Sunday, December 3, 2023

In pictures: Rohingyas in India; the neglect and the hope

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Suraiya Abu & Farah Rafeeq

Hiraeth: (n) homesickness for a home to which you cannot return , a home which maybe never was.

Rohingyas, who stood as a testimony to the biggest ethnic cleansing in the world, as the UN stated, fled in thousands from Myanmar to camps and makeshift settlements in surrounding countries like Bangladesh.

An estimated 40,000 Rohingya, a stateless, mostly Muslim minority, live in India after having fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar over the years. One such camp was in Kalindi kunj, in south Delhi, national capital of India, where a fire broke out on 15th of April 2018, turning every little possessions, including their UN refugee cards they had with them into ashes which forced them to move down to a makeshift settlement they created adjacent to the initial camp.

Currently, the makeshift settlement constitutes about 51 families, 250 inhabitants including 70 children under the age of 10, residing in the land granted by Zakath Foundation of India, an NGO based in Delhi. 

In the dusty alleys, littered with heaps of garbage and excreta, wandered around kids who were playing mixing mud and cement, then filling into a mug and then infill and filling it all over again. Sometimes, the buoyant cheery children seemed to significantly reduce the dullness of the grim alleys bustling with houseflies, mosquitoes and whatnot. Moreover, it was a relief to hear all kids in the camp attend the nearby government school and to hear Amina, a 10th grade student speak in English to us.

The inhabitants of the area depend on a nearby medical clinic for ailments and medical treatment. Diarrhea, TB, Malaria and skin allergies are common among the people. But when confronted with serious cases, they have to travel over 30 kilo meters which makes it difficult to avail proper medical treatment.

Last week, India’s Supreme Court allowed the first deportations of Rohingya after it rejected a last-minute plea by lawyer Prashant Bhushan to allow them to remain in the country as they feared reprisals in Myanmar. The seven men, arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally, were bussed to the border town of Moreh in Manipur state, where they were handed over to Myanmar border guard on 4th October.

We are not happy here, but we don’t want to go back to Myanmar. We lived everyday in the fear of facing death the next day. We feel safer here. People are starving, facilities are next to none, we earn meager income here. But at least we are alive. We do not intend to stay here forever. We want Indian government and international communities to pressure Myanmar to make things back to normal.

Ali Johar, a resident, also pursuing bachelor in Political Science from Delhi University, told Maktoob.

When every belongings were turned into ashes in 2016 on which the Rohingya camp was put into fire, that smile never left Yasmin. A smile that has survived. A smile of desperate hope. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
Some thriving smiles amid the piling garbage. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
When diseases get worse, the inhabitants have to travel over 30 kms to get access to proper medical facilities and treatment. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
A moment to rejoice, amidst all the misery, over a toffee. Farah Rafeeq/Maktoob
Hamin, who is hardly three , with his naughty smirks , was very eager to pose for photos. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
Late evening entertainments in the alleys, between a mother and her daughter. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
One of the disordered alleys of the camp. Indian flag can be seen in a narrow way between shelters.
Farah Rafeeq/Maktoob
Amina, who is a 10th grade student, in the nearby government school. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
Children sitting for one hour evening class, which usually starts from 5PM to 6PM in the mosque inside the camp. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
Shireen is a two year old girl who was brought to the camp when she was just three months old. With a story on her own, she, like many children in the camp, shows us how degradation lying around one’s childhood can take away that spark, that glimmer in the eye, which once lost can never be regained, leaving behind just a vacuum with hollow hopes. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
Men offering the evening prayer in the mosque. Suraiya Abu/Maktoob
The land Rohingyas have set up their camp was offered Zakat Foundation of India, an NGO in India.
Farah Rafeeq/Maktoob

Suraiya Abu is currently pursuing B.A. (Hons) English from Hindu College, Delhi and Farah Rafeeq is a B.A (Hons) Economics student of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi. 

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