A NEW BEGINNING
Imagine a situation wherein you’re peacefully sleeping in your own bed one night, Suddenly, the people you considered your neighbours and acquaintances start attacking you, and killing many others. You’re then forced to move overnight, leaving behind a life you have built for yourself, and leaving behind many of your loