India police arrest 74 Rohingya refugees in latest crackdown

The arrested include 14 women and five children living in six districts of Uttar Pradesh state ‘after crossing the border illegally’, police said.

Indian police say they have arrested 74 Rohingya refugees for living “illegally” in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in a move activists condemned as an arbitrary crackdown on people fleeing violence.

The members of the mainly Muslim Rohingya community were detained in six towns and cities in the state and 10 of the refugees were juveniles, police said on Monday.

Those arrested included 55 men, 14 women and five children who were living in six districts of Uttar Pradesh “after crossing the border illegally”, police said in their statement.

At least one of the arrested women is pregnant, according to a report on India’s website.

The Rohingya Human Rights Initiative campaign group said the detained people had been living in the area for about 10 years after fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Many had been doing manual labour including rubbish collection, Initiative director Sabber Kyaw Min said. “They have been only demanding refuge,” he added.

“The community is requesting … an end to detentions.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar to countries including Bangladesh, which borders India, after Myanmar’s military killed tens of thousands of people belonging to the minority community, raped women and burned dozens of their villages.

The United Nations said the military campaign against the Rohingya was carried out with “genocidal intent” and some of the military generals are facing a genocide trial at the International Court of Justice.

New Delhi has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and states’ responsibilities to protect them, nor does it have its own laws protecting refugees.

Approximately 18,000 Rohingya lived in India as of early last year, according to Rohingya Human Rights Initiative co-founder Ali Johar, with ongoing cases in the Supreme Court against their deportation.

Rohingya activists in India have campaigned against the arrests, urging the government to uphold commitments to human rights and democratic credentials.

“We need to protect the dignity of those detained. Rohingya are human beings, survivors of a genocide and deserving of basic freedom and dignity given to everyone else,” said Kyaw Min.

“Those detained have sought asylum in India, not committed any crime. International laws, previous judicial judgements, and India’s constitution are obligated to protect them. Detainees include pregnant women, children and disabled persons who are suffering violence,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies