The Hindu – Our first aim is to oust BJP from power: CM Mamata Banerjee

Opposition will fight the 2019 Lok Sabha election under a collective leadership, she says.

Sobhana K Nair

New Delhi – India, 02 August 2018. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said that the Opposition would fight the 2019 Lok Sabha election under a collective leadership, and the first aim was to oust the BJP government from power.

Ms Banerjee’s statement to journalists in New Delhi on Wednesday came after she held daylong parleys with leaders of 10 Opposition parties.

The Trinamool Congress chief met all leaders expected to play a key role in the Lok Sabha election: Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, Janata Dal (Secular) leader Deve Gowda and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

To a question at a media interaction after she met the Gandhis, whether she considered herself to be the face of the Opposition coalition in 2019, she said: “There is a song by Rabindranath Tagore that in a democracy ‘Amra saboi raja’ [All of us are kings].

All of us are together, we are all for all.” The question was posed to her repeatedly through the day.

Answering it earlier in the day, she said, “Please don’t discuss all these things. The Prime Minister does not matter to us. I want my country to progress. I want farmers and labourers to have a good life. I want communal harmony… ‘Pehle BJP ko haraane dijiye, phir baith kar dekhenge’ (Let’s first defeat the BJP, then we will sit and discuss)”.

She spent the first half of the day in Parliament meeting floor leaders of various parties. Her first meeting of the day was with BJP elder L K Advani. After the meeting, she said, “I know Advaniji for a very long time. I went to enquire about his health. It was a courtesy call”.

Back in the Trinamool Congress office, packed with MPs and reporters, senior leaders walked in one after the other. The first ones to arrive were Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel.

“Trinamool and Congress will chalk out floor strategies against the government, especially on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue. Mamata expressed pleasure at the Congress-Trinamool working in tandem. Congress-Trinamool will carry out joint issue-based protests,” a senior Congress leader said.

Then walked in Mr Ramgopal Yadav. He was followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Misa Bharati and Jai Prakash Yadav.

YSR Congress leader Vijay Sai Reddy walked in with a single pink rose in hand. But before he could reach Ms Banerjee, a contingent of the Telugu Desam Party, comprising former minister Y S Chowdary and MP Kesineni Srinivas, walked in.

Ms Banerjee told them to convey her regards to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. After the TDP delegation left, Mr Reddy got a few minutes with her.

The other leaders who came to meet her included DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, Congress leader Ashwini Kumar, Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan and BJP rebel Kirti Azad. Later in the evening, Mr Kejriwal met her.

Targeting the BJP government over the NRC update exercise in Assam, Ms Banerjee said, “The NRC is a global issue because 40 lakh people have been deleted from a list of 2.2 crore people. Only BJP voters will have space in this country and non-BJP voters will be isolated,” she said at the Trinamool Congress’s Parliamentary Party office.

Counters Shah

Questioning BJP president Amit Shah who, on Tuesday, said ‘Bangladeshi ghuspethi’ (Bangladeshi illegal migrants) will be thrown out one by one and will not be allowed to vote, Ms. Banerjee said, “Bangladesh is not a terrorist country! When you say ‘ghuspethi’, you are insulting Bangladesh and India too because we speak the same language”.

She accused the BJP of doublespeak, with one section saying there would be no harassment, while another issued threats.

“Rajnath Singh says that no one will be harassed but his party says that we will push them out. Who is infiltrator? Who can be a bigger infiltrator than the people who dictate what to eat, what to wear…the ones who control media and one who interfere in judiciary too,” she said.

Ms Banerjee quipped that she herself would fail if such an exercise were to be repeated in West Bengal. “Luckily I am not from Bangladesh. Otherwise they would have labelled me too ghuspethi,” she said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/our-first-aim-is-to-oust-bjp-mamata/article24576222.ece

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BBC News – Assam register: Four million risk losing India citizenship

India has published a list which effectively strips about four million people in the north-eastern state of Assam of their citizenship

Guwahati – Assam – India, 30 July 2018. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list of people who can prove they came to the state by 24 March 1971, a day before neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence.

