Video Producer: Mayank Chawla
Video Editors: Kanishk Dangi, Mohd. Irshad Alam
A massive fire broke out at the Rohingya refugee camp in the Madanpur Khadar area near Delhi's Kalindi Kunj, in which around 55 shanties were gutted. The fire started around 11:30 pm on Sunday, 13 June.
Syed Hussain, who lives in the camp, told The Quint, “We have about 230 people living here. We came from Myanmar in 2012 and have been living in this area since then, but now our living space has completely burnt down. At around 11:30 in the night, people created a ruckus that the fire had started, by the time we could pick up our belongings, the flames came to our hut. The flames were so strong that everything got burnt in an hour. We did not get enough time to save our belongings. Everything in the house got burnt.”
Not the First Fire
Rohingya refugee Ali Johar says that in the year 2018 also there was a fire in the refugee camp, after which the camp was shifted to a nearby land. The refugees have again been rendered homeless.
Ali Johar says, “How long will this continue to happen to us? We have got refugee cards from UNHRC, but now many people's cards were also burnt in the fire. Apart from this, the identity proof of being from Myanmar was also burnt.”
The fire comes amid deportation measures taken by the Indian government against Rohingya refugees living in the country. In March, police in Jammu and New Delhi jailed more than 200 refugees, saying they were living in the country “illegally”.
Roughly 40,000 stateless Rohingya refugees live in camps across Indian cities after fleeing from Myanmar in 2017. Over 7,50,000 Rohingya had taken shelter in Bangladesh in the same year after the Myanmar army launched a brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority.
In India, Rohingya people have also suffered the brunt of fake news cycles. In the summer of 2019, when child-lifting rumours were rife, multiple messages claiming that ‘2000 Rohingya people are out to kidnap children’ were widely circulated on WhatsApp.
They have also been falsely targeted for crimes like theft, murder and heckling. For instance, in May 2019, a video of a local mob attacking volunteers at a political rally was shared with a false claim that it shows Rohingya people attacking the Central forces in Bengal.
On 8 April, though agreeing that deporting Rohingya refugees will face a threat to life if deported, the Supreme Court nonetheless issued an order allowing the deportation of Rohingya refugees.
What Caused the Fire?
Bharat Singh, a Delhi Police investigative officer was quoted as saying, “Apparently, the cause of the fire is a short circuit,” Al Jazeera reported.
He added, “Forensic science experts have collected samples of electric wires from the spot to ascertain the cause behind the fire.”
However, refuges say the possibility of the camp having been “deliberately torched” could not be ruled out, as reportedly, some men have previously been accused of lighting fires in the camp.
(With inputs from Al Jazeera)