Fifty-one personalities have come together to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not forcibly send back Rohingya refugees to violence-hit Rakhine state in Myanmar. In an open letter to Modi, the signatories have asked India to try and stop the persecution carried out by security forces in Myanmar.

The signatories to the letter include Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, former Union minister P Chidambaram, academic Nivedita Menon, former Home Secretary GK Pillai, actor Swara Bhaskar, activists Teesta Setalvad and Harsh Mander, writer Anil Dharker, mediaperson Pritish Nandy, activist and politician Yogendra Yadav and journalists Sagarika Ghose and Karan Thapar, among others.

The signatories said it would be against India’s humanitarian principles and its obligations under international law to deport the asylum seekers and refugees currently residing in India. “At a time when the Rakhine State is literally burning, more urgent and immediate steps are needed to stem the current wave of violence,” the letter read. Until the violence, gangrapes and arson against the Rohingyas come to an end in Myanmar, they enjoy the right to stay in India, according to international law, the letter said.

“India’s justification to deport the Rohingya is premised on the false assumption that all Rohingya people present a potential threat to the national security. This is simply not the case, and the evidence to support these assertions have not been held up,” it said.

The signatories further said the solution to the crisis does not lie in the deportation of the refugees, but in ending the state-led violence in Rakhine state. “India’s credibility as a net security provider for our neighbours in the region would be severely compromised if we fail to act on behalf of our broader interests in the region,” it added.

Supreme Court to hear Rohingya refugees’ plea on Friday

On Friday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, will hear petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to identify and deport Rohingya refugees.

In August, the Centre had announced that it was planning to deport all 40,000 Rohingya refugees living in the country. On September 18, the Centre told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the continued illegal immigration of Rohingyas to India had “serious national security ramifications and threats”. It claimed that inputs from security agencies indicated that some of the refugees had links with terror groups in Pakistan.

The Centre’s plea was in response to a PIL filed by two Rohingya immigrants, Mohammad Salimullah and Mohammad Shaqir, who said they had taken refuge in India after escaping discrimination, violence and bloodshed against their community in Myanmar.