Varun Gandhi’s empathy for Rohingyas earns govt’s flak

The Asian Age.

India, Politics

The BJP MP was attacked by minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Ahir, who virtually called him anti-national.

Varun Gandhi (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: BJP MP Varun Gandhi on Tuesday courted controversy by seeking asylum for Rohingya refugees on “humanitarian” grounds, evoking a snub from the government which dubbed his views as “anti-national” and contradicting the official stand.

In his column in a Hindi daily, Mr Gandhi, 37, an MP from Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, suggested providing shelter to Rohingya refugees while treating them “humanely” and questioned the government’s plan to deport them.

The Centre has said it will deport all 40,000 Rohingyas, who are illegal immigrants, as India is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

Mr Gandhi, however, sought asylum for the refugees and said that India had subscribed to the Additional Protocol to the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppre-ssion of Terrorism whose Article 17 said that the country will not deport anyone who may be persecuted due to their faith.

The BJP MP was attacked by minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Ahir, who virtually called him anti-national.

“Jo desh ke hith mein sochenga woh is tarah ke bayan nahi dega (Anyone who has national interest in mind, won’t make such statements),” Mr Ahir said.

The minister made it clear that “what the government has decided is in national interest” and added that “no one should go against the government’s decision on Rohingyas”. Mr Gandhi defended himself and said his piece focused on defining India’s asylum policy, with clear demarcations on how “we would accept refugees”.

“As for the Rohingyas, I’ve called for empathy, leading potentially to asylum, while vetting each applicant for national security concerns (sic),” he tweeted.

BJP leader Shaina NC also pounced on Mr Gandhi. “The government is doing its job. The Modi government is very competent to handle this situation. If someone is raising the humanitarian angle, he should study the issue better.”

The BJP in its national executive meeting on Monday had supported the government’s stand on the Rohingya issue.

While sharing its plan to deport the Rohingyas, the government told the Supreme Court recently that it will confidentially show evidence to judges that some Rohingya militants work closely with Pakistan-based terrorist groups.

The Centre has maintained that most of the Rohingyas in India are not part of the exodus that began from the Rakhine region on western Myanmar in August.

The government’s plan to send back Rohingyas has been challenged in court by two Rohingya petitioners who said that their community is peace-loving and that most of them have no link to any terror activity.

This not the first time that BJP’s young MP from Sultanpur seems to have upset his partymen. Mr Gandhi’s earlier remarks on various issues ranging from issuing whips to farmers’ crisis had not gone down well in BJP.