Refugees in India

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Darjeeling, a Tibetan refugee self-help center in West Bengal

Under Indian law, multiple groups are generally accepted as legal refugees. These include Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Indians who were 1972 expulsion of Ugandans of Indian origin, and Indic-origin religious minorities. As the birthplace of many religions, most prominently Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, India accepts followers of Indic-origin religions who are persecuted in their home states as refugees, most notably victims of the 1947 riots in Pakistan and the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.

Most legal refugees (not synonymous with illegal immigrants) are Indic-religion minorities who fled persecution from other countries after the India gained its independence in 1947. Illegal immigrants to India are not included in this definition. Existing legal Indian citizens who come from pre-independence migration to India are also not included under this definition.

Foreigners who enter or stay in India without a valid visa are officially designated as illegal immigrants[1]; they can be arrested and deported[2] since they pose a risk to the country.[3][4][5] Since the country is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the United Nations's principles of non-refoulement and impediment to expulsion do not apply in India.[6]

History[edit]

Over several centuries, India has offered shelter to people fleeing from persecution in their homeland.

Parsis, a Zoroastrian community, migrated to India due to persecution between the 12th and 16th centuries. According to Qissa-i Sanjan, a Zoroastrian legend, Zoroastrianism collapsed as a state-sponsored religion a few centuries after the conquest of the Sassanid Empire. Consequently, some Zoroastrians migrated to what is now the Indian state of Gujarat to maintain their religious tradition.[7] The descendants of newer Zoroastrian immigrants, fleeing the persecution of non-Muslims by Iran's Qajar dynasty (1794–1925), are known as Iranis.[8][9] When India gained its independence, Parsis and Iranis retained legal citizenship.[10]

Legal framework[edit]

Citizenship[edit]

Indian nationality law is governed by the Citizenship Act (Articles 5 to 11 of the Constitution of India), which was passed in 1955. Further Citizenship (Amendment) Acts were passed in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2015.

The National Register of Citizens of India (NRC), maintained by the government of India, contains relevant information like names to identify citizens of Assam state.[11][contradictory] The government prepared the first register after the 1951 census but did not update it until an order by the Supreme Court of India in 2013.[12][13][14][15] India's federal and state governments are at various stages to implement the NRC in all areas.[clarification needed][16][17]

Legal refugees[edit]

Since India became an independent country, its government has recognised legal immigrants from only Tibet and Sri Lanka as refugees from the past, providing free education and identification documentation to the former.[6]

If the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 is passed in the Parliament of India, illegal migrants from persecuted minority communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan would be eligible for Indian citizenship,[18][19][20] except Muslims, who make up the majority of the three countries.[21] It would also relax the requirements for residents to become eligible for citizenship from 11 years to 6 years.[22][23]

Illegal migrants[edit]

Those without valid Indian citizenship or visas are classified as illegal immigrants.[1] Indian law does not classify any illegal immigrant as a refugee. Since India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the United Nations's principles of non-refoulement and impediment to expulsion do not apply in India.[6][24] Illegal immigrants are subjected to The Foreigners Act (1946), which defines a foreigner as a person who is not a citizen of India.[1] Where the nationality of a person is not evident, the onus of proving whether a person is a foreigner or not lie upon the person himself.[1] Anyone who believes that a foreigner has entered India, or who is the owner or managers of the property where a foreigner resides illegally, must inform the nearest police station within 24 hours of the presence of such foreigner.[1] The Foreigners Act allows the government to detain a foreigner until he is deported back to his own country.[2]

Illegal immigration is a national security issue in politics. It is believed to pose a security threat, especially in sensitive areas like Jammu and West Bengal.[3] The Centre on Monday, an Indian security organisation, has claimed that "some Rohingyas sympathising with many militant group's ideologies may be active in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mewat and can be a potential threat to internal security."[4] Additionally, women and girls are illegally trafficked to India;[25] a common purpose for illegal trafficking is prostitution.[26][5][27]

In 2005, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, passed in 1983, was struck down by the Supreme Court of India, which held that the act "has created the biggest hurdle and is the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants."[28] On 9 August 2012, the Supreme Court heard a public interest litigation petition for the deportation of illegal migrants. In the case, the government of India stated that it does not support any kind of illegal migration either into its territory or illegal immigration of its citizens. The government claims to be only committed to the lawful deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants.[29]

Religious refugees[edit]

Afghanistan[edit]

Currently, there are around 8,000 to 11,684 Afghan refugees in India, most of whom are Hindus and Sikhs.[30][31] The Indian government has allowed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UHNCR) in India to operate a programme for them.[32] In 2015, the Indian government granted citizenship to 4,300 Hindu and Sikh refugees. Most were from Afghanistan, and some were from Pakistan.[33]

Bangladesh[edit]

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Bangladesh-India border was opened to allow Bengalis fleeing the Pakistani military organization Razakar. The state governments of India, such as those of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura, established refugee camps along the border. During their stay in India, the refugees were trained and heavily armed to take part in an Indian proxy war against Pakistan in Bangladesh. As the war in Bangladesh escalated, an estimated ten million refugees fled to India. In Bangladesh, the refugees caused financial hardship and instability due to the 1971 Bangladesh genocides and regional conflicts in the northeastern Indian states.[citation needed]

