The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Persecuted Pakistani Hindus are allowed refuge in India, so why not Rohingyas?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Communalising shelter

In 2015, the government announced that it would allow minority-community refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh to stay on in India even if their visas had expired. This decision, said the government, had been taken on humanitarian grounds, given the persecution religious minorities face in the two countries.

However, the humanitarianism that was claimed as the basis of that decision does not seem to ring completely true. Even as the Union government was making space for Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh, it was threatening to expel Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar who are often called the “world’s most persecuted minority”. Not only are they stateless – their own country does not recognise their citizenship – but Myanmar has over the past weeks been accused of committing genocide on the group in the hope of ethnically cleansing them. If humanitarianism is a value New Delhi holds dear, India should open its gates for the Rohingyas too. Instead, the Union government is keen on deporting Rohingyas who are already here.

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a petition asking for the Union government to desist from its attempt to deport Rohingyas. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to discuss the issue with top Myanmar officials when he stops in the capital, Naypyidaw, on his way back from China. It’s clear that the Union government’s recent decisions have been driven by political considerations. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological framework imagines India as a land of Hindus. This philosophy drives it to fashion a communal refugee policy that sees persecuted peoples through the lens of their religion. The court, however, should have no such explicit considerations.

India, it might be noted, has no laws on how to treat refugees. But even though India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, these rules are now widely seen as part of customary international law, applicable across the board. One of the core principles of the 1951 convention is non-refoulment: a state cannot force refugees to return to a country “where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. In international forums, in fact, India has repeatedly backed this principle.

Can the Supreme Court then apply this customary international law to help the Rohingyas? Precedents exist to allow it to do so. In Gramophone Company Of India Ltd vs Birendra Bahadur Pandey, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that as long as it did not run into conflict with Indian law, customary international law can apply in the country.

The Supreme Court should break free of the BJP’s cynical politics and apply the law to the case of the Rohingyas, ensuring that India honours the principle of non-refoulment.

The Big Scroll

  • A people without a home: Rohingya refugees in Jaipur told to leave by end of August, reports Abhishek Dey.
  • India cannot deport Rohingya refugees without violating international law, explains Rineeta Naik.
  • “If I were a bird, I would fly home to Burma”: Jammu’s Rohingya refugees hit by wave of hostility, reports Rayan Naqash.
  • In Delhi’s Rohingya camp, a refugee couple describe their 40-year search for a place to call home, reports Abhishek Dey.

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If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at readerseditor@scroll.in.

Punditry

  • The Right to Information Act needs to be protected against attempts to dilute it, write Christophe Jaffrelot and Basim U Nissa in the Indian Express.
  • Beware of the wrong lessons from Doklam, argues Srinath Raghavan in the Mint. The Doklam standoff needs to be seen for what it was – an indication of the steady deterioration in the ability of India and China to deal with such situations

Giggle

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What exactly is a smart city? The Indian government does not want you to know, reports Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava.

?It seems the ministry wanted to put the cart before the horse. It wanted to see what projects and ideas urban bodies would propose in their bids and then tailor-make the standards to suit those projects.

‘This is illogical,’  said a senior official involved in the drafting of the standards at the bureau. ‘You set the standards for the output first and then design the products and the processes to ensure a certain quality of output. You don’t design the product first and then decide the standards based on what you have.’”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.