India says the process is needed to identify illegal Bangladeshi migrants.

But it has sparked fears of a witch hunt against Assam’s ethnic minorities.

Fearing violence, officials say that no-one will face immediate deportation.

They say that a lengthy appeal process will be available to all, even if it means millions of families will live in limbo until they get a final decision on their legal status.

Who is affected?

Millions of people fled to neighbouring India after Bangladesh declared itself an independent country from Pakistan on 26 March 1971, sparking a bitter war. Many of the refugees settled in Assam.

Under the Assam Accord, an agreement signed by then PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, all those who cannot prove that they came to the north-eastern state before 24 March 1971 will be deleted from electoral rolls and expelled as they are not considered legitimate citizens.

More than 32 million people submitted documents to the NRC to prove they were citizens, but four million of them have been excluded from the published list.

Many Bengalis, a linguistic minority in Assam, are worried they will be deported en masse.

Hasitun Nissa, who spoke to the BBC’s Joe Miller days before the list was published, said she had never known a home outside the state’s floodplains.

It is where the 47-year-old schoolteacher spent her childhood, where she studied, where she got married and where she had her four children.

She said her family arrived in India before 1971 but she expected to be stripped of her Indian citizenship and feared her land rights, voting rights and freedom would be in peril.

Are Bengalis being targeted?

Activists say the NRC is now being used as a pretext for a two-pronged attack,by Hindu nationalists and Assamese hardliners, on the state’s Bengali community, a large portion of whom are Muslims.

Like Hasitun, many Bengalis live in the wetlands dotted along the Bramaputra river, moving around when water levels rise. Their paperwork, if it exists, is often inaccurate.

Officials claim illegal Bangladeshis are enmeshed in the Bengali population, often hiding in plain sight with forged papers, and a thorough examination of all documents is the only way to find them.

But Bengali campaigner Nazrul Ali Ahmed is adamant that the NRC is serving another agenda entirely.

“It is nothing but a conspiracy to commit atrocities,” he told the BBC.

“They are openly threatening to get rid of Muslims, and what happened to the Rohingya in Myanmar, could happen to us here.”

Such alarming comparisons are dismissed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which emphasises that the NRC is an apolitical task, overseen by the country’s secular Supreme Court.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-45002549

The Statesman – India fears mass influx as monsoon threatens Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camp

Bangladesh is looking at options like repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar or their transfer to a safer location. It is also looking at safeguarding the existing shacks of the refugees and steps to prevent an epidemic when the rains hit.

Dhaka – Bangladesh, 25 April 2018. With only two months to go for the monsoon rains to arrive, relocating Rohingya refugees to a safe place has emerged as a serious concern for the Bangladesh government.

It has also created a sense or worry for India’s Border Security Force (BSF) as intelligence inputs hint at mass influx when floods overwhelm the grounds where they are housed in refugee camps.

Over 1.15 million registered Rohingyas have been residing in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh, known as the Cox’s Bazar region, after they fled Myanmar to escape a military crackdown on their villages in Rakhine State on the night of August 24-25, last year.

Bangladesh is looking at options like repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar or their transfer to a safer location. It is also looking at safeguarding the existing shacks of the refugees and steps to prevent an epidemic when the rains hit.

The BSF, on its part, has put its troops along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border on alert to intercept any infiltration by the Rohingya refugees into India.

The Indian government has taken the position that they will not allow mass influx of illegal migrants as some Rohingyas had been found to have links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence for delivering fake Indian currency into the country. They were also said to be trying to illegally obtain Indian identification.

The BSF says it will have to follow the government’s order to the tee. “We have intelligence inputs that Rohingyas would try to enter India when the rains come and we are putting in place plans to stop them,” a BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

“All the Integrated Check Post commanders along the border have been instructed to be vigilant and stop any illegal entry,” he said. Although the nearest Indian border is about 100 km away, the ability of refugess to face hardships and traverse long distances in search of a safe haven is known.

Most of refugees live in flimsy, bamboo-and-plastic structures perched on what were once forested hills, as a visit by a group of 15 Indian and Bangladeshi journalists to Cox’s Bazar camp showed.

