BY Mirah Zamin
Chennai: While crossing the Myanmar border on a boat with his two sisters, a mentally ill mother and 5000 Burmese kyat, 16 year-old Abu Bakr*, a Rohingya had no clue how he would search for his father once he reaches Teknaf (Bangladesh) from where would cross Bangladesh’s border and enter India. Abu Bakr’s father Noor Mohd* fled from Busidung (Myanmar) in 2012 to save his life with a promise to return back with help.
As Abu Bakr and four other families reached Kolkata in September 2017, an agent they came in contact took the money and boarded them on different trains (going to Delhi, Hyderabad, and Jammu) the destination of which was known to none. After 32 hours of journey standing in the train Abu bakr and his family reached Jammu and were sent to a camp by another agent.
One day while talking to the community leader Abu Saleem, Abu Bakr mentioned his father’s name and showed him his photograph. Abu Saleem recognized him as Noor Mohd who also lived in the same camp when he came to India in 2012 and then moved to Chennai where most of his relatives lived.
“Abu Saleem called my father and we immediately boarded the train and on December 14 reached Chennai. We have been living together since”, said Abu Bakr who is working as a daily- wage labourer now. Abu Bakr feels much happier, “most people living here are either my relatives or from the same village in Burma. Settling was easier here than in Jammu, where it felt we added more burden”, he added.
Back in Burma, Abu Bakr use to hide and go to work, “ we were not allowed to move around, the only way to go out and earn a living was to leave before sunrise and come back before sunset”, teary eyed Abu bakr explained.
Noor Mohd who is now left with two unmarried daughters, Janat Ara (12) and Yasmeen Ara (10) says that he wishes to go back to his country and get his girls married there. “We have nothing here, no land to call ours, no people, not even the same language”, 47 year-old Noor Mohd added.
“We are refugees, stateless people who will accept us in their household and even if one does will they have the sense of respect that I non-refugee would get”, said Mohd Yusuf, the camp leader.
When asked whether the identity of being a Rohingya scares Noor he says “had there been no internal conflicts in my country, I would have lived and died there. I am proud of my identity, a Muslim Rohingya that’s what I am”.
Unlike Noor Mohd, 20 year-old Zubeida Bano who came to India in 2010 says “I like it here in Chennai; in Jammu the atrocities are same as that in Burma. We were mistreated and had to live in penury while here the UNHCR is very supportive”.
The Cyclone reliefs centre in Kelambakkam where Noor Mohd and his family lives houses 21 Rohingya families with influx of 2-3 families per year ever since 2012.
*Names changed on request
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