Who ensured the settlement of so many thousands of Rohingyas in Jammu and why? The distance between Rakhine province in Myanmar and Jammu and Kashmir, even if Rohingya migrants walked in a straight line, is more than 2,500 km. The distance between Jammu and Lahore in Pakistan is less than 100 km as the crow flies. It was in Lahore that the leaders and the cadre of the Milli Muslim League, the newly formed political front of Hafiz Saeed’s terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, recently held a rally stating that it had started sending its own cadre to Myanmar to “help” the Rohingyas—an intent the agencies in India interpret as radicalising them and providing them with arms. The agencies say they have proof of the Rohingyas’ direct connection with the Lashkar and like-minded groups in Pakistan. The agencies are worried at the possibility of these terrorist outfits using the Myanmar based Muslim ethnic minority group against India. So they are opposed to the continuing Rohingya influx into India. At least three intelligence agency officers told this newspaper that the influx has been going on since 2008 and prior to this, no attempts were made to stop the Rohingyas from coming in.

“This has been going on for at least eight-ten years. Earlier, they used to come in small numbers, bribe the local policemen and officials and settle down. That there were not any checks on them is obvious from the fact that they managed to go to virtually every corner of India. We know that a well oiled and organised network of ‘handlers’ based in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal is behind this. We also know that such a  large number of Rohingyas would not have been able to enter India without the assistance from Indian paramilitary men, and then be able to get Aadhar cards, ration cards and voter cards. However, we cannot change what has already happened, our concern is that these people, will be used as a fodder by the Pakistan based terror groups to carry out strikes in India and when this happens, there is little that we will be able to do,” a senior officer with one of the intelligence gathering agencies said. The officers in the agency, who have been tracking Pakistan based terror groups such as Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad, have seen a rise in the activities of these terror groups with regard to the Rohingyas. In 2015, the intelligence agencies had recorded a meeting of Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed with Maulana Abdul Quddus, a Rohingya Muslim, who had fled to Pakistan and formed the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Arakan, with the goal to liberate the Muslim-dominated Myanmarese state of Rakhine, which was formerly known as Arakan.

“We have enough proof that these people are inducting the Rohingyas into working for them by using religious prosecution as the ground to lure them. Lashkar and Jaish, unlike in popular perception, have well organised teams of recruiters who are trained and know what to say, do and how to say and do and when to do to achieve their objective. These groups have sent a lot of emergency supplies to the Rohnigyas living in Bangladesh by using their over-ground workers and NGOs including the Fala-i-Insaniyat, the Lashkar’s NGO face. The aim is to develop a soft spot in their mind for these groups and with time, recruit them into their fold,” said another officer.

Radicalisation, according to the intelligence officers, is taking place in the settlements where the refugees are staying. “Lashkar has been reaching out to them since 2012 through its network in Bangladesh,” the officer commented.

As per intelligence inputs, Jaish chief, Mashood Azhar, a well known radicaliser, too has “thrown his hat in the ring” and is working to recruit the gullible Rohingyas.

Jammu based advocate Hunar Gupta, a member of the BJP, who has filed a petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking the deportation of the Rohingyas, said that many of them had even got small patches of land in their name. “Their number is stated to be 10,000 in Jammu, but I believe it to be much more. They are marrying local Kashmiri Muslims, have got Aadhar, ration and voter cards and are moving to other parts of the state and the country. We had interacted with them when they had first come here. At the time, since there was not much focus on them, they were more forthcoming. They told us that they were brought by middleman who told them that they would be much safer in Jammu rather than any other part of India. All of them had entered India illegally, but are now occupying government land, thanks to the help from corrupt government officials. Why were they allowed to enter India in the first place? Why has not the government taken action against those officials who are posted at India’s borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, and those Jammu officials who helped them settle here?” he asked.

The intelligence community is monitoring the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA), a small group of men fighting in Rakhine, or Arakan, for their links with Lashkar, something that has been denied by the ARSA.

The ARSA, formerly known as Harakatul Yakeen, hit the headlines in October 2016 when it attacked three Myanmarese police outposts, killing nine police officers. Their leader, Attaullah Abu Ammar Jununi, had defended the attack, by accusing the Myanmar army of inciting the violence. Ataullah was born in Karachi and received his madrasa education in Saudi Arabia.

“The ARSA has emerged as an armed organisation, which is getting funding from its supporters who are based in the Gulf countries. India’s strategic interest does not allow us to sit silently and wait for something to happen and then act,” the official added.

Rohingyas, on the other hand, say that they were forced to cross over to India to escape persecution from the Myanmar army and as per their version, they were not aware that they were going to a place called Jammu.

However, security agencies are not willing to take any chances and have made it clear that it will be prudent to deport the Rohingyas legally. “Our job is not to deport them or to speak to the Myanmar government to take them back. Our job is to tell the government about our assessment on the basis of intelligence gathering, which we have done,” the official stated.

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