On Tuesday, July 18, during the early hours, Jammu and Kashmir authorities allegedly shot and tear-gassed a group of more than 200 Rohingya refugees, resulting in several people being injured.
The refugees were on a hunger strike to protest their illegal detention after Eid. They were demanding to be either freed in India, allowed to leave India, or deported as a last resort.
Social media videos have emerged that the refugees who were attacked included pregnant women, disabled persons, and sick and elderly persons who required urgent care and attention.
The videos that have surfaced on social media suggest that some people were gravely injured.
In one video, a group of women are gathered in a closed area while the sound and flashes of tear gas shelling and firing can be seen coming from outside. A man is lying unconscious on the ground after being injured.
These refugees possess identity cards duly verified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), further underscoring their status as vulnerable individuals deserving of protection and assistance.
According to the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), on 6 March 2021, the Jammu and Kashmir Police ‘unlawfully detained’ over 168 Rohingya refugees under the pretense of biometric verification at Maulana Azad Stadium in Jammu. During the years 2021-2022, more refugees were unlawfully jailed by the authorities without any grounds for detention, the number of detentions increased from 168 to 269, 3 refugees died in detention and 2, Hasina Begum and Jafar Alam, were deported.
“After 2 years of being detained illegally, being forcibly cut from their families, and receiving no answer to their demands, the refugees attempted to jail-break to free themselves. Around 6-7:00 AM, the police began firing at the open crowd and throwing tear gas at the refugees. Several refugees are injured”, RHRI said in a press statement.
Refugees approached the UNHCR, but did not receive any aid or advocacy.
The Rohingya Human Rights Initiative said it is unequivocally denouncing the violation of human rights and the use of excessive force against vulnerable individuals who have sought refuge in India from similar violence back at their homes.
“These actions are not only a breach of international humanitarian and human rights law but also undermine the UDHR Article 14 states that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, which India is a signatory to”, the statement further reads.
The organization also urged the Indian government to take immediate and decisive steps to halt the violence, ensure the release of all arbitrarily detained Rohingya refugees, and initiate a transparent and impartial investigation into these grave human rights violations.