It would lead to a disaster if they remain in the area when Bangladesh gets lashed by cyclones, at the peak of rainy season in July. The visit of journalists was facilitated by the BSF and hosted by Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB).

According to Bangladesh’s meteorological department, the highest incidence of rainfall is recorded in the south-eastern part of the country where the biggest makeshift camps of Rohingyas’ are located, in Kutupalong and Balukhali, an area of around 144 square kilometres.

Computer modelling by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugess (UNHCR) shows that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees would be threatened by floods and landslides during the monsoon.

“Up to a third of the land could be flooded, leaving lakhs of refugees living in the plains homeless… Refugee population living on slopes will also be at risk of landslide,” said an UNHCR report.

To cope with the situation the government is seeking relocation of the refugees back to their homeland. “The Bangladesh government is in a hurry to repatriate the refugees as per an agreement signed between it and the Myanmar government in November last year,” Brigadier General S.M. Rakibullah of BGB told IANS.

“We recently sent a list of around 100,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for their identification and repatriation, but only a few of them were considered as nationals by their government,” said Rakibullah, Additional Director General and Regional Commander of Adhoc Region Headquarters in Cox’s Bazar, adding that “the repatriation of refugees is considerably delayed”.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also expressed concern for the Rohingyas in view of the coming monsoons and has ordered new homes to be built for them on a nearby island called Bhasan Char, according to an official in Bangladesh’s Ministry of Information.

But it would be impossible to do that for all the 1.15 million refugees. Cox’s Bazar Assistant Director Rubel told IANS: “As water swallows the whole area south of Naff river during the monsoon season, evacuation of Rohingyas would become very difficult then”.

However, relocation to another area may not be easy as most of the places are populated by local Bangladeshis who are unlikely to take the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees very kindly.

Officials point out that as it may not be possible to relocate a large number of refugees before monsoons, interim measures need to be taken.

And they are doing that. These include using bulldozers to improve roads, stabilise the slopes and level the land in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp. The bamboo shacks on the hills are being strengthened by sandbags, but officials point out that when rains become extremely heavy, this measure may not help much.

Also, emergency medical centres to tackle cholera or mosquito-borne disease are being set up, and so are search and rescue and first aid teams, according to an official. Several international agencies, including UNHCR, are working alongside Bangladesh personnel to prepare for the coming rains.

But Nur Hussain, 40, whose brother was killed in the military crackdown in Myanmar, is not convinced. “My mud house and other makeshift shacks are not built to withstand storms, heavy rains or floods,” he said, looking at the skies with foreboding eyes.

My excuses, I lost the link to the newspaper article and even google cannot find it back

The Hindustan Times – Sushma calls on Myanmar President, Rohingya refugee crisis on the plate

An estimated 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August last year after large-scale violence following a military crackdown.

Nay Pyi Taw – Naypyidaw Union Territory – Myanmar, 10 May 2018. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called on Myanmar President U Win Myint soon after she arrived in Nay Pyi Taw for talks with the country’s top leadership on key bilateral and regional issues, including the Rohingya refugee crisis.

An estimated 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August last year after large-scale violence following a military crackdown. The exodus of refugees in large numbers has resulted in a major crisis in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Swaraj is in Myanmar on a two-day visit for discussions on a number of bilateral and regional issues, including the situation in the Rakhine State from where lakhs of Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh.

Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and it shares a 1,640 km border with a number of northeastern states, including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

On her arrival in Nay Pyi Taw, Swaraj was warmly received by India’s ambassador Vikram Misri and permanent secretary of ministry of foreign affairs of Myanmar U Myint Thu.

In December, India had announced a development assistance of $25 million for Rakhine State.

India on Wednesday sent to Bangladesh its second relief consignment to help tens of thousands of displaced following a military crackdown.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/sushma-calls-on-myanmar-president-rohingya-refugee-crisis-on-the-plate/story-EthQ0bord0s4b3f2HX8AmL.html

Dawn – I was invited to talk on Partition. I was then told to talk on Independence as Partition ‘never happened’

Anam Zakaria

Op/Ed, 07 May 2018. The word ‘taqseem’ is commonly used by Partition survivors to refer to the events of 1947. A division, a split, a rupture that gave birth to Pakistan.

