership criticizing the August 25 violence as a terrorist attack, at a time when Suu Kyi has come under widespread international condemnation, including calls to rescind her Nobel peace prize.

But this stand played very badly in Bangladesh, India’s other strategic ally, which has borne the brunt of the Rohingya exodus. India changed its stance on Saturday evening acknowledging Bangladesh’s position on the issue.

“I believe we have seen in the past that the security concerns of this issue must be given due consideration,” Muazzem Ali said. Myanmar, “must distinguish between terrorist suspects and civilian population.

It has led to a mass exodus, 270,000 have taken shelter with us, and I am sure they will go to various other countries as well. I am given to understand by very high officials here that a very large number of them have also entered your country.”

The issue of Rohingya refugees is a problem in BJP-ruled India, but it comes directly in conflict with India’s position as a leading power in the region. India has found some 40,000 Rohingyas who have settled in different parts of India, but worryingly for the government, in Jammu and Kashmir.

Some ministers have spoken of deporting them, but Myanmar does not want them, neither does anyone else. Indian officials say the security implications of this influx cannot be overstated given reports that Rohingyas have been infiltrated and radicalized by terror groups in Pakistan.

The Bangladesh foreign minister also put out a set of proposals for the international community. “The root of the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar. Therefore the ultimate solution has to be found in Myanmar,” Ali said.

“The international community must pressure Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Commission and help Bangladesh with urgent humanitarian assistance to address the current crisis as well as for temporary relocation of Rohingyas that entered Bangladesh to Bhashan Char.”

The resolution of the Rohingya crisis, Ali said, had to be political. “Otherwise, wittingly or unwittingly we get involved in a security problem, where certain parties, which are interested in destabilizing the region, will set foot in our neighbourhood.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-must-work-to-change-myanmars-approach-to-rohingya-problem-bangladesh/articleshow/60471145.cms

Dawn – Camps reach capacity as Rohingya Muslims pour into Bangladesh

Dhaka, 3 September 2017. Aid officials said relief camps were reaching full capacity as thousands of Rohingya refugees continued to pour into Bangladesh on Sunday fleeing violence in western Myanmar.

Some 73,000 people have crossed the border since violence erupted on August 25 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Vivian Tan.

The violence and the exodus began after Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts in what they said was an effort to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by security forces in the majority Buddhist country. In response, the military unleashed what it called “clearance operations” to root out the insurgents.

Another aid official said on Saturday that more than 50 refugees had arrived with bullet injuries and were moved to hospitals in Cox’s Bazar, on the border with Myanmar.

Refugees reaching the Bangladeshi fishing village of Shah Porir Dwip described bombs exploding near their homes and Rohingya being burned alive.

Both Myanmar’s security officials and Rohingya insurgents are accusing each other of atrocities. The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes.

Aid workers said that large numbers of refugees required immediate medical attention as they were suffering from respiratory diseases, infection and malnutrition. The existing medical facilities in the border area were insufficient to cope up with the influx and more aid and paramedics were needed, aid workers said.

“We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives,” said a man who only gave his first name, Karim. “The military and extremist Rakhine are burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire.”

He said on Saturday he paid 12,000 Bangladeshi taka, or about $150, for each of his family members to be smuggled on a wooden boat to Bangladesh after soldiers killed 110 Rohingya in their village of Kunnapara, near the coastal town of Maungdaw.

“The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops,” he said. “We have a baby who is 8 days only, and an old woman who is 105.”

Satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch shows hundreds of buildings had been destroyed in at least 17 sites across Rakhine state since August 25, including some 700 structures that appeared to have been burned down in just the village of Chein Khar Li, the rights watchdog said.

The government blames the insurgents for burning their own homes and killing Buddhists in Rakhine.

Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012, forcing more than 100,000 Rohingya into displacement camps, where many still live.

Bangladeshi police said Thursday that three boats carrying refugees had capsized in the Naf River, killing at least 26, including women and children.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1355575/camps-reach-capacity-as-rohingya-muslims-pour-into-bangladesh

The Statesman – New India-Bangladesh railway line to be commissioned by 2018-end

Agartala (Bengali: আগরতলা), capital of Tripura, 30 August 2017. The new India-Bangladesh railway project along Tripura would be commissioned by next year-end and would be operational by January 2019, officials said here on Wednesday.

Senior officials of India and Bangladesh held a two-day meeting in Dhaka on Sunday and Monday, and visited the proposed locations of the railway project on Wednesday.

“The Dhaka meeting has decided to commission the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project by next year-end and it would be operational by January 2019,” Tripura Transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik said here.

Bhowmik, who was part of the 14-member Indian delegation, said: “For the 15-km India-Bangladesh new railway line, land acquisition has already been completed on the Indian side and 50 per cent completed on the Bangladesh territory.”

“Work order has been given to the concerned agency to start the physical work of the project.”

West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Milind Ramteke, who is personally supervising the land acquisition and related work, said that of the total 72 acres of land, 49 acres has already been handed over to the railway authorities to start the work and the remaining land would be handed over soon.

The government-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the five-km track on the Indian side while the remaining 10-km would be laid by the Bangladesh Railways on their side. The Indian government would bear the entire cost of the project.

In the Dhaka meeting, the Indian delegation was led by External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary M Subbarayudu while the Bangladesh side was headed by the country’s Railway Ministry’s Secretary-in-Charge Mohammad Mofazzel Hossain.

The Agartala-Akhaura railway line would facilitate carriage of goods to and from both the countries and greatly benefit India’s land-locked northeastern states.

Also, the journey time between Agartala and Kolkata, via Bangladesh, would be reduced by a third, from 1,613-km through mountainous terrain to a mere 514 km.

Ramteke said that the Union government had released Rs 97.63 crore to acquire the land for the project, for which the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is the nodal agency.

The existing railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district (in central Assam) and southern Assam connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of the country.

http://www.thestatesman.com/india/new-india-bangladesh-railway-line-commissioned-2018-end-1502480027.html