Indian Catholic News

Fire guts Rohingya camp amid deportation calls

Muslim refugees from Myanmar suspect blaze that destroyed 55 homes in New Delhi was started deliberately.

 
A Rohingya women salvages some tin at the refugee settlement in the Kalindi Kunj area of New Delhi that was gutted in a fire on April 15. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)
New Delhi: 

A fire has destroyed an entire settlement of Rohingya refugees in a New Delhi suburb amid persistent calls from Hindu groups to deport the Muslim ethnic minority from India.

The early-morning fire on April 15 gutted all 55 huts where 230 Rohingya migrants lived in the Kalindi Kunj area of the capital city.

No one was killed but residents lost their identity cards and other valuable documents, according to Mohammad Salim Llola, a Rohingya community leader.

Officials suspect an electrical short-circuit in a toilet sparked the fire, which then tore through the shanties made mostly from hardboard, plastic, tin and asbestos, local reports said.

"I am not saying why it happened or who did it. But I don't understand the logic behind the fire. If there had been a fire in some houses, we could have controlled it. How can the entire settlement go up in flames in such a short period?" Llola told ucanews.com.

He said migrants suspect the fire was started deliberately. "But we are not sure. We can't name anyone," the 34-year-old leader said.

The latest blaze was the fourth and biggest at the settlement since it started in 2012. Other fires were in 2012, 2016 and 2017.

Llola said migrants' troubles increased after Hindu groups, including the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), made calls to deport them back to their homes in Myanmar, projecting them as a threat to India on the grounds that they could play into the hands of Islamic militants working against Indian interests.

Some 40,000 Rohingya now live in India after they fled violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2012. More than 670,000 Rohingya fled their native Rakhine State to Bangladesh when Myanmar's military launched a counter-insurgency campaign against Rohingya militants in August 2017.

India's BJP-led federal government in December 2017 announced a plan to deport Rohingya back to Myanmar. The plan was suspended after two migrants approached India's Supreme Court seeking migrant benefits for their community, but they continue to face demands from Hindu groups for their deportation.

Rohingya refugees in India mostly live in New Delhi, commercial hub Mumbai and Jammu and Kashmir state.

Mohammad Aslam, a Rohingya refugee who lives in another camp on the outskirts of Delhi, wondered how the accident happened.

"I really suspect something is wrong but I have full faith that the government will investigate and find out the truth," he said.

Aslam said United Nations staff and government forensic investigators collected samples from the gutted camp on April 15. He said some migrants had lost ID cards accepting them as international migrants. "But luckily the U.N. has the list, so there is hope."

Ahmed Quasim, secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an Islamic organization helping the fire victims, said a priority is to ensure food and shelter for people "as they have nothing, nothing now."

"The government has made arrangements like tent and food materials for five days. We have to think of ways to support them after that," he said.

"Rohingya are sad but at the same time they are happy that there was no major casualties and India's government is taking care of them."



Children look for their belongings at the fire-ravaged Rohingya settlement in the Kalindi Kunj area of New Delhi. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj/ucanews.com)

Source: UCAN

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