In English, the word ‘Partition’ is part of the established vocabulary that gives voice to one of the most significant events in recent history.

As an oral historian and researcher, I have interviewed hundreds of Partition survivors over the past several years. These words are uttered often in interviews, allowing people to share their memories, to in some way express what they had endured during the cataclysmic division.

And just as these words are present in all the interviews I have conducted, so too are the horror stories of Partition. Bodies chopped up, breasts cut, throats sliced, figures mutilated.

Regardless of the volume of work conducted on Partition, on both sides of the border, perhaps not even a fraction of the bloodshed and violence endured by Partition survivors has been captured in its essence.

Many of these survivors continue to live in the trauma of Partition, its journey ongoing, interjecting their dreams, their thoughts and their everyday lived experiences.

Yet 70 years after Partition, the Pakistani state has devised its unique way of referring to 1947; these official versions have their own ontology, removed from the context of the survivors.

The politics of recognition of certain events, or certain version of events, and the politics of denial of other episodes is at the heart of these policies.

I was recently invited to speak about Partition at a literary event. The students who were putting together the event had wanted me to share the Partition narratives I had collected, particularly focusing on the violence that the survivors had experienced.

I wasn’t surprised for it is often assumed that the only experiences of 1947 are the violent ones. It serves to justify separation, the creation of Pakistan that ‘liberated’ Muslims from the ferocious ‘infidel’ perpetrators they had left behind on the other side.

Narratives of inter-communal harmony, of nostalgia and longing of the pre-Partition past are seldom explored in the mainstream discourse.

However, days before I was scheduled to speak, there was a subtle change. I was no longer meant to talk about Partition; rather, I was supposed to limit myself to talk about ‘Independence’.

While 1947 indeed marks both Partition and Independence, one cannot talk about Independence without addressing Partition.

However, the organisers, I was told, believed that there was no Partition but only Independence that had taken place.

Moreover, they rejected the idea of discussing the bloodshed of 1947. Instead, they claimed there were no horrors. 1947 was Pakistan’s triumph, its victory. After all, if there was no Partition, how could there by any bloodshed?

Today, Partition has metamorphosed into Independence. And it is not Independence from the British but rather from ‘Hindu’ India.

The colonial past receives little attention in Pakistani textbooks and the Divide and Rule Policy is often sidelined. Using the Two Nation Theory to inculcate the idea that Hindus and Muslims were always separate nations, the two communities are shown as divisive throughout history.

A common phrase found in textbooks is, “Hindus can never be the true friends of Muslims.” 14th August then is a cause for celebration because it gave Pakistan independence from India.

In the collective memory of the nation, independence from the British holds little significance.

What the actual survivors feel, those who had fought tooth and nail to create Pakistan, those who had suffered the loss of family members and friends, of childhood, properties and their homeland, does not matter.

No taqseem, no Partition, no horrors took place. By depriving them of the language to express these sentiments, the state can erase any memories of longing, of remorse, of nostalgia. It can impose the official understandings of a tumultuous ‘victory’.

The use of selective language, of particular words and symbols, is a powerful way to mold memories and understandings. By imposing or depriving citizens of specific words, of the tool of language, states are able to construct identities, meanings and experiences that fit national projects.

Interestingly, while Pakistan insists on referring to the events of 1947 as Independence, when it comes to the 1971 war and the creation of Bangladesh, terms such as ‘The Fall of Dhaka’ or ‘Dismemberment’ are openly used.

This is in stark contrast to the use of the word ‘Liberation’ by the Bangladesh government. To call it anything else in Bangladesh can invite charges of anti-state behaviour, just as calling it Liberation or Independence in Pakistan would.

In India, it is unacceptable to refer to the part of Kashmir under India’s control as anything but Jammu and Kashmir. Titles like ‘Indian-administered Kashmir’ are deemed objectionable on the pretext that they challenge the notion that J&K is an integral part of the country, that they challenge India’s sovereignty over the territory.

