Hyderabad:"Bharatiya Janta Party will throw out Rohingyas and Pakistanis from the old city if we sweep Greater Hyderabad Municipal elections. The BJP will launch a 'surgical strike' against Rohingyas in patha basthi (old city). Only the BJP will ensure that an election will be free from Rohingyas and Pakistanis votes", were the words of Telangana State BJP President and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar during the polls in November 2020.

Watching Bandi Sanjay deliver a speech during one of the rallies was Hyderabad based RTI activist Robin Zaccheus. Rohingyas was one of the key issues all throughout the BJP campaign in the twin cities

Earlier, Union minister of textiles Smriti Irani hit out at TRS for not taking action against Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi led AIMIM for allegedly helping Rohingyas secure voter ID cards (NewsMeter had done a fact check and it was found that AIMIM had not written to the election commission for including Rohingyas in the voter list).

Robin Zaccheus wanted to know the population of Rohingyas in the country and how and why the illegal migration was not checked despite a robust border security system.

Therefore, he filed an RTI applications with the Ministry of Home Affairs, but to his surprise the Ministry did not have the information and passed the buck to the Election commission of India, the Intelligence Bureau, Foreigners Division MHA and the Telangana State government.

On the 7th of December 2020, Robin filed an RTI with MHA seeking state-wise data on the number of Rohingyas who have infiltrated in the last 5 years. How many of them have obtained a Voter ID card (if) and detention centers in India.

TimeLine:

17-12-2020: In the first response, the office of the Chief Public Relations officer of MHA said: "This information is not available in the office because the matter is more closely connected with the functioning of Foreigners wing of the division. Thus the application was transferred to the director of (foreigners) & CPIO".

18-12-2020: In a second response to Robin, the MHA explained: "Since illegal immigrants enter into the country in a clandestine and surreptitious manner, such data is not maintained centrally. The file was dashed off to the Bureau of Immigration".

The MHA also informed Robin, that this information might be available with the election commission of India. Thus the RTI application was sent to the ECI.

On detention centers, MHA said the states set up such centers and are responsible for the data.


On the 30th of December 2020, Robin got to know that his application has been transferred to the Chief Electoral Officer, Telangana, for reasons are best known to the MHA.

Responses from the State:

02.01.2020: The office of Kothapet Tahsildar PIO informed that no such information is available with them.

04.01.2020: Ibrahimpatnam Tahsildar said no Rohingyas infiltrated the district.

05.01.2020: Madanapur Tahsildar said no information available

11.01.2020: No such information in Raipole Mandal (Dubbaka assembly constituency) Siddipet, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri.

Finally, all departments including MHA concluded that no information is maintained centrally and neither does the State elections commission has any inputs on Rohingya's obtaining Voter ids.

Speaking to NewsMeter, a top officer serving in the MHA said: "The department that managed border security in the MHA should have some data. Besides central agencies, the home department of the state should have some data. I don't know why the application was sent to the election commission of India,".

On condition of anonymity, the Delhi based Journalist said: "It is a shared responsibility of the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of External affairs. Ministry of Home should logically have it. The way the application was shuttled from one desk to another is aimed at buying time".

Robin expressed: "Among the many slandering comments was the `Surgical Strike' on Pakistani's in the Old city and the propaganda about the Rohingya's living in Hyderabad and acquiring the Voter ids. Those who have made such statements must tell the people of Telangana, the source of the information about 20,000 Rohingya's obtaining Voter IDs".

He said the Home Ministry, Central Election Commission, State Election Commission and the District collectors are totally unaware of such an illegal act by Rohingya as revealed in the RTI queries.

"Apparently, it is proven through the RTI response that these are just false accusations for gaining political mileage and the election commission must not tolerate such grave statements that create communal disharmony," he said.

Robin urged the Election commission to demand a clarification against such assertions. "If political leaders like Bandi Sanjay cannot provide evidence on Rohingya's acquiring Voter IDs, he should deliver his unreserved apologies to all the people of Telangana. Further, the Elections The commission must take stern action against those who instigate such decisive politics must be disqualified from contesting in any future elections," he said.

4561 Rohingyas living in city, 65 cases registered, 135 arrested: Rachakonda Police

Police said they have recorded biometric details of 4561 Rohingyas. The details of 274 Rohingyas are still pending.

Police a total of 65 cases has been registered against Rohingyas in the city. They include two cases against Bangladeshi immigrants. So far police have arrested 135 members of Rohingyas.

In one case, a person has been sentenced to 2 years. In another, a person has been sentenced to one year for arranging fake documents. In a separate case, a person has been sentenced to six months in jail for theft.

Police have seized 97 different fake documents including 42 Aadhar Cards, 24 voter ID, 4 driving licences, 14 pan cards, 11 passports, and 2 bank accounts.

Police said most of the Rohingyas were arrested for illegal documents. Police, however, did not say how and where they procured the documents.

Police released these details after a local daily published an article about Rohingyas. "Telugu daily has published wrong news on Rohingyas in Hyderabad. This is the correct statement for preventing misinformation," said Rachakonda police.

Rohingyas settlement has become a major poll issue after the BJP Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar said that they will conduct a 'surgical strike' in the old city to banish illegal immigrants and Pakistanis. Later, the Union Minister textile Smriti Irani said AIMIM has written the centre for the inclusion of Rohingyas in the voter list.

Rohingya refugees are living in India based on refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which are legitimate identification cards that are valid across the world.

Rohingya Muslim refugees, who are from Myanmar, were in fact allowed to settle in Hyderabad and other cities by the central government about a decade ago.

Coreena Suares

Coreena Enet Suares is the Editor of NewsMeter. Her stories have been published in the Deccan Chronicle Newspaper and the Asian Age. Coreena began her career as a News Anchor. Throughout her journey, she has been able to build a strong network with people from all walks of life. She is an alumnus of Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists- Research and Investigation, a flagship initiative of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Coreena is also a certified fact-checker by Google India Initiative. She has attended the 'Defence Correspondents Course 2019, through which she visited Indo- Pak border, besides traveling on a War-ship and insight into operations of Fighter aircraft. Coreena's focus areas are anti-crime investigation agencies and Defence reporting.

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