Some people from East Bengal, mainly Hindus, migrated to West Bengal during the partition of India in 1947. The native population of West Bengal sometimes referred to these refugees as "Bangals". From 1947 to 1961, the percentage of the population of East Bengal that was Hindu decreased from 30% to 19%.[34] On 1991, it was down to 10.5%[35] The percentage further decreased from 2001, where the census recorded it to be 9.2%, to 2008, when it was estimated to be 8%.[36]

Chakmas are a Bangladeshi Buddhist community. Chakma immigrants[37] from Bangladesh have settled in the southern part of Mizoram because they were displaced by the construction of the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River in 1962.[38][39] Because there was no rehabilitation or compensation, they fled from Bangladesh to India.[40]

In 2001, the BBC reported that many Bangladeshi Hindu families had entered India to escape repression in Bangladesh because they were members of minority religious groups.[41][42][43]

Pakistan[edit]

Partition of India[edit]

Following the partition of India, massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly formed nations, spanning several months. Once the borders between India and Pakistan were established, a total of about 14.5 million people migrated from one country to the other, seeking safety from being an adherent to the religion of the majority in their new country. Based on the 1951 census, immediately after the partition 7.226 million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan, while 7.249 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India. About 11.2 million migrants crossed the western border, making up 78% of the total migrant population. Most of them travelled through Punjab. 5.3 million Muslims moved from India to West Punjab in Pakistan, and 3.4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to East Punjab in India. Elsewhere in the west, 1.2 million moved in each direction to and from Sind.[clarification needed] The initial population transfer on the east involved 3.5 million Hindus moving from East Bengal to India and only 0.7 million Muslims moving the other way.[citation needed]

Recent arrivals[edit]

Non-Muslims face constitutional and legal discrimination in Pakistan. Consequently, Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan have sought asylum in India; many have arrived in the 21st century.[citation needed] There are almost 400 Pakistani Hindu refugees in Indian cities.[44]

Tibet[edit]

Tibetan woman in an Indian refugee camp

Many religious refugees come from Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama, a leader of the Tibetan migration movement, left Tibet for India after the 1959 Tibetan uprising. He was followed by about 80,000 Tibetan refugees. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to allow Tibetan refugees to settle in India until their eventual return to Tibet. The Tibetan diaspora maintains the Central Tibetan Administration, a government-in-exile, in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamshala, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh. The organisation coordinates political activities for Tibetans in India.

In 1960, the government of Mysore State (now Karnataka) allotted nearly 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land at Bylakuppe in Mysore district. In 1961, Lugsung Samdupling, the first Tibetan exile settlement in India, was formed. A few years later, another settlement, Tibetan Dickey Larsoe (TDL), was established. Three more settlements were built in Karnataka: Rabgayling in Gurupura vilage near Hunsur, Dhondenling at Oderapalya near Kollegal, and Doeguling at Mundgod in Uttara Kannada. With the settlements, the state acquired the largest Tibetan refugee population out of every Indian state.

Other states have provided land for Tibetans. Bir Tibetan Colony is a settlement in Bir, Himachal Pradesh. Jeerango in Gajapati district, Odisha, has a large Tibetan community and South Asia's largest Buddhist monastery.

The government of India has built special schools for Tibetans, providing free education, healthcare, and scholarships for students who excel in school. A few medical and civil engineering seats at universities are reserved for Tibetans.

A document called the Registration Certificate (RC) is a permit for Tibetans to stay in India, renewed every year or half-year depending on the area. Every Tibetan refugee above the age of 16 must register for it, and RCs are not issued to refugees who have newly arrived. Another official document, the Indian Identity Certificate, nicknamed "Yellow Books", allows Tibetans to travel abroad. It is issued one year after an RC is given.

Refugees facing ethnic persecution[edit]

Ugandans of Indian-origin expelled in 1972[edit]

Expelled Asians in the Netherlands after leaving Uganda, 1972

In 1972, the majority ethnic population expelled Asians from Uganda, including those of Indian origin. Many Indians had settled in Uganda, fleeing from the 1947 riots in Pakistan and the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. The practitioners of Indic religions (Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs) who are persecuted in other countries are generally accepted as refugees in India.[citation needed]

In early August 1972, the president of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered nearly 80,000 Indians in Uganda, mostly Gujaratis, to leave the country within 90 days.[45][46][47]) The expelled included 23,000 Indians who were Ugandan citizens.[48] Although Ugandan citizens of Indian origin were later exempted from the explusion, many chose to leave voluntarily.[49] At the time, anti-Indian sentiment in Uganda was prominent.[48] 4,500 refugees rom Uganda ended up in India.[49] A total of 5,655 firms, ranches, farms, and agricultural estates were reallocated; cars, homes, and other household goods were also seized.[49]

Sri Lankan Tamils[edit]

