A group of 31 Rohingya Muslims who had been stranded near Tripura’s border with Bangladesh for four days were handed over to the state police by the Border Security Force on Tuesday, PTI reported. A local court sent them to 14-day judicial custody.
Neither India nor Bangladesh was willing to take in the refugees.
The group, which includes 16 children, has been booked under the Passport Act for “trying to illegally infiltrate into Indian territory”, Amtoli Sub-Divisional Police Officer Ajay Kumar Das was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Both the Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh claimed that the group had come from the other side. But from a preliminary interrogation after the arrests, it emerged that some of the refugees had come from Jammu and Kashmir, Das said.
The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority community from Myanmar’s Rakhine state who have faced persecution in the predominantly Buddhist nation for around four decades now. Over the years, thousands of Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh and India. In August 2017, India announced that it was planning to deport all 40,000 Rohingya refugees in its territory.
Abdul Sukkur, one of the refugees, told The Indian Express that they had taken a train to Tripura from Jammu and Kashmir. He said they tried to cross into Bangladesh but were arrested by the country’s border force, and had been stranded ever since, as the Bangladeshi border guards tried to push them back into India.
Sukkur said that the Rohingyas had been forced to flee from Jammu and Kashmir. “We were told by the people and government of Jammu and Kashmir to vacate their state,” he said.
However, a BSF spokesperson told The Indian Express that the refugees had come from Myanmar but it was unclear how they had made the journey to the India-Bangladesh border.
The BSF handed over the group to the staff at Amtoli police station in West Tripura district at 11 am on Tuesday after receiving approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, officials told PTI. Until the handover, the refugees had been provided with food and other necessities, BSF Deputy Inspector General Brajesh Kumar had said earlier.
Meanwhile, a Bangladeshi news site claimed that India had “taken back” the refugees. The website bdnews24.com quoted a Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Golam Kabir, chief of the 25th Battalion of the Border Guards Bangladesh, as saying that the BSF had not discussed the decision to take the Rohingyas back.
On Monday, the Assam Police had arrested at least 30 Rohingya, including 12 children, from Churaibari village near the Tripura border.