A few months ago, a vicious fire ripped through Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar area, rendering over 200 Rohingya refugees homeless.
One resident told The Wire the extent of the loss -
"All our belongings are lost. We couldn’t save anything, only our lives. Some people have got minor injuries while fleeing the site. Since we have no bank accounts, we used to keep whatever savings we could make from our daily work in our tents. Most of us lost those savings too."
The Rohingyas are frequently referred to as 'the most persecuted minority in the world', routinely discriminated against since 1978.
They're an ethnic group, predominantly Muslim, who have been victims of alleged ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government (predominantly Buddhist), where they reside in Rakhine State.
For all intents and purposes, these 1.1 million-strong people are stateless, having been denied citizenship by Myanmar since 1982. This despite the fact that Rohingya history can be dated back to the 8th century.
In Myanmar, the Rohingyas are not allowed to travel without permission, and their freedom of movement is highly controlled.
They are deprived of any access to higher education, restricted from civil service jobs, have to sign a commitment not to have more than two children, and they are routinely subjected to forced labour.
In light of this, the UN and Human Right's Watch have described the conditions faced by Rohingyas as being similar to aparthied.
On 9 October 2016, an insurgent group claiming to fight for the rights of Rohingyas attacked several police posts in coordination, leaving 9 cops dead. In retaliation, the Myanmar military began a massive crackdown on the villages of Rakhine State, abandoning human rights in the process. This was the start of the latest Rohingya crisis.
What followed was arbitrary arrests, mass killings, systematic gang rapes, brutalisations, lootings and the burning of homes, schools, markets, shops, and mosques.
Accounts tell of the military using helicopters to gun down civilians, and of throwing children into burning homes.
The media and human rights groups have not been allowed into the persecuted areas since November 2016, so there's no way to ascertain the exact number of casualties. The place has been termed an 'information black hole'.
Due to these appalling conditions, the Rohingyas have been forced to flee, and the UN has reported that over 600,000 of them have risked death by sea or foot to make it to 'safer waters'.
While Bangladesh is offering them shelter and humanitarian aid temporarily, the Rohingyas numbers are far too large to support for long. No other country has offered to share the burden, and there has been rising anti-Rohingya sentiment in India as well, as it's felt the state cannot provide for Indians as well as the refugees.
This has led to speculation that the fire that razed the camp in Delhi was done on purpose, and was not an accident as is being reported.
For us, the Rohingya crisis is a recent turn of events, a mere mention in the 5th page of the newspaper. For the endlessly persecuted Rohingyas however, this is just another bump in their long history of suffering.