Pining for home

The Rohingya Muslims, who have fled Myanmar and are now staying in Chennai, hope that once situation normalizes they can return to their homeland

shivani

Shivani Chaturvedi | July 17, 2017 | Chennai


#settlement   #Chennai   #Kolkata   #Myanmar   #Rohingya Muslims   #UNHCR  
A settlement for Rohingya Muslim refugees in Chennai suburb (Photo: Shivani Chaturvedi)
A settlement for Rohingya Muslim refugees in Chennai suburb (Photo: Shivani Chaturvedi)

 Rohingya Muslims Mohammed Yusuf and Noor Bano along with their newborn daughter Noor Fatimah fled to India from Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2012. Through Bangladesh, they arrived in Kolkata from where they boarded a train that brought them to Chennai.

“After fleeing from our home, we reached Bangladesh. With the help of an agent, we came to Kolkata. He asked us to board the train and then he absconded,” says Yusuf who had paid the agent 1 lakh Myanmar kyat, which equals Rs 4,698. This was only a part payment. On reaching Chennai, he had to pay another Rs 20,000 to a person who gave him shelter.
 
These agents give false hope to the refugees, guaranteeing them safe and decent settlement. The organised racket of human trafficking in the case of Rohingyas seems to be strengthening over the years. It is understood that earlier Rohingyas mostly came to India on their own without the help of agents.
 
However, an UNHCR spokesperson says that whenever the Rohingyas crossed borders, they needed help of someone and mostly the people from Bangladesh were the ones who helped them.
 
“UNHCR values the efforts and shares the legitimate interest of states in combating trafficking in persons and specifically draws attention to the humanitarian consequences of this crime. UNHCR calls for a human rights-based approach to human trafficking which goes beyond identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators, and includes measures to address the protection needs of victims or individuals who have been or are at risk of being trafficked,” says the spokesperson.      
 
For Yusuf and his family, the ordeal did not end on reaching Chennai. Not knowing the language, they had to face a lot of difficulties. Yusuf used to communicate with the locals using hand gestures and facial expressions. “Many a times there was lot of confusion and I would be left feeling frustrated and lost,” says Yusuf.
 
With the help of a local, Yusuf managed to get shelter in Manali locality. But, there he had a tough time.
 
“Because of some misunderstanding due to language barrier, there was a minor clash between my neighbour and me. My neighbour filed a police complaint. In the wee hours, the police took my daughter and wife and also two of my relatives in the jeep and left them at Covelong beach in Chennai,” says Yusuf.
 
With the help of UNHCR, Yusuf was able to get his family back.
 
Thereafter, Yusuf, his family and a few other Rohingya Muslim refugees were moved to a community hall in Kelambakkam, a suburb of Chennai, where they stayed for six months. And finally, they were moved to cyclone relief centre situated in the same locality.   
Since then they are living in a dull yellow coloured one-storey building, which is presently home to 19 families. As per UNCHR records, the building houses 94 people of whom 52 are children.
 
The building doesn’t have rooms, so each family has made partitions using sarees and clothes stitched together.
 
Imtiaz Bibi, 20, says that for 19 families it is getting very difficult to adjust in this building as it is cramped.
 
Yet, more Rohingyas are coming to Chennai. Rafiq Alam, 13, came here barely two months back.
 
Most of the men of this refugee community are working as helpers at road side hotels, cleaners in shops or as rag pickers, and are able to earn somewhere between Rs 100 and Rs 400 per day.
 
Over the period of time, these Rohingyas have broken the language barrier. Constant interaction with the natives has helped them learn the language.
 
As Rohingya women don’t come out of the house much, only a few of them have learnt Tamil. However, there are women like Zeenath who have picked up the language as she takes her son to a government school located less than a kilometer from the settlement.  
 
The refugees like Yusuf are hopeful that one day they will be able to go back to their home in Myanmar. His parents are in Maungdaw town where four shops owned by him were burnt down. Yet, Yusuf is waiting for the day when he would go back with his family to his home and live with his parents.
 

Comments

 

Other News

Modi’s forward-looking I-Day speech lays down 5-year agenda

Contrast prime minister Narendra Modi’s first Independence Day speech in 2014 with his latest, the first in the second term, and you know the difference. His first speech was less about future and much about the basic needs like Swachch Bharat (clean India). His speech on Thursday, on the other hand,

Better cities require active citizen engagement

With Mumbai city battling myriad civic issues and annual flooding year after year, stakeholders and experts came together to discuss ways of dealing with these issues as community work. The discussion was held at the TEDxVersova Salon- Vibrant Civic Participation, an independent TED event organized by the

Independence Day: PM underlines new beginnings

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort for the first in his second term, prime minister Narendra Modi highlighted the new beginnings his government has made in recent days, and underlined the hopes of a new India in the making. “Things that could not happen in the past

Kashmir decision “sole prerogative of the country”

India has told China that the legislation changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir was “an internal matter. External affairs minister S Jaishankar, visiting China Monday, told foreign minister Wang Yi that the legislative measures were aimed at promoting better governance and socio-ec

To fight climate change, pay attention also to land

When considering climate change, one of the greatest threats before the humanity, discussions usually focus on air and water, but land too is affected by and in turn affects global warming as much as those two elements. A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), out early Augus

Mumbai witnesses jump in bus ridership after fare cut

To revive bus ridership, the BMC-run Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) reduced its bus fares in Mumbai to minimum Rs 5 for non-AC buses as against Rs 8 earlier for the first five kilometres and capped maximum fare at Rs 20. For its AC buses the minimum fare has been brought down from Rs 20



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter