Jammu’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries has issued a 10-day ultimatum to the state government and threatened to “identify and kill” Rohingya Muslims if they were not deported soon. Speaking to reporters, outfit president Rakesh Gupta demanded that the Jammu and Kashmir administration book people renting out their properties to the ethnic group under the Public Safety Act, which allows detention without trial for six months, Rising Kashmir reported.

“We will have no option but to launch an ‘identify and kill’ movement against such criminals,” Gupta told reporters. He called the refugees “criminals and drug traffickers who are disowned by their own country”.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti warned the group of action if they tried to take bypass the law. “Whoever they might be, anyone who takes law in their own hands or makes threats will be dealt with strictly,” she told ANI.

Meanwhile, members of several groups have expressed solidarity with the Rohingya Muslim community and rebuked the chamber for its stance. A group held a demonstration, demanding government intervention in the matter. Led by Jammu Action Committee President Sheikh Sartaj and youth leader Mohammed Hillal Beig, protesters condemned the “saffron groups” threatening Rohingya Muslims. While demanding action against the police accused of harassing members of the ethnic group, the committee said they should not be singled out with threats of deportation.

“These people are innocent. The issue should be tackled on humanitarian grounds and not with communal angle. Whenever, the situation improved in Myanmar, they will return back to their country,” Rising Kashmir quoted Sartaj as saying.

Although there has been no report of Rohingya Muslims involved in militancy, security agencies fear that the community may become a soft target for Pakistan. Recently, posters had come up across Jammu asking Rohingya Muslims to leave the state.

On April 4, the Central government officials had said the administration was planning to identify, track and, if possible, deport Rohingya Muslims living illegally in Jammu and Kashmir. An assessment had revealed that of the 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living illegally in India, 10,000 are in Jammu and Kashmir. The refugees said the plan was a clear violation of international law.

The stateless ethnic group has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar and driven out of their home state Rakhine. While hundreds have died starving on boats while fleeing the country, many have settled in and around the Kashmir Valley.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has recognised around 14,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India as refugees. However, India does not accept the status and treats them as foreigners who have entered the country illegally.

Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the state and allows it to have its own Constitution. It was introduced in the Constitution in 1947 and allows the state to retain the Dogra-era law prohibiting outsiders from buying land. The central government cannot overrule this rule, which does not restrict people from abroad from living and working in the state.