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Nepal’s Rohingya

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Pic: Samartha Ranjit/Pahilopost

From the Nepali Press

Sagar Budhathoki in , 15 September

Ram Sharan Adhikari, 50, had never seen burqa-clad women before. But it all changed in 2012 when a group of Rohingya refugees came to his Kapan neighbourhood outside Kathmandu and asked if he could rent them his land to stay.

It was a barren plot and at first Adhikari was reluctant because he did not know who they were, or where they had come from. He first mistook them for Nepali Muslims from the Tarai. They spoke a different language, but he never bothered to find out what it was.

It was only when he found out they had been driven out of their homeland, that he allowed them to set up huts in his property for Rs 150,000 a year.

It was only when Rohingya Muslims staged a demonstration in front of a UN building in Kathmandu demanding resettlement that people in Kapan found out they were actually refugees. Although most were ‘boat people’ who sought shelter in Malaysia or Indonesia, these Rohingyas had crossed over into Bangladesh, then India and then across the open border into Nepal.

As Myanmar drove out more Rohingya Muslims, their population in Nepal began to grow. Today, with fresh persecution in Rakhine State in what is described by UN as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, more refugees are expected to join the 400 already here. Of them, 200 are sheltered in land owned by Adhikari himself and he has provided them and visits their houses almost every day, and provided some of them with jobs.

“They are hard-working and largely peaceful people,” he says. “They are not up to any mischief.”

The refugees are a devout lot, and they pray every day, hoping one day to be able to return to Burma. The rent contract needs to be renewed, and there is no sign of a resolution of the crisis along the Burma-Bangladesh border, in fact the violence has got worse.

Says Adhikari: “They can live here as long as they want.”

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