The open and ongoing resistance against the Indian state by Kashmiris who indeed do challenge Indian rule and view India as an occupying force are dismissed.

By insisting that the territory is referred to as Jammu and Kashmir, the apparatus to express that occupation is snatched away.

Publishing houses and media outlets too are expected to abide by these ‘guidelines’ laid down by the state, undermining freedom of speech and denying Kashmiris freedom of expression.

In Myanmar too, there has been an active effort by the state to deprive the Rohingya community of their ethnic identity and their claim to the land by insisting that the Rohingya people should not be referred to by that name.

In 2016, it was reported that Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, had advised that the term not be used. Foreign Ministry official, Kyaw Zay Ya, further reasoned that, “We won’t use the term Rohingya because Rohingya are not recognised as among the 135 official ethnic groups” in Myanmar.

By making the community nameless, the state can deny them the right to the land, the language to express their grievances, and the world recognition as a persecuted community, facing genocide.

The forced use of particular terms or the silencing of certain other terms like Partition, taqseem, Rohingya, Indian-administered or Occupied Kashmir successfully suppress indigenous voices, sentiments and aspirations.

States are able to rein in elements that may question state policies, histories and ongoing violence perpetuated in the name of security.

Through this politicisation of language, attempts are made to try to reconstruct national identities, sidelining the very citizens that often helped create and sustain these nation-states.

Did you, or anyone in your family, have to leave home due to Partition? Share your story with us at blog@dawn.com

Anam Zakaria is the author of Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians and an upcoming book on Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1406178/i-was-invited-to-talk-on-partition-i-was-then-told-to-talk-on-independence-as-partition-never-happened

The Statesman – Ahluwalia seeks probe into alleged Rohingya camps

Siliguri – West Bengal – India, 09 May 2018. Concerned about information of alleged ‘Rohingya settlement camps’ at some border areas in north Bengal in Kalimpong district, Darjeeling MP and Union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation SS Ahluwalia has requested Union home minister Rajnath Singh to take initiatives to carry out investigations.

The Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) had informed Mr Ahluwalia through an email on 2 May on the “migration of Rohingya” in areas under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). In the letter, the BJYM mentioned that the Rohingya refugees had migrated to areas like Bhalukhop, Delo and its surroundings, Lava forest area and the Kalimpong-Rangpo highway.

It also informed him that they had received reports of their presence in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Mirik. “I have received information based on the letter of the BJYM on the presence of Rohingya refugees in some parts of the Hills.

Settlement camps have been set up in the sensitive chicken-neck area. Accordingly, I wrote to Union home minister Rajnath Singh to have the matter investigated and urged him to undertake proper measures to ensure that no such illegal settlements are allowed to come up,” Mr Ahluwalia said over the phone from Delhi today.

In the letter to the home minister, he says, “As you are aware, Darjeeling district and Dooars regions share three international borders, all of which are porous, and settlement of Rohingyas in this sensitive region can pose a serious national security threat.”

While there was a clamour earlier that some Rohingya Muslims had entered Kalimpong town, chairman of the GTA Board of Administrators, Binoy Tamang, had refuted reports and said that the group of Muslims who had reached Kalimpong were pilgrims from Kolkata and that it was a common practice for such groups to visit different mosques across India as part of their studies on their religion.

Mr. Tamang had also claimed that such hullabaloo had been created to by keeping the 2019 general elections in mind and to disturb the now peaceful Hills.

https://www.thestatesman.com/cities/ahluwalia-seeks-probe-alleged-rohingya-camps-1502633175.html

The Hindustan Times – 18 journalists killed in India in 5 years between 2012-2016: UNESCO

The UNESCO report said after a steep decline prior to 2014, the killings sharply rose across Asia and the Pacific region, with a total of 107 killings, and a high of 27 in 2016.

New Delhi – India, 03 May 2018.The number of journalists killed all over the world has seen a sharp rise in five years, with 530 such deaths, 18 of them in India, being reported from 2012 to 2016-end, a UNESCO report released on Thursday said.

The report on ‘World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report 2017/2018’ said the number of killings was 67.72 per cent higher than the 316 recorded during the previous five-year period—from 2007 to 2011-end.

Syria, with 86, recorded the highest number of killings, followed by Iraq (46) , Mexico (37) , Somalia (36), Pakistan (30), Brazil (29), the Philippines and Yemen (21 each), Afghanistan (20), Honduras (19), India (18), Libya (17) and Guatemala (14).

Ten journalists were killed in Bangladesh, 10 in Ukraine, eight in France and six each in Paraguay and Turkey.

“The year 2012 proved to be the deadliest year on record, with 124 journalists killed,” said the report, released on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, which is marked today.

Although the number of journalists killed every year has seen a slight decline since 2012, the figures are still alarmingly high, the report said.

“With a number of Member States that have experienced periods of violent conflict, the Arab region remains the most dangerous for journalists, with 191 journalists killed between 2012 and 2016, including a significant peak of 50 deaths in 2012,” it said.

Despite registering a decline in the following years, the overall the region represents 36 per cent of all cases.

Latin America and the Caribbean saw an increase in the number of journalists killed during the period, with 125 killings overall and a peak of 28 in 2016.

“This trend can be largely attributed to organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report said.

After a steep decline prior to 2014, the killings sharply rose across Asia and the Pacific region, with a total of 107 killings, and a high of 27 in 2016.

Comparatively, Africa, with 73 deaths, has seen a distinct decline in the killings of journalists over the last five years, down from 26 in 2012 to seven in 2016.

“Killings throughout Central and Eastern Europe have fluctuated over the past five years, presenting no clear trend but remaining relatively low,” the report said. As many as 17 journalist were killed in the region.

A generally low-risk region for lethal violence against journalists, Western Europe and North America (17 killings) have seen uncharacteristically high killings in the past three years largely due to violent extremism, it added.

Of the total 530 killings in 2012-2016, as many as 166 were TV journalists, 142 print, 118 radio, 75 online and 29 cross-platform.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/18-journalists-killed-in-india-in-5-years-between-2012-2016-unesco/story-RxHmItsOtHfpWuMdlZLe2I.html

The Statesman – No easy solutions as UNSC visits Myanmar and Bangladesh

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi received a UN Security Council delegation in the highest-level diplomatic visit since the start of the Rohingya crisis

Cod Satrusayang

Bangkok – Thailand, 1 May 2018. The United Nations Security Council visited Myanmar and Bangladesh over the past few days to assess the Rohingya situation.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi received a UN Security Council delegation yesterday in the highest-level diplomatic visit since the start of the Rohingya crisis, which will include a brief tour of violence-hit Rakhine State.

Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of mainly Buddhist Myanmar, has been pilloried overseas for her failure to speak up for the Rohingyas or publicly condemn the army for driving them out of the country.

The UN delegates will travel by helicopter today over the scarred landscape of northern Rakhine state, the scene of an army campaign starting last August that drove around 700,000 of the minority into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Their visit to Myanmar comes after an emotionally-charged stay in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees told delegates of their trauma, rape, killing and burning of houses in Rakhine where they have been denied citizenship and other basic rights including healthcare since 1982.

Earlier, Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam told United Nations’ Security Council members that the Rohingya crisis is Myanmar’s internal problem imposed on Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Refugees that have fled ethnic violence and persecution in Myanmar.

Debriefing the 15-member UN Security Council delegation at Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, after the council’s official visit to Rohingya camps, the junior minister said “the solution to this problem lies in Myanmar”.

“It is Myanmar’s internal conflict, forced on to the shoulder of Bangladesh. The problem has come from there and the solution lies there as well.”

Demands from the refugees and rights bodies are growing louder for referring Myanmar’s atrocities to the International Criminal Court as the Southeast Asian country’s security forces are accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the minority group.

Calls for Foreign Assistance

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said Bangladesh expects China, Russia, India and Japan to play a major role in resolving the Rohingya crisis.

The UNSC has so far failed to take concrete actions against Myanmar mostly because of oppositions from China and Russia.

