Why is Mamata Banerjee so ignorant of the threat from the Rohingyas?

Banerjee is deliberately ignoring the threat of granting the Rohingyas refugee status in West Bengal, instead obsessed over placating her vote bank in the most unprincipled way-and it may put India directly at risk.

About 40,000 or so Rohingyas have craftily sneaked into India over the last few years and it is unsurprising that Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee does not want to deport them. She instead wants to grant them refugee status on humanitarian grounds, completely ignoring the fact that many of these Rohingyas have closed links to jihadi groups and pro-terror outfits that despise India; add in the fact that many of them may have been radicalized by Islamic fundamentalists and you have a potential time bomb in Kolkata waiting to explode.

Not only is Banerjee oblivious to the risk they carry but also a hypocrite of the worst kind. She apparently does not extend her humanitarian concern to the thousands of Hindus who have been displaced from Bangladesh due to persecution over many decades. This is not an issue that concerns her.

The Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Sayantan Basu has alleged that Banerjee’s desire to massage her Muslim vote bank is all that matters to her: “Mamata is raising the Rohingya issue and demanding they be granted refuge in India only because they are Muslims. Had they been Buddhists or Hindus, she would not have bothered. Of course, she is cloaking her concern in the false-fig leaf of ‘humanity’, but that is all bunkum. The real reason is that they are Muslims,” said a senior BJP leader, who did not want to be named, since she is not the official spokesperson of the party.

The Hindu Samhati, which has been working for the welfare of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, finds Banerjee’s concern for Rohingyas hypocritical. “Hindus who have been persecuted in Bangladesh and have fled to India have horrendous tales to tell. But Banerjee hasn’t, even once, expressed or shown any ‘mamata’ (sympathy) for them. Her government has not taken a single step to ameliorate their sufferings here. Instead, her party leaders facilitate the entry of Bangladeshi Muslims into Bengal, provide them ration cards and citizenship documents and then ensure they become beneficiaries of various state welfare schemes. That is why her stand on Rohingyas is hypocritical,” said Samhati vice-president Devdutta Maji.

Interestingly Banerjee seems to have not heeded much of the history of the Rohingya in more general terms and why they specifically pose a security threat to Bengal, and India at large. The Rohingyas are called Bengali Muslims in Myanmar for good reason; all of them are migrants from what is now Bangladesh. They started migrating to Rakhine province in the 15th century after terrorising the Rakhines through rape, forcible conversions and destruction of Buddhist temples in the province.

Instead she has ignored this altogether. “They (Muslim organisations) rallied nearly 50,000 people in the heart of Kolkata a few days ago in support of Rohingyas. Many influential Muslim leaders addressed the rally and demanded that the Rohingyas be granted refuge in Bengal. Mamata could not have ignored them. There was also a lot of covert pressure on her to express support for the Rohingyas and oppose the Centre’s resolve to deport the Rohingyas, who have already entered India,” said a senior Trinamool functionary, who is also a junior minister.

Banerjee completely underestimates the risk of security being compromised by allowing these refugees in saying “Let the (Union) government take steps against those who have terror links. But the misdeeds of a few cannot be generalised. We need to distinguish between terrorists and commoners”.

Alongside the above machinations of the Rohingya mindset, it is also highly suspicious that many of them support Islamic outfits that demand the integration of Rakhine province with erstwhile East Pakistan and, more recently, independence for the province and its declaration as an Islamic state. Over the past two decades, Wahhabi fundamentalist outfits and terror groups funded by Saudi oil money have laid down roots among the Rohingyas and have succeeded in radicalizing some of them.

“Many of the Rohingyas are Islamic fundamentalists. They follow Wahhabism and they are supporters of an independent Islamic Rakhine state. There are few moderates among the Rohingyas and if some of them now speak in a moderate voice, that is only to gain sympathy. Even Rohingya children have been found guilty of desecrating Buddhist temples and even killing Rakhines,” said a former Intelligence Bureau officer, who has thorough knowledge of the Rohingyas.

Banerjee doesn’t come across as the smartest ladoo in the box and so probably is unaware of how dangerous they really are. “She doesn’t have access to the alarming intelligence inputs on the radicalisation of the Rohingyas, on their support for terror outfits, on how many such outfits supported by Pakistan have recruited many Rohingyas and on the grave security threat the Rohingyas pose to India,” said a Union Home Ministry officer, who liaises with intelligence agencies.

But let’s be realistic, even if she did know exactly what the security risk was and how India’s security would be jeopardized, it is highly unlikely she would put a stop to their migration because she needs to protect her Muslim vote bank.

Security and intelligence agencies say it is difficult to identify the radicals or the terrorists amongst the Rohingya refugees for the simple reason that they are yet to be infiltrated. “We don’t have informers among them and have not been able to infiltrate into that community since they are extremely strongly-knit and suspicious. They will not reveal any information on one of their own. And Islamic fundamentalists in India have also reached out to them, assured them of support and protection. This has made the Rohingyas who have already infiltrated illegally into India an emboldened lot, who are immune to pressures from security agencies. So it is impossible to ferret out the terrorists from among them,” said an IB officer.

That is why, added the IB officer, all Rohingyas are being treated as suspects. “There are few ‘commoners’ or innocents among them. Suggestions that the terrorists among the Rohingyas be identified and isolated are highly impractical,” said the officer.

Banerjee is not only disingenuous about the threat these refugees pose but her unprincipled stand and hypocrisy is dangerous because it flies in the face of protecting India.

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@GuardianBooks @latimesbooks short-listed Author of 'The Butterfly Room'| Political Columnist @IBTimes @AHTribune @timesofisrael | Featured on @SkyNews @BBC @RT

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Saurav Dutt

Saurav Dutt

@GuardianBooks @latimesbooks short-listed Author of 'The Butterfly Room'| Political Columnist @IBTimes @AHTribune @timesofisrael | Featured on @SkyNews @BBC @RT

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