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Rohingya refugees seek new life in J&K

January 25, 2015

By Adeel Shah for Khabar South Asia in Jammu

Jammu and Kashmir is among the Indian states that have taken in Burmese Muslims fleeing violence in their homeland.
Some Rohingya refugees who fled communal violence in Burma live in temporary sheds built in Jammu and Kashmir. [Showkat Ahmad/Khabar]


Thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Burma in the past few years have fled to neighbouring countries including India, in search of havens from communal violence at home.


In Jammu and Kashmir, the Rohingya have built temporary sheds in more than 15 locations and each month pay a few hundred rupees in rent to landowners.


Abdullah Hashim, who lives in the Bari Brahmana area, said he missed his hometown in Burma .


“We had to leave Burma after we were targeted for no reason,” he said. “It is very unfortunate, nobody from the administration or even any leader from any Muslim country came to save us when we needed them the most.”


Rajan Gupta, who owns a candle-making factory in Jammu, has hired Rohingya as workers.


“When they approached me, I provided them with jobs, so that they could survive,” he said. “Many of factory owners here have employed these violence-hit people because they want to help them.”


“Initially after we left our village in Burma and moved here, it was very tough for me to feed my family. But, then I started working at a candle-making factory,” said Imdad Ahmad, a Rohingya who works at Gupta’s factory.


“Now I feel, I am having a different life now – a new home, new work and a new life. After coming here to Jammu last year, I have started living a real life.”


Sultan Ahmad, another victim of violence from Mungdaw, and his family now live in Jammu.


“I lost my uncle in the violence, and we quickly left everything and first moved to West Bengal and then here in 2012,” he said. “Those extremist Buddhists who attacked us were very cruel.”


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gave the refugees identification cards, but they say they still lack basic necessities.


“I was working in a factory before leaving our village and moving here to save our lives. Only a few NGOs come here from time to time to provide us clothes and other things,” Akram Mehmood, who lives in a makeshift tent, told Khabar.


Around 1,500 Rohingya Muslims are camping in Jammu, state officials estimate.


“There are no special facilities for them,” Jammu Divisional Commissioner Shantanu said. “But we are providing shelters to all those people who are homeless during the winters.”