As the delegation left Dhaka yesterday after a two-day visit, they said they would press Myanmar to ensure the safe return of those who fled into Bangladesh.

However, deputy Russian ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, whose country has supported Myanmar, warned on Sunday that the council did not have a “magic stick” solution.

“We are not looking away from this crisis, we are not closing our eyes,” he said.

They also focused on implementation of the bilateral deal signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November. No refugees have returned so far.

The UN Refugee Agency negotiated for a tripartite agreement on repatriation, but Myanmar so far refused it. Recently, Bangladesh signed a deal with UNHCR on safe and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya. Myanmar is supposed to sign a deal, but that has not been done yet.

Myanmar’s military has kept Rakhine in a lockdown since August, blocking access to independent observers, journalists and many aid groups except on tightly-controlled chaperoned trips.

Rights groups say freedom of movement of the Rohingyas and their access to the marketplaces in Rakhine is limited.

https://www.thestatesman.com/world/no-easy-solutions-as-unsc-visits-myanmar-and-bangladesh-1502629757.html

The Hindu – India extends support to Bangladesh for resolving Rohingya crisis

Dhaka – Bangladesh, 09 April 2018. India on Monday extended full support to Bangladesh’s efforts for resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people to Myanmar.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said this following a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart M. Shahidul Haque on the second day of his three-day Dhaka tour. “India has been fully supportive of the efforts being made to resolve the crisis, including early repatriation of the displaced people,” Mr. Gokhale said in a statement.

He said India has sent relief materials for 300,000 Rohingyas in September last year under ‘Operation Insaniyat’ to support Bangladesh in its humanitarian efforts while he announced New Delhi’s plans for the second phase of such assistance.

“On the Myanmar side, we are providing socio-economic support under our Rakhine State Development Programme including construction of pre-fabricated housing in order to meet the needs of the returning people,” he added.

Mr. Haque said Bangladesh was “very happy the way our friend from India is looking at this [Rohingya] issue, looking to peacefully resolve the issue.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had recently asked India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas, fearing their prolonged stay in Bangladesh could create militancy related security risks.

Some 700,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled Myanmar since August to escape a bloody military crackdown.

The army in the mainly Buddhist nation denies the allegations and says its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal in November.

The only real solution of the Rohingya crisis would be their recognition as citizens of Myanmar.
Man in Blue

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-extends-support-to-bangladesh-for-resolving-rohingya-crisis/article23484259.ece

BBC News – The Rohingya children trafficked for sex

Girls in their early teens are being trafficked into prostitution in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, a BBC News investigation has found. Foreigners seeking sex can easily gain access to children who have fled conflict in Myanmar and now face a new threat.

Anwara is 14. Fleeing Myanmar after her family were killed she searched for help on the road to Bangladesh.

“Women came with a van. They asked me, if I’d go with them.”

After accepting their help, she was bundled into a car, with the promise of safe passage to a new life. Instead she was taken to the nearest city, Cox’s Bazar.

“Not long after that they brought two boys to me. They showed me a knife and punched me in my tummy and beat me because I wasn’t co-operating. Then the boys raped me. I wasn’t willing to have sex but they kept going.”

Tales of trafficking in the nearby refugee camps are rife. Women and children are the main victims, lured out of the camps and into labour and sex work.

A BBC team alongside the Foundation Sentinel, a non-profit group established to train and assist law enforcement agencies combating child exploitation, headed to Bangladesh to investigate the networks behind the trade we had heard so much about.

Children and parents told us they were offered jobs abroad and in the capital Dhaka as maids, as hotel staff and kitchen workers.

The chaos of the camps offers big opportunities to bring children into the sex industry. Offering a chance of a better life to desperate families is a cruel tactic deployed by traffickers.

Masuda, 14, who is now being helped by a local charity, described how she was trafficked.

“I knew what was going to happen to me. The woman who offered me a job, everyone knows she makes people have sex. She is a Rohingya here for a long time, we know her. But I didn’t have a choice. There is nothing for me here.

“My family have disappeared. I have no money. I was raped in Myanmar. I used to play in the forest with my brother and sister. Now I don’t remember how to play.”

