A Rohingya woman deported to Myanmar from Indian-administered Kashmir in March has been reunited with her family in Bangladesh.
Hasina Begum, 37, was deported from Jammu despite having UN refugee status, leaving her husband and three children behind in Kashmir. She was the first Rohingya refugee to be deported from among 170 who were detained by authorities in the region in March 2021.
Begum, who said the Rohingya were treated “worse than criminals” in jail, said she was suddenly summoned by officers on 14 March and taken for a medical examination and Covid test. “The jail authorities did not tell me where they were taking me, despite repeated appeals,” she said.
The next day, Begum was handcuffed and, accompanied by eight police officers, taken by train to the north-eastern state of Manipur.
“I was crying and pleading with them to tell me where I was being taken but nobody answered me until I was handed over to the Myanmar army on the Moreh-Tamu border crossing,” she said.
After 11 days in Covid quarantine, Begum was taken to Ranee, a small hamlet in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which she had left 10 years ago, five months pregnant, after the area was attacked. A Muslim family took her in, but as soon as she arrived, she contacted her husband and told him to sell whatever he could and take the children to Bangladesh.
“I knew I could not live like this, away from my family,” said Begum. “One year’s separation from my children seemed like a few decades.” She borrowed 400,000 Kyat (£171) from the family she was living with and crossed the border.
Earlier this month, the family were reunited in Cox’s Bazar, in south-east Bangladesh, which is home to almost 1 million Rohingya who have fled a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar army.
“It was the happiest time in my life,” said Begum on being reunited with her children, aged nine to 15.
Approximately 40,000 Rohingya live in India, but the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) has made it clear it wants to deport them back to Myanmar.
On Sunday, police arrested 26 Rohingya in Assam for allegedly travelling without papers. Earlier this month, 24 refugees were detained in Unakoti district, in Tripura state. All were believed to have been living in Kashmir.
At the beginning of May, Jafar Alam, who also had UN refugee status, was deported from Kashmir to Myanmar, leaving behind his wife and six children.
“Hundreds of Rohingya are fleeing to Bangladesh from India due to the crackdown,” said Ali Johar, co-director at Rohingya Human Rights Initiative. “India should not deport Rohingya, [they should] rather hold dialogue with Myanmar authorities to create a conducive atmosphere, and until then provide shelter to the refugees.”
Begum said the family has been supported by an NGO, but that they need to find work, and school for the children.
Begum is determined not to go back to Myanmar. “We saw our people being butchered in Myanmar in front of our eyes,” said Begum. “How will we live there if peace does not return?”