There has been too much of an unseemly hurry about this deportation.

India’s move to deport seven Rohingyas detained in Assam to Myanmar will only hit the image of a nation that has prided itself on welcoming people fleeing from danger. To send back seven of around 40,000 Rohingyas, of whom about 14,000 are registered with UNHCR, seems like tokenism but that’s not so. This is backed by a deliberate policy that discriminates against refugees on the basis of religion, even if in the case of Rohingyas it is camouflaged by the perception that they are a security risk. Hindu and Sikh refugees are welcomed while people of other religions are seen suspiciously as “infiltrators”.

The UN’s stand on this and international law prohibiting sending back refugees to face persecution in their homeland are relatively less germane to this issue. Such laws are anyway ignored or flouted by other countries. The point is the same kind of image hit which affected Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for not speaking out against the “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya Muslims by the military junta will apply to India too. The deportation was set in motion even before the Supreme Court decided to uphold the move, even if it did so only because the Myanmar government accepted these seven as its citizens. There has been too much of an unseemly hurry about this deportation.

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