For years together we have been informed that India as a civilization has hosted refugees from countries far and near. So there came people who, we are told, felt persecuted in their respective countries, and decided to come to India. That is why there are Parsis in India, or Christians who came from the Middle East. The acting out of a good host was not only for refugees, but for people who came to India for different reasons, and chose to make it home. Like the Malabar Muslims in the South of India who came for trade, and gradually settled in the new place. It is said that the oldest mosque in India is Cheraman Juma Mosque in Methala, Kodungallur Taluk, Thrissur District, which was made during the life time of the Prophet. Therefore, India as a host was celebrated and strategically posited against countries and civilizations which have a bad record in this regard. It is another matter whether the notion of "India" or "Indianness" existed when these people came to this landmass.
After independence of India from the British, the refugees came to India. Initially as a result of the Partition when Hindus migrated from West and East Pakistan towards India. For them to come to the new home was smoother due to the atmosphere at that time, and the religious affinity with people of the host country. There was hope and expectation from the host country. No wonder then that Nayantara Sehgal says that her maternal uncle Jawaharlal Nehru's compound was full of refugees. Then arrived into India Buddhist refugees from Tibet. Thousands of followers of the Dalai Lama came to India, and were allowed to set up a Govt. in Exile. In some places there are even seats reserved for the Tibetan students in educational institutions. To add to that, each time a high dignitary from China arrives in India they have the freedom to stage protests. Similarly, refugees from the Bangladesh War arrived in India during and after 1971, and were received with warmth. The Tamil sub-nationalism also led to migrations of people from Sri Lanka, and thousands of Tamils were hosted in India. There was no ill-will from their hosts. This is also the case with the Pakistani Hindus who have migrated to India long after Partition happened, and have even been granted citizenship. A Zionist 'Right to Return' has been mooted in their favor. Not to mention in this category, the West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir, for who the local and the central leadership is doing more than enough to give them same rights as that of the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir. The policy towards refugees has been consistent from the above record with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially its Article 14. However, adherence to this policy seems to have gone into a tailspin in the context of Rohingyas, described by UN in 2013 many as one of the most persecuted people on earth.
Rohingyas and India
What is different about Roghingyas? Ever since their persecution in the Rakhine area of Myanmar, they have migrated to different areas. Like India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. Many of them are living in the outskirts of Jammu. They are seen in parts of Haryana and West Bengal. An atmosphere has been created in India that these refugees are unwelcome. They have been linked to crime and even terror. With the result, whatever little things they have managed to gather around them in their new homes are vulnerable to attack and plunder. In Jammu they have been harassed and their properties gutted. They are now made to be a national security threat, as potential recruits for the ISIS and other terror groups. The central government has even taken them to the court, for deporting them out of India. This is unprecedented in the refugee history of India both in terms of the much-touted civilisational aspect and the post-Independence record with the refugees.
The problem with Rohingyas is that they look like people in India who are not liked by the regime in power. They are seen to be facing Kaaba for prayer, and performing other rituals belonging to Muslims. In sum, they are Muslims and worship a different God. And that is their precise disqualification for being received as refugees in India. Further, their exit from Myanmar and arrival in India comes at a time of India's rapid conversion into a security state. With the word "security" mooted at the drop of a hat, and used generally against people who question both the antecedents of the ruling regime and their current machinations in power. A peculiar justification for their deportation from India has been that they might attack the Indian Buddhists who they believe have persecuted them in Myanmar. On a similar justification one could have argued that Hindus from Pakistan should be deported because they might attack Muslims in India, because they believe Muslims have persecuted them in Pakistan. Or that Tibetan Buddhists may be deported from India because they might attack the Communists in India because the Communists have persecuted them in China. Or even Tamil Hindus should be deported because they might attack Buddhists in India.
The two reasons cited for their deportation viz national security threat and their animosity towards Budhhists are mere red herrings. The statistical evidence shows that while some of them are involved in petty crimes, they are not involved in any terror activities. Whatever be the case, it is certain that the Rohingya crisis has exposed the idea of India as a host of people of all hues and colors. With the closure of borders for Rohingyas, dies that idea and confirms the belief that India is moving in a direction not good for its image on the world stage.