A tragic incident involving a Rohingya couple has been widely shared on social media, raising concerns about their treatment in a refugee detention centre near Jammu. The couple, in handcuffs, had to perform the last rites of their 43-day-old baby who passed away at the “holding centre” amidst clashes between inmates and police earlier that week. Several people, including three policemen and Rohingyas, were reportedly injured during the clashes.
On Thursday, the baby’s body of the Rohingya couple was handed over to the relatives at a Rohingya settlement in Jammu. Shockingly, the parents were still in handcuffs when they arrived at the burial site and when the body was handed over for the last rites, as shown in two videos circulated on social media.
However, the jail authorities have denied that the baby died in the clashes. According to Koushal Kumar, the superintendent of Kathua district jail, who is in charge of the holding centre, the baby was suffering from an ailment and passed away two days after the incident at the detention centre.
In the aftermath of the clashes, the police filed an FIR against Rohingyas who were allegedly involved in stone-pelting at the Hiranagar sub-jail, which has been designated as the holding centre for Rohingyas. Currently, 271 Rohingyas, including 144 women and children, are detained at the holding centre.
The clashes were triggered by Rohingyas, who held multiple hunger strike protests in the holding centre, demanding their release and deportation to Myanmar. In response, the police used lathi charge and tear-gas shelling to control the situation.
Salim Mohammad and his wife had been in Jammu since 2012. They were arrested by the police during the checking of refugee cards issued by the UN, even though Salim had a UNHCR card that permits Rohingyas to stay as refugees. The family was subsequently lodged at the Jammu district jail at Ambphalla before being transferred to the holding centre in Hiranagar in 2021. During their time at the centre, the couple had two more children.
The incident has brought attention to the longstanding demands from political parties and right-wing groups for the deportation of Rohingya refugees from Jammu. These groups claim that Rohingyas have been settled in Jammu as part of a conspiracy to alter the region’s demographics, and this has led to hundreds of shanties and hutments of the Rohingyas being burnt in the area over the years.