Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue and former BJP national general secretary, K.N. Govindacharya, who is credited with strengthening the BJP’s organisational base in the 1980s and the 1990s, has been actively involved in social work after quitting the BJP in 2000. At present, he is working under the banner of Rashtriya Swabhimaan Andolan. Govindacharya is in the news after he, along with advocate Rohit Pandey, filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking the deportation of the Rohingyas, against two Rohingyas challenging the Centre’s plan to deport them. The matter will come up for hearing on 18 September. Though there is no official record, according to estimates, more than 40,000 Rohingya refugees have sneaked into India from Myanamar. Govindacharya spoke to The Sunday Guardian on the issue. Excerpts:
Q: What prompted you to move the Supreme Court seeking the deporting of the Rohingyas?
A: India has already seen a Partition on the basis of religion. We should keep in mind that demography plays an important role in social and political conditions. It is true that India has been the most welcoming nation. We welcomed different communities even 2,000 years ago. But now the situation is different; the challenges are different. We are living in the 21st century. Everyone is tired of terrorism. There are reasons to worry, as our intelligence agencies have warned that Rohingyas have links with terrorist organisations. So this is a wake-up call for us. Therefore, I moved the Supreme Court. Also, population explosion is taking a heavy toll on India’s resources. If more people are permitted within the country, it will create chaos and anarchy. If 40,000 illegal immigrants are given protection, more people could come in.
When I say about changing demography, you can see what is happening in West Bengal, where as many as nine districts, where Muslims were a minority, have now become Muslim-dominated. This has happened because of infiltration from Bangladesh. So we should not ignore the ground reality.
We should also understand the fact that infiltration is taking place in Bharat, Bangladesh. They can go anywhere. But why do they choose Bharat? It’s because of our sympathetic approach. Within India, they are going to places like Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir, and not to states like Mizoram and Nagaland.
Q: But infiltration by Rohingyas has been going on for a long time. What was the urgency to raise the issue now?
A: Our agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and the RAW have said that Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba have made inroads in J&K through the Rohingyas. We must remember that these are illegal immigrants. Many Rohingyas have settled in J&K. As per Article 370, there are many restrictions on Indians from other states to stay in J&K. If Indians are not allowed to stay there, how can the illegally immigrated Rohingyas be allowed to stay in a state, which shares a sensitive border with Pakistan? Therefore, there is a sense of urgency to address this issue. Many people are taking a simplistic view of the problem, rather than a realistic view. We cannot have a Utopian view and sit pretty like ostriches. This is not merely a refugee issue. There are other dimensions also. We need to be realistic and objective, rather than subjective and emotional.
Q: Apart from J&K, which other areas face a threat due to their infiltration?
A: Rohingyas pose a severe security threat to Assam and other Northeastern states. In fact, they have considerable security implications for Bangladesh as well. The security agencies have warned the government that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies may try to exploit Rohingyas to support a “jihad”. Therefore, they can create trouble in Assam, which has seen violent clashes due to large scale illegal immigration.
Q: The BJP, it seems, was not so vocal on the issue so far, as it was in the case of Bangladeshi infiltrators.
A: Earlier the impact was less, so the reaction was not that intense. But now the atmosphere has changed. The entire mindset towards the issue of terrorism has changed, globally, after the 2001 terror attacks on the US. I think the BJP and the NDA government at the Centre have started taking the issue seriously now. You can see the statements of Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his Minister of State, Kiren Rijiju. The RSS also mentioned the issue in its recent meeting in Vrindavan.
Q: What should be India’s stand on this issue of refugees?
A: India should extend all cooperation to the UN agencies in resolving the issue. But we should keep in mind that India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, 1951 and its 1967 protocol. Rohingyas say that they have been issued identity cards by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But that does not imply that they have become immune from the proceedings under the Foreigners Act 1946. I think the petitioners’ plea that the other members of the Rohingya community should not be deported is even more problematic as out of 40,000 Rogingyas, only 14,000 have I-cards issued by the UNHCR.
Q: What about the Bangladeshi infiltrators?
A: I think our government should take the issue seriously. It should take up the matter with the Bangladesh government. Bangladesh is becoming a den of terrorist activities.