Some parents wept for fear of never hearing from their children again. Others smiled at the prospect of a life bettered, despite not having heard from their loved ones.

As one mother said, “anywhere is better” than a life outside the camps.

But where are these children being taken to, and by whom?

Undercover, posing as foreigners recently arrived in Bangladesh looking for sex, the BBC investigation team set out to see if we could get access to children.

Only 48 hours in, after asking small hotel and beach cottage owners, places notorious for offering rooms for sex, we found the telephone numbers of local pimps.

With the knowledge of police, we asked the pimps if they had younger girls available for a foreigner, specifically Rohingya girls.

“We have young girls, many, but why do you want Rohingya? They are the dirtiest,” one man said.

This was a recurring theme throughout our investigation. In the hierarchy of prostitution in Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya girls were considered the least desirable and the cheapest available.

We were offered girls by a variety of different pimps operating as part of a network. During the negotiations we stressed that we wanted to spend the night with the girls immediately, as we did not want to create a demand.

Pictures of different girls began to come in and we were told they were between 13 and 17. The number of girls available and the scale of the network was striking. If we did not like any of the girls in the photos, there were plenty more.

Many of the girls live with the pimps’ families. When they are not with a client, they are often cooking or cleaning.

“We don’t keep the girls for long. Mostly Bangladeshi men come for them. They get bored after a while. Younger girls cause more of a fuss, so we get rid of them,” we were told.

With the recording and surveillance done, we presented the evidence to the local police. A small team were assigned to set up a sting operation.

The pimp was immediately identified by the police. “I know him. We know him very well,” said one of the police officers. Perhaps an informant, or a known criminal, it was not clear exactly what he meant.

In preparation of the sting, we called the pimp, and asked for two of the girls we had seen in the photograph to be delivered to a prominent hotel in Cox’s Bazar at 20:00 local time.

The undercover foreigner posing as the client, a member of the Foundation Sentinel, waited outside the hotel with a translator. In the car park undercover police officers waited for the trafficker to arrive.

As 20:00 drew closer, frantic phone calls were made between the pimp and our undercover client. The pimp wanted the client to come away from the hotel, we refused. Instead, the pimp sent a driver to deliver two of the girls from the photograph we had seen.

After the money was exchanged, our undercover client asked: “If tonight is good, can we get more?” The driver nodded in agreement.

After collecting the cash, the police moved in. The driver was arrested, and childcare professionals and trafficking experts helped to arrange care for the girls.

One of the girls refused to go to a shelter, while the other, who said she was 15, went into social care.

The girls appeared torn between poverty and prostitution – they said that without the sex work they would not be able to provide for themselves or their families.

Moving women and children both domestically and internationally takes a degree of organisation. The internet provides the tools to both communicate between different members of organised crime groups and sell sex.

We found examples of Rohingya children taken to Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kathmandu in Nepal and Kolkata in India.

In Kolkata’s booming sex industry, they are given Indian identity cards and absorbed into the system, their identities lost.

At the Cyber Crime Unit in Dhaka, police explained how traffickers trade girls for sex over the internet. Open and closed Facebook groups offer a gateway to a child sex industry out of sight.

Amid a labyrinth of encrypted websites, we were shown a platform used by paedophiles to share information on the dark web. The goal is to share experiences of how to have sex with children around the world.

One prolific user offered a step-by-step guide on how to take advantage of children, specifically Rohingya, in a refugee crisis. He goes on to talk about the best ways to avoid detection, the lowdown on local law enforcement and the best areas to prey upon children.

Another user replies: “As this is happening now, and I feel like a vacation, any thoughts/local knowledge would be appreciated.”

The thread has since been taken down by the authorities but it offered a chilling insight into how refugee crises provide opportunities for paedophiles and traffickers to prey on people at their most vulnerable.

Both online and offline in Bangladesh a network of traffickers, pimps, brokers and transporters continue to supply women and children for sex.

The Rohingya crisis did not create a sex industry in Bangladesh, but it has increased the supply of women and children, forcing the price of prostitution down and keeping demand as strong as ever.

Names in this article have been changed to protect identities

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43469043