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'Hindu Bengali refugees need humanitarian consideration'

SILCHAR, Oct 4: Controversy has been going on centering round the NDA Government’s Notification of September 7, granting shelter and citizenship to the Hindu Bengali refugees and other minorities of Bangladesh and Pakistan. But, it is to be mentioned here that these minorities are the victims of religious persecution and forced to migrate from their native lands. What the protestors forget is that the Notification speaks of humanitarian consideration. There is no dispute over the fact that Hindu Bengalis in particular live in fear.
During change of government or political disturbances, there have been instances of their houses being burnt, properties and business interests looted, lands forcibly taken away and women folk subjected to humiliations. In order to escape from such atrocities, they have taken shelter in different states of the country. It is only in the state of Assam that the voice of protest against the Notification continues.
Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, in a statement clarified that the Hindu Bengalis are not a burden on Assam and that the Centre will decide that the state alone does not have to bear their burden. Moreover, the Notification is yet to get legal sanction. Apart from the legal and constitutional aspect, it is relevant to point out that refugees are a worldwide problem. According to UN report, more than 50 million refugees plague almost all the countries, not excluding India.
Around 9 million Syrians hit by IS repression and civil war have to leave their home land and seek shelter in European Union countries. It has been described as the worst crisis since the World War II. The European Union countries have agreed to accept them. Pakistan hosts 1.6 million refugees. In Lebanon, 1 in 5 inhabitants is a refugee. The countries which care more for refugees than their own population are Jordon, Malta, Mauritania, Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, South Sudan, Liberia, Lebanon and Montenegro. The United States of America has refugees counting 10 to 15 million from all over the world.
These countries have given shelter and protection purely on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Under international laws and conventions, nations have a moral and legal obligation to accept refugees and provide them asylum. Refugees are entitled to a full and fair hearing and not rejection. International Refugee Law aims at protecting persons seeking asylum from persecution. The 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol and Customary International Law apply to all countries of the world.
Under Article 1 (a) 2 of 1951 Refugee Convention, the term refugee describes any person who due to the fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion or political opinion is unable to get protection of that country and is unwilling to go back. Under Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, a country is under obligation not to return a refugee to a country where he would be at risk of persecution.
It is significant that the retention of Sylhet with Assam could have eased much of the burden of refugees. Political watchers described it as a sellout of Sylhet to East Pakistan by Assam Pradesh Congress Committee. It was according to the Mountbatten’s plan for partition of India that saw referendum on Sylhet. While Hindus of Sylhet voted for Assam, Muslims by and large voted for Pakistan. It is also relevant to mention that Nehru – Liaquat Pact of 1950 and Mujib – Indira Pact of 1971 speak of providing protection to Hindu Bengali refugees.
It is also worth to refer to the National Human Rights Commission vs Arunachal Pradesh vide case of 1966, Section (1) 7421, in which the Supreme Court of India had warned against any threat to the life of Chakmas who migrated from East Pakistan in 1964. The Supreme Court sternly dealt with the ultimatum given by All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) to the Chakmas to leave the state or face death. Arunachal Pradesh Government was directed to protect ‘life and liberty of every human being and it cannot permit anybody or group of persons like the AAPSU to threaten Chakmas to leave the state’. Like the Syrian refugees and the refugees around the world, the Hindu Bengalis uprooted from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, deserve human considerations to live a dignified existence. (Source:SentinelAssam)

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