Hours after Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri’s tweets announcing homes and security for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were contradicted by his own government, they set the stage for a new clash between the centre and the Delhi government on Wednesday.
While the Delhi government accused the centre of “secretly” trying to give “permanent residence” to Rohingya refugees in the national capital, the Union Home Ministry accused the AAP administration of dragging its feet on declaring the locality where they live a “detention centre”.
According to sources in the Home Ministry, most of the Rohingya refugees in Delhi are living at the Kanchan Kunj locality in Madanpur Khadar. The centre wants this to be declared a detention centre so that movement of Rohingyas can be tracked. The colony houses about 250 families with as many as 1,100 residents.
“As of now, they move around freely and sometimes some go missing but if this locality is declared a detention centre, it would be easier for law enforcement agencies also to keep a tab on them,” a senior official from the Home Ministry said.
According to him, there would be no restrictions on their movements within the camp, but it would be easier for Delhi Police to do their verifications.
The Ministry also stressed that as per law, all illegal foreigners are supposed to be kept in detention centres but in this case, the Delhi government has failed to declare it a detention centre.
“We have been asking them to do it for a long time and have directed them again to do it immediately,” said a senior official in the ministry.
The Delhi government, meanwhile, targeted the centre over the issue. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia quoted Mr Puri’s tweet and wrote, “The centre, which was not getting tired of listing this news as its achievement in the morning, is now trying to lay the blame on the Delhi government after the AAP’s protest. Whereas it is a fact that the central government was secretly trying to give permanent residence to the Rohingyas in Delhi.”
“At the behest of the central government and L-G (Lieutenant Governor), the officers and police took these decisions. They were sending it for approval from the L-G without showing the file to the Chief Minister or Home Minister of Delhi. The Delhi government will not allow this conspiracy to illegally settle Rohingyas in Delhi,” he added.
AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed that the BJP was “conspiring” to settle the Rohingya refugees in Delhi, which is a threat to the safety of the citizens.
“The BJP considers itself the smartest. This decision has been made by Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar in collaboration with Foreigners Registration Office and Delhi Police,” Mr Bharadwaj said.
He alleged that the whole “conspiracy” was planned by the centre, as the New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) is under Hardeep Puri and the Chief Secretary was acting on the instructions of Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena.
The accusations and counter-charges erupted on Wednesday after Mr Puri’s tweet on flats and security for the refugees. The Home Ministry said no such benefits have been announced for “Rohingya illegal foreigners”.
The settlement of Rohingya Muslims has been a polarising subject in India, where leaders of the ruling BJP have targeted them frequently to shore up votes from the Hindu majority. Leaders from Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have also made comments against them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has previously tried to send back members of the minority from predominately Buddhist Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled from persecution and waves of violence in their homeland over the years. Bangladesh has sheltered nearly a million Rohingya.