The Narendra Modi government told the Supreme Court on Monday that the right to move and settle anywhere in India was guaranteed by the Constitution to Indian citizens, and the right was not available to illegal migrants like the Rohingya.
“Illegal influx of Rohingya, in significant numbers, started into India (sic) since 2012-13, and the central government has contemporaneous inputs from security agencies and other authentic material indicating linkages of some of the unauthorised Rohingya immigrants with Pakistan-based terror organisations and similar organisations operating in other countries,” the home ministry said in a 15-page affidavit.
The Centre said it had found that “many of the Rohingya figure in suspected sinister designs of ISI/IS and other extremist groups who want to achieve their ulterior motives in India, including that of flaring up communal and sectarian violence in sensitive areas”. It promised a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud to give intelligence inputs and other related documents in sealed cover on October 3, when the court will hear petitions opposing the Centre’s move to deport the Rohingya.
“(The) More disturbing part is that there is an organised influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar through agents and touts facilitating (movement of) illegal immigrant Rohingya into India via Benapole-Haridaspur (West Bengal), Hilli (WB) and Sonamora (Tripura). The situation is seriously harming the national security,” it said. “India is already saddled with a very serious problem of illegal migrants and is attempting to address this situation in the larger interest of the nation and keeping the national resources of the country, requirements of India’s own population, national security concerns and several other facts in consideration,” it said.
The Centre added the large influx was concomitant to growth in stridency of Rohingya militancy that could further destabilise the fragile northeastern corridor of India. Besides, radicalised Rohingya had the potential to pose a real threat of sparking violence against Buddhists who are Indian citizens.
For the Rohingya migrants, the lawyers’ line-up was impressive — Fali S Nariman, Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan, Ashwani Kumar, Colin Gonsalves and Prashant Bhushan, who was the first to file a petition on behalf of two Rohingya Muslims opposing the Centre’s decision to deport illegal migrants. He had cited the international ‘nonrefoulement convention’ to plead for a stay.
Referring to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, which states that refugees not be returned, and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967, the Centre said, “Since India is not a party to (either)… the obligations contained therein are not applicable to India.”