My friends Tikno and Jim Belshaw have written about the problems of refugees, on this, the Refugee Day for bloggers to unite on the cause of refugees. Tikno in fact had blogged about it last week and I had responded to his blog about which, I shall elaborate here.
India has a tradition of offering refuge from time immemorial. The Zoroastrians fleeing persecution in Iran, the Jews, Armenians, escaped slaves from the Mughals, Tamils from Burma, the Dalai Lama and his followers fleeing China, Tamils from Sri Lanka, Muslim and Hindu Pakistanis from what was originally East Pakistan, and now, Muslim Bangladeshis crossing over into India causing major problems in our North East.
India not only offered refuge to these refugees, it allowed them to practice their religions in peace and assimilated them into the local society, on the principle “Aditi Devo Bhava” – The guest is God.
What originally started off as religious persecution, driving people to becoming refugees, has now become far more complex with economic opportunities and fleeing from cross fire problems in power struggles for political supremacy.
In India, we have a vicious system of political patronage that converts the sufferings of refugees into vote banks which has alienated the local populace to such an extent that recently genocidal riots have taken place in some sensitive areas. This in turn begets backlash from religious extremists and as I write this, an end does not seem to be in sight.
India has seen the worst of the refugee problem based on religion from the time of the partition of the country into India and Pakistan. The generation of Hindu and Sikh refugees that came into what is now India have completely merged with the nation and have prospered and contributed greatly to Indian, economic, political and other activities.
The recent problems of economic refugees from Bangladesh however is creating problems of a different kind which is what prompted my comment on Tikno’s first post.
I am now 65 years old. I wonder if, in my life time, I will see a world free of this problem. Do you think that you will?