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A Look At A Rohingya Refugee Camp In Delhi: Disease, A Plywood School And Govt. Apathy

Posted by AaKiz Bhat in Society
February 8, 2018

The Rohingya refugee crisis is one among the major refugee crises in the world today. The United Nations (UN) has termed these refugees, who are constantly moving from one place to another in search of shelter, as ‘stateless’. They have also been described as one the most prosecuted minorities in the world by UN.

There is a long-standing history which explains the plight of Rohingya Muslims today. The Rohingya lived in the Arakan region of Myanmar, which was a Muslim-dominated region. After a period of time, it was captured by the Burmese king – and with it came violence. After the British captured Myanmar, they brought a large number of people from Bengal and settled there.

Today, the people of Myanmar don’t consider Rohingya people as their fellow citizens. Instead, they consider these people to be immigrants who came from Bangladesh during the British colonial period. Consequently, they are opposed to giving citizenship rights to Rohingya Muslims – and are forcing them out of the country.

The Rohingya have been subjected to severe violence by the Myanmar state. Furthermore, the government there has virtually forced them to seek shelter in nearby countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, etc. Many of the Rohingya refugees are in Bangladesh today, but a good chunk of them are also present in India.

While the Indian government has time and again accused the Rohingya community of terror activities, I don’t think they are involved in any such activities. In fact, they are living in pretty poor and pitiable conditions in refugee camps in different states of India.

Rohingya Refugee Camp In New Delhi

In New Delhi, if you take a look at a refugee camp at Kalindi Kunj, you will find Rohingya refugees living in insane conditions. According to the residents of the camp, they came to India in 2012 and have been living in a refugee camp near the Kalindi Kunj highway since then.They are living in small packed temporary sheds, mostly made of plywood.

According to one of the residents of the camp, they are provided refugee identity cards by the UNHCR. They are also provided with Visa cards. Most of the residents of the camp work as day labourers, making around ₹200-₹300 per day. Some of them drive rented autorickshaws, for which they have to pay about ₹200-₹300 to the owner everyday. No help (in terms of financial assistance) seems to be provided to them by any of the agencies responsible for assisting them.

These people came to India in 2012, after they were forced out of their country. They came to India mostly by train or by boats – and settled in different parts of this country. According to the residents here, it took them a week to reach India. Some of them went to Jammu while the others went to Hyderabad and Delhi. Here, they are staying at different places in small refugee camps. Currently, in the Kalindi Kunj camp, there are about 60-70 families.

Accordimg to one of the residents, no official from the Indian government has ever visited them. They are mostly visited by the officials of the UNHCR – and that too, generally once a year. Only a few people in the camp have access to mobile phones – and it’s pretty difficult for them to even get a SIM card.

Going around the camp, one can see how pathetic the condition of the camp is. The whole camp depends on the water supply coming from the tubewells, which is generally very dirty and foul- smelling. Due to this, many residents of the camp, mostly children, become the victims of various diseases every year. Diseases like dengue, swine flu are also common among the residents in the camp. With no option of getting better healthcare facilities, they have to rely on the government hospitals, nearby.

While their living condition is pathetic, their education is in a much more pathetic condition. There are a lot of children in the camp who don’t go to schools. Only a few are studying in nearby government schools.

Currently, an NGO is working to help educate the children in the camp by providing them basic education. A small shelter made up of plywood with “school” written on its door – this is where small children, who don’t go to government schools, are being taught daily by a teacher sent from the NGO.

A small school in the refugee camp in Kalindi Kunj, New delhi.

There is only one teenager in the camp who has cleared the class 10 exams. He is currently studying commerce in a nearby government school. According to his father, he had even given the entrance exam (for class 11) in one of the schools under the Jamia Millia Islamia. However, he was unable to clear it. His father said that he is very much interested in studying commerce and wants to join a reputed college after acing the class 12 exams.

There was another person in the camp who had just migrated from their camp in Jammu. His daughter was studying in a government school there. But after migrating to Delhi, he was finding it difficult to enroll his daughter in a nearby government school, as he didn’t have the documents required for the enrollment process.

While the government of India is trying to send these immigrants back to the place where they came from, these refugees are finding it hard to live in this country. They have already seen a lot of violence back in their country – and here too, they are also leading a pathetic life as refugees. They are feeding themselves by doing various jobs – and they hardly have any food to eat and a shelter to live in.

Most of the residents in the camp want to go back to their country, but are afraid of the violence back there.

To quote one of the residents of the camp: “We are not staying in India because we want to. We are staying here because we have no other option, as our country has thrown us out and they don’t don’t want us back.”


Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Burhaan Kindu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images