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”.


The Times of India – Stop cross-LoC trade if it is a threat, but don’t harass us: Traders

Hakeem Irfan Rashid

Srinagar-Jammu & Kashmir-India, 19 September 2017. Traders engaged in business across the Line of Control in J&K have asked the government to stop the barter trade if it is a threat to national security and put an end to the harassment of the traders who they said are repeatedly summoned and questioned by the National Investigation Agency.

The NIA has sent notices to around 40 cross LoC traders and raided houses, offices and businesses of 15 traders, seized documents, electronic gadgets and called many of them for questioning to New Delhi, Lucknow and Nagpur.

The traders stated that the Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his recent visit to J&K assured them that they won’t be summoned to New Delhi or any other place, but despite his intervention some of the traders have again been summoned to New Delhi and Lucknow.

“We are traders not terrorists. If government and its agencies believe than this trade is a threat to national security let them stop it. We are not scared of any investigation, but let the investigators should question us here in the state. We can’t afford to go to New Delhi, Nagpur or Lucknow every now and then,” one of the traders Samiullah told ET.

A delegation of the cross LoC traders also met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led Congress policy planning group here in Srinagar to convey their concerns and urged them to raise the issue in New Delhi. The traders have threatened to stop the trade themselves from October, if the government didn’t pay heed to their concerns.

The NIA while investigating a case registered in May this year regarding illegal transfer of money to Hurriyat leaders has questioned many cross LoC traders and the trade has also intermittently halted due to various reasons.

“We have been made the sacrificial lambs of this confidence building measure between India and Pakistan,” Showkat Ahmad Kaloo, another cross LoC trader, told ET. The traders blamed the PDP-BJP government’s internal differences for their plight, claiming that PDP wants to continue the trade while as BJP opposes it.

“In the fight between two elephants, grass is trampled,” another trader added.

The cross LoC zero tariff barter trade with no custom duty was started in October 2008 as a biggest CBM between India and Pakistan and is conducted from Chakan-da-bagh-Rawalakote route in Jammu and Salamabad-Chokoti in Kashmir. The government has made list of 21 items that can be traded.

“Now we have to pay double tax after GST regime was implemented and cannot even do trade on credit as it is barter trade. Only 35 traders are presently doing the trade out of more than 750 registered traders,” said another trader Rashid Ali.

The trade is vulnerable due to shaky relations between the two countries and is stopped even on a minor ceasefire violation or any political confrontation. Besides, increasing intervention of investigating agencies accusing the traders of their involvement in drug trafficking and hawala transactions.

During the NIA raids, the traders claimed that their wallets, ATM cards, property documents, medical reports, mobile phones and even the registers documenting gifts received on given during functions have been seized.

“They make us feel like criminals and the electronic media without any proof only amplifies the accusations which have not even been proven till now,” said another trader.

The Times of India – ‘Nanakpanthis’ in Sindh face hate campaign

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 17 September 2017. Pakistan’s minority leadership has urged the government to take strict action against hatemongers following the recent spate in the vicious propaganda against ‘Nanakpanthis’ (Sindhi Hindus) in Tharparkar district of Sindh province.

Most of the Hindus living in Sindh follow teachings of Sikhism and are also called ‘Nanakpanthis’.

“Not only the social media is being used to propagate hatred against the minority community, but pamphlets are also being distributed in Tharparkar,” Pakistan’s member of national assembly (MNA) Ramesh Kumar Vankwani told TOI over phone on Saturday.

He said extremist elements were trying to create unrest in the peaceful society of Hindu-majority Mithi and Umarkot areas using anonymous social media accounts.

“The hate pamphlets are written in Sindhi language and are being distributed on a large scale,” he said, adding that these had the name of controversial Islamic cleric Pir Ayub Jan Sarhindi, believed to be involved in most cases related to forced conversions of minor Hindu and Sikh girls.

Stating that minority communities in Pakistan were facing a lot of problems, Vankwani, who is also the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said that, “Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah during his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, had defined the state policy that one may belong to any religion or caste or creed, it had nothing to do with the business of the state.”

He, however, regretted that minorities were continuously being discriminated against.

Vankwani said he, along with another minority MNA from Umarkot, Lal Chand Malhi, had asked the higher authorities to take immediate action before the extremist elements succeed in exploiting the religious sentiments of innocent people.

He said both of them had also demanded an inquiry to expose the people behind distribution of the hate pamphlets. Vankwani said that the Federal Investigation Agency was the right forum to inquire against the misuse of social media. – Delhi Sikh leaders say use Panjabi not Hindi

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi-India, 12 September 2017. Accusing the AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, of oppressing Panjabi language in Delhi, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has announced to initiate a campaign named ‘Maa Boli Satkar Lehar’ in Delhi.

Addressing a press conference on September 11, the DSGMC President Manjit Singh GK said that the AAP led Delhi state government was conspiring to suppress Panjabi in the national capital.

