BJP MP Varun Gandhi supports Rohingyas, sparks row
New Delhi: Contradicting his party and government line, BJP MP Varun Gandhi has stoked a controversy by advocating asylum to Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Myanmar and are at the verge of being thrown out of India on security concerns.
The MP from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh and son of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi wrote an article in Hindi daily Navbharat Times, asking the BJP government to keep in mind “the rich Indian tradition” of helping refugees before deporting Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“Four crore people have sought refuge in India since independence,” Gandhi wrote in the newspaper and shared a link on Twitter.
“India should formulate a national refugee policy to help distinguish between those fleeing persecution and those fleeing poverty,” said Gandhi.
In his article, the BJP MP noted the “discrimination” Afghan and Myanmar immigrants face in Delhi in finding jobs and houses.
The views are in stark contradiction of the government’s stand. Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week said Rohingyas were illegal immigrants and should not be mistaken as refugees.
The government has told the Supreme Court that they posed a threat to India’s national security as some of the were allegedly found to have links with Islamist militant organisations like Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
Gandhi’s contrarian views drew an angry reaction from Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir, who said any person concerned about the security of the country would not have written such an article.
“Anybody who has national interest in mind will not make such a statement. It’s not about my opinion or acceptance. What the government had decided is in national interest. No one should go against the government’s decision on Rohingyas,” Ahir told reporters here.
Ahir said the government won’t let the Rohingyas settle in India because “they are a security threat”.
“Rohingyas created trouble for Myanmar and worked against the government. If Myanmar has rejected them, why should we accept them,” Ahir asked.
Following the reaction from the Minister, Gandhi took to Twitter to defend his views, saying he only called for empathy for the refugees.
“As for the Rohingyas, I’ve called for empathy, leading potentially to asylum, while vetting each applicant for national security concerns,” Gandhi tweeted.
“My recent piece focused primarily on defining India’s asylum policy, with clear demarcations on how we would accept refugees.”