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Indian minister causes minor uproar after comment on Rohingya ‘concentration camps’ in country

Rohingya Muslim refugee children from Myanmar study at a makeshift madrasa (religious school) on World Refugee Day in the outskirts of the Indian city Jammu.PHOTO: AFP

By The Strait Times

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/Asia News Network) – Even as the government assured members in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday (Aug 1) of taking steps to ensure illegal migrants do not enter the country in large numbers and change the demography, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju caused a minor uproar when he said a “concentration camp” of Rohingyas had come up in Jammu and Kashmir.

Replying to queries during Question Hour, the minister clarified that he did not mean this in the sense of concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Replying to a question by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on illegal migrants, Mr Rijiju said: “Steps are being taken to ensure that we do not get uncontrolled influx of migrants in the country, which creates lots of problem related to social, political, cultural… And at the same time, we want to ensure that the demographic pattern of India is not disturbed.”

To a question on an influx of Rohingyas, a persecuted community from Myanmar, in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Rijiju said a “concentration camp” of Rohingyas has come up in the state.

“According to (the United Nations Refugee Agency), there are 13,000 Rohingya migrants registered. But we have also got figures from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which shows they have migrated to India in large numbers,” Mr Rijiju said.

“As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, a concentration camp of Rohingyas has come up…,” the minister said.

Opposition members immediately asked how there could be a “concentration camp” in the country. Mr Rijiju explained that it should not be confused with ‘concentration camps’ of Nazi Germany.

“It is not a detention camp… If you relate it to concentration camp of Germany, I am not talking about that. Government of India has not made a concentration camp, they (Rohingyas) have made themselves concentrated,” Mr Rijiju explained.

Earlier, Mr Kharge asked the minister if there were any figures on the number of illegal immigrants in India and if the government is taking any steps to gather such numbers.

Mr Rijiju said it was difficult as the migrants do not enter through legal channels.

“Illegal immigrants… the fact is that their entry is illegal, they have not come into India through proper channels… We have taken various steps to ensure we detect them, we identify them and then prosecute them as per law so that finally they can be deported back,” Mr Rijiju said.

He said state governments have been authorised to establish task forces “so that they (illegal immigrants) can be detected and kept in detention camps”.

Mr Kharge asked if any illegal immigrants have been found to be involved with militants or anti-national elements.

Mr Rijiju said: “There are many cases in which they came and might have acquired legal documents. So we cannot brand a group or community like this. But I cannot definitely say that any illegal migrant group is linked with any militant group or activity.”