Accusing the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of knowingly delaying the recruitment of Panjabi language teachers, S Manjit Singh GK said that the Delhi state government was violating the language act passed in favor of his mother tongue.

Manjit Singh GK has appealed to the entire Delhi resident Panjabi community to use Panjabi while communicating in their homes and offices and advertising their products.

He further said that the Panjabi language is often seen as a language of Sikhs by common masses but that this was totally wrong. He added that in fact the Panjab language is spoken by a wide section of other communities including Hindus and Muslims.

DSGMC General Secretary S Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that the DSGMC was ready to build up pressure on the Delhi state government to reinstate the status of Punjabi in the national capital.

The Times of India – Facebook can block SFJ’s referendum page in India: US appeals court

IP Singh

Jalandhar, 16 September 2017. A three-judge appellate panel of the US court of appeals, on September 13, dismissed the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) claim against Facebook for blocking in India, its page advocating Punjab Independence Referendum.

The judges of appellate court in San Francisco ruled that the social networking company won’t have to face a lawsuit for allegedly blocking access to the SFJ’s page in India because it was immune from liability under Communications Decency Act (CDA).

“SFJ seeks to hold Facebook liable as a publisher for hosting, and later blocking its online content,” the judges of the appellate court wrote in their order of September 13, copy of which is available with TOI.

“Facebook is entitled to immunity for hosting the content as well as for blocking it, because SFJ is solely responsible for creating the material,” the court ruled.

Meanwhile, SFJ legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Panun said they were seeking advice from expert lawyers in order to take the case against the social media giant to the US Supreme Court.

In the lawsuit filed in 2015, the SFJ had alleged that Facebook had blocked its page in India “for running a campaign against forced conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism through the homecoming; for exposing PM Narendra Modi’s involvement in 2002 massacre of Muslims; for advocating Sikhs’ right to self-determination and demanding independence referendum in the state of Punjab.”

Pannu and other SFJ members were booked for sedition after hoardings of Referendum 2020 were put up at a few places in Punjab. Those were removed later.

Dawn – Amnesty International urges ban on pellet shotguns in held Kashmir

Srinagar-Jammu & Kashmir-India, 14 September 2017. An international human rights group urged India on Wednesday to immediately ban the use of shotguns by government forces in suppressing protests against Indian rule in India-held Kashmir, saying pellets fired by the weapons have blinded and killed people indiscriminately.

Amnesty International also criticised Indian authorities for failing to support those who have been injured and disabled by the weapons.

“Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is. There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns,” said Aakar Patel, head of the group’s Indian chapter.

Patel said shotguns have caused immense suffering in Kashmir and are not used anywhere else in India. “This weapon has only been reserved for Kashmiris,” he said. “It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do.”

The group issued a report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns’, which profiles 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by Indian forces between 2014 and 2017, showcasing what it called the “human cost of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown in [India-held] Kashmir”.

The report includes 14 female victims who were wounded inside their homes.

Indian authorities did not immediately respond to the report.

“These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area,” the report said. It said pellets alone have killed at least 14 people in a little more than a year since then.

“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” Patel said. “Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused.”

He said the government should “immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns and ensure that the use of all other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on use of force.”

The Hindu – Stung India slams ‘inaccurate’ UN reports on Rohingya, cow vigilantism

Terms Human Rights Commissioner’s criticism on Rohingya refugee crisis and cow vigilantes selective

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 13 September 2017. Angered by criticism from the UN’s Human Rights Council on the issue of Kashmir, cow vigilante violence and Rohingya refugees, India on Tuesday accused the High Commissioner Zeid Raad Al Hussein of passing “tendentious judgements made on the basis of selective and even inaccurate reports,” in his comments on Monday.

“India is proud of its independent judiciary, freedom of press, vibrant civil society and respect for rule of law and human rights.

A more informed view would have not only recognised this but also noted, for example, that the Prime Minister himself publicly condemned violence in the name of cow protection,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Rajiv Chander, during the ongoing Human Rights Council in his reply.

‘Incidents extrapolated’

The government said Mr Hussein’s reference to the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh and other references to people displaced in the Sardar Sarovar-Narmada Bachao Andolan, and “mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows” and other instances of “rising intolerance” in India, were “individual incidents extrapolated to suggest a broader societal situation”.

On Monday, while giving his update to the Council’s reports on 40 countries, Mr Hussein had “deplored” the government’s recent decision to deport approximately 40,000 Myanmarese Rohingya refugees.

“India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations,” Mr. Hussein had said, referring to the principle of non-refoulement, after calling the Aung San Suu Kyi government’s policies against the refugees as a “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“Like many other nations, India is concerned about illegal migrants, in particular, with the possibility that they could pose security challenges. Enforcing the laws should not be mistaken for lack of compassion,” Mr. Chander said, without referring directly to the Rohingyas or Myanmar.

