16-22 August 2013 #669

Burma to Kathmandu

Navin Jha, Himal Khabarpatrika, 11 August

NOWHERE TO GO: 65-year-old Abdul Jalil and family are among the 51 Rohingya Muslims who fled Burma after communal violence broke out in Rakhine last year. They currently live in Kathmandu.
After communal violence broke out between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s western state of Rakhine in June last year, hundreds of Rohingyas fled the country and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and India. Around 51 refugees made it to Kathmandu and are currently living in Kapan and Bansbari area. The families have no documents to prove their identities, have lost contact with those back home, and say they are not planning on returning to Burma anytime soon. They are trying to make a living in the Valley with the support of the Muslim community here.

Mohamed Aayas came to Kathmandu two months ago with his wife Noor Jahan Begum and their five children. The family first fled to Bangladesh and then to the Indian town of Aligarh in West Bengal. However, when the Indian police began questioning their whereabouts, they came to Biratnagar via the Jogbani checkpoint and made their way to Kathmandu. “Our landlord in Aligarh told us about the UN office in Kathmandu where we could get refugee cards so we came here,” says Aayas who works as a construction worker in Kapan. While fleeing Burma, the family found a nine-year-old girl called Noorkalima stranded on the way and brought her to Nepal with them. Aayas does not know if her parents are alive.

Hadim Hussain, who owned several hectares of farmland and ran a fishery business, had a good life in Rakhine. But after clashes broke out, he was arrested and tortured by the police. “The police caught my brother so I came to Bangladesh, moved to Assam after a while, and finally reached Biratnagar via Jogbani,” says Husain. “I saved Rs 3,000 cleaning buses and toilets and came to Kathmandu with that money.”

24-year-old Abu Sufiya and family.

Like many others who fled the violence in Burma, Mohamed Aayub too has no idea what happened to his family whom he had to leave behind. “Our entire village was burnt down and I ran away to save my life,” says Ayub. “I couldn’t even look for my wife and family members, it was too dangerous.”

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