More than 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in India, most of whom migrated during the rise of militancy in Sri Lanka, in particular during the Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. Most Sri Lankans are settled in the southern states of Tamil Nadu (in the cities of Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, and Coimbatore), Karnataka (in Bangalore), and Kerala.[50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e The Foreigners Act, 1946, Indian Kanoon.
  2. ^ a b "In Strident Campaign, Jammu Politicians Target Rohingya Muslim Refugees", The Wire, 7 February 2017
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 February 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b "Rohingya presence poses national security threat: Centre to SC". 18 September 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b Trafficking in Bangladeshi Women and Girls, by Bimal Kanti Paul; Syed Abu Hasnath, Geographical Review, p.268-276, April 2000
  6. ^ a b c "Tibetan Refugees in India Get Passports, Not Property". The Quint. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  7. ^ "Desh Pardesh: The South Asian Presence in Britain", p. 252, by Roger Ballard
  8. ^ Masashi, Haneda. "Emigration of Iranian Elites to India during the 16–18th centuries". Retrieved 2013-12-17.
  9. ^ Shastri, Padmaja. "What sets Zoroastrian-Iranis apart". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  10. ^ "8-003a". indiancitizenshiponline.nic.in. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  11. ^ "WHAT IS NRC". Business Standard India. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  12. ^ "Couple who set NRC ball rolling". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  13. ^ Seetharaman, G. (14 June 2015). "National Register of Citizens in Assam: Issue of illegal foreigners continues to be a major political one". The Economic Times.
  14. ^ "Assam: Overhaul of National Register of Citizens sparks controversy". 29 June 2015.
  15. ^ Seetharaman, G. (2015-06-14). "National Register of Citizens in Assam: Issue of illegal foreigners continues to be a major political one – The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Economictimes.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  16. ^ Rohingyas, Bangladeshi refugees likely target of Khattar govt’s updated NRC, Hindustan Times, 16 September 2019.
  17. ^ UP DGP Asks Top Cops to Start Identifying Illegal ‘Bangladeshi and Foreigner’ Immigrants, NewsClick, 1 October 2019.
  18. ^ "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019" (PDF). PRS India. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  19. ^ "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016". PRS India – Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  20. ^ "What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016?". India Today. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  21. ^ "What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  22. ^ "JPC report on Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 tabled in Lok Sabha". dd News. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  23. ^ PTI (2019-01-06). "Citizenship bill glimmer of hope for Hindu, Sikh refugees from Afghanistan". Mint. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  24. ^ "Sri Lankan refugees in dilemma over return – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  25. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov.
  26. ^ "Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation, Donna M. Hughes, Laura Joy Sporcic, Nadine Z. Mendelsohn and Vanessa Chirgwin". Archived from the original on April 15, 2012.
  27. ^ Third and fourth periodic reports of States parties, COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN, UNITED NATIONS
  28. ^ Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983, Indian Kanoon.
  29. ^ "Committed to deporting illegal migrants, but only lawfully: Centre". 2012-08-10.
  30. ^ "Afghan refugees in search of Indian identity". UNHCR. 19 May 2005.
  31. ^ "Suspicion, poverty, ill-health and lack of work dog Afghan asylum seekers in India". India Today. 22 October 2001.
  32. ^ A band born out of hope 4 August 2011
  33. ^ Sriram, Jayant (June 15, 2015). "4,300 Hindu, Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan get citizenship" – via www.thehindu.com.
  34. ^ Saikia, Jaideep, Terror Sans Frontiers: Islamic Militancy in North East India, Appendix 5, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, July 2003.
  35. ^ "Bangladesh". U.S. Department of State.
  36. ^ "Bangladesh – Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM)". hrcbm.org.
  37. ^ "Won't hesitate to leave BJP forum". deccanherald. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  38. ^ "Why are some Mizos on streets against Citizenship Bill?". Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  39. ^ "50 years on, Chakma refugees from Bangladesh". scroll. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  40. ^ "Advertising How Chakmas and Hajongs settled in North East, why Arunachal worries about citizenship". Indianexpress. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  41. ^ "Bangladesh Hindus 'will not go back'". November 22, 2001 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  42. ^ "Analysis: Fears of Bangladeshi Hindus". October 19, 2001 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  43. ^ "Bangladesh Hindu atrocities 'documented'". November 8, 2001 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  44. ^ "Law to rehabilitate Hindu refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh? | India News – Times of India". The Times of India.
  45. ^ "1972: Asians given 90 days to leave Uganda". British Broadcasting Corporation. 7 August 1972. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  46. ^ Srinivas, K (February 28, 2014). "Hopes soar among Ugandan Asians as Idi Amin's dictatorial regime falls". India Today.
  47. ^ Vashi, Ashish; Jain, Ankur (October 22, 2008). "Gujaratis survived Idi Amin, fuelled East Africa's economy". The Times of India.
  48. ^ a b Patel 1972, pp. 12–19
  49. ^ a b c Jørgensen, Jan Jelmert (1981), Uganda: a modern history, Taylor & Francis, pp. 285–290, ISBN 978-0-85664-643-0, retrieved 12 August 2010
  50. ^ "Rediff on the NeT: Kerala is new sanctuary for fleeing Lankan Tamils". www.rediff.com.

External links[edit]