On the issue of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir that the UN Human Rights Chief had referred to in the written reports as well, India said the assessments overlooked “the central role of terrorism” there.

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.”

Hindustan Times – 110 years after racial riots against early Sikh immigrants, an Arch of Healing in USA city

Sikh historian Seema Sohi, who got her doctorate from the University of Washington and wrote a book about these riots, ‘Echoes of Mutiny’, says there are uncanny parallels between then and now.

Nirupama Dutt

Chandigarh, 1 September 2017. Bellingham in Whatcom County of Washington State in the US saw racial riots on September 4, 1907, when early Indian, Japanese and Chinese workers were forced to leave. A mob of some 500 local white people attacked them, scattered their belongings, and forced them out.

Sikh historian Seema Sohi, who got her doctorate from the University of Washington and wrote a book about these riots, ‘Echoes of Mutiny’, says there are uncanny parallels between then and now.

However, the citizens of Bellingham are making amends for the misdeeds of the past by erecting a red-stone ‘Arch of Healing and Reconciliation’ and honouring the immigrants, the Indians were mostly Sikhs, in their persistence to defy racism in the US.

The stone has been brought from India and the arch will come up in April next year on the lawns of the Bellingham Public Library.

This has been reported by the Bellingham Herald newspaper which incidentally had also reported the 1907 riots.

At that time the early Sikh immigrants were termed Hindus and the banner headline of the daily on 5 September 1907, cried out, ‘Hindus hounded from city’, with the subhead saying, ‘Mob drives foreigners from lodging houses and mills’.

A committee has been set up in Bellingham to build the arch, and deep research went into the study of these riots.

The tempo for the riots then had been built within the local white community with the coming of Sikh immigrants, which was described as ‘the turban tide’ and the ‘dusky peril’ with one news-sheet screaming, ‘Hindu hordes invading the state’.

However, over a century later comes the healing project in which all communities have participated. It is backed by deep research by white American scholars such as Paul Englesberg and Johanna Ogden.

Welcoming the project, political analyst and chronicler of the Ghadar Party, Harish Puri says, “This is a heartwarming endeavour.

The 1907 riots at Bellingham and the 1910 riots against early Sikh immigrants paved the way a few years later for the formation of the Ghadar Party. The 1907 riots by white hoodlums were the first brush of Punjabi immigrants with racial hatred.”

Puri adds that such efforts should be made in India too to heal the wounds of Partition violence of 1947 and the killings of Sikhs in November 1984. “If this is not done, wounds fester and result in continuing violence and hatred.”

The Bellingham Herald quotes Satpal Sidhu, a Whatcom County member and chairperson of the Arch Committee, thus: “We are celebrating that these people did persevere, and look where we are today”.

Englesberg adds, “We are hoping it makes people think and reflect on the past”.

The Arch Committee is working to raise about $2 million. Most of that money will go towards a scholarship fund to help the children of first-generation immigrants go to college.

I missed this article, thanks to Kamalla Rose Kaur for posting it to Facebook and drawing my attention to it.
Man in Blue

The Hindustan Times – Rohingyas must be deported: RSS ideologue Govindacharya to SC

The Supreme Court will on September 11 hear a plea seeking a direction to the central government not to deport about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar

New Delhi, 8 September 2017. Former BJP leader and RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya on Friday filed a petition in the Supreme Court urging deportation of Rohingya Muslim refugees as allowing them to stay in the country may lead to another partition.

In an impleadment application filed in the apex court, he said the “population explosion” is taking a heavy toll on the already strained resources of the country.

“People are dying in Delhi under heaps of garbage and Rohingyas’ demand to the government to provide them with basic amenities violate the fundamental rights of Indians,” he said in the petition.

The Supreme Court will on September 11 hear a plea seeking a direction to the central government not to deport about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar.

Govindacharya said that if the Rohingyas’ plea is entertained then it may lead to another partition of the country.

“It has also become known that Al-Qaeda is trying to use the Rohingya community for terror and Jihad and if the Rohingyas’ plea is entertained then it may lead to another partition of the country.

The Union Home Ministry has also issued an advisory to all states asking them to identify and deport all illegally staying immigrants as they pose a threat to national security,” he said.

The petition said that the decision by the government to deport Rohingyas was not taken in haste. Its decision to consult the National Security Advisor, Intelligence Bureau Director, besides other top officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and other intelligence agencies shows that the “threat is credible”.

“Rohingyas have no constitutional right to stay in India and their deportation would be in consonance with the exercise of the sovereign power vested with the central government and their deportation does not violate international law,” it said.

Citing the Supreme Court’s earlier direction to the central government to put a check on cross-border influx of illegal immigrants, the applicant urged the apex court not to make an exception for the Rohingyas as the interest of the Indian citizens were paramount.