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Rohingya refugees’ housing row: Is AAP competing with BJP in denying them housing?

The Rohingya refugees stay at makeshift tent camps in four localities in New Delhi. | Photo: TOI

The BJP and AAP are embroiled in a political tussle in the midst of the Rohingya Muslim housing row in New Delhi.

Ubair ul Hameed | TwoCircles.net 

NEW DELHI — A war of words started between the centre and the Delhi government a day after the Modi government first talked about providing housing and security to the Rohingya refugees, and then almost immediately denied having issued any such direction. 

Hardeep Singh Puri, the union minister for housing, on Thursday, had talked about relocating Rohingya refugees to Delhi housing for economically disadvantaged groups (EWS flats), where they would get basic amenities and police protection.

Puri tweeted, “India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge in the country. In a landmark decision, all Rohingya Refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in the Bakkarwala area of Delhi. They will be provided basic amenities, UNHCR IDs & round-the-clock Delhi Police protection.”

The Union Minister faced the heat, first from the BJP supporters and then from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Immediately after, the right-wing Hindu outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) condemned the Center’s decision and said that Rohingyas are not “refugees but infiltrators and should be pushed out” of the country.

AAP, in turn, claimed that there was a “conspiracy” on the part of the Centre to allow BJP-supported refugees to settle in Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government, according to a BJP spokesperson, was the one who first suggested moving the Rohingya refugees. Later, Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, said that the party will not let Rohingya refugees live in the city, towing the BJP line. 

“The Delhi government is clear that Rohingyas will not be allowed to illegally settle in Delhi and will oppose this move with all its might. We will not compromise on the security of this nation and its people,” Sisodia told the media. 

Delhi has a Rohingya population of 1,080, all of whom are registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Rohingyas stay at makeshift tent camps in four localities.

Tharoor slams Modi govt
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday attacked the Centre on the row over the accommodation of Rohingyas here, saying this “confusion” in the government is a disgrace to a nation that has served on the executive committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We have a proud humanitarian tradition of welcoming & embracing refugees for millennia. BJP, please don’t betray Indian civilization,” Tharoor tweeted.

Earlier this year, on April 20, AAP leaders—Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha and MLA Atishi—linked the Rohingya to communal violence in the city following the upsetting demolitions in Jahangirpuri—without offering any evidence. 

“BJP leaders established Bangladeshi and Rohingya settlements all over India to use them as pawns for their rioting and violence,” Atishi had said. 

Sisodia had also alleged that Rohingyas were being settled across India by the BJP to create communal riots. “There is hooliganism across the country because of the BJP today… I ask them, in the last eight years why did the BJP give shelter to Bangladeshis and Rohingyas across the country? They gave shelter to them and then used them to cause communal disharmony across the nation,” the Delhi deputy CM had said during a press conference on April 19.

In order to counter the Hindu middle class fascination for the politics of Hindutva, AAP has been trying to carve out its own brand of Hindu nationalist politics which doesn’t look very different from that of the BJP. The party took a series of decisions like teaching a course on nationalism in Delhi schools. Of course, the AAP supported the abrogation of Article 370 and extended support to “pilgrimages” to the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. 

In December 2019, Manish Sisodia extended support to the Shaheen Bagh protestors but later backed out after criticism from the BJP. Furthermore, the party kept silent as a group led by a BJP politician chanted anti-Muslim slogans at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in August 2021. 

According to some analysts, the party is trying to appeal to Hindu voters who are ideologically aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by following BJP’s example.


Ubair ul Hameed is a fellow with the SEED-TCN Mentorship Program. He tweets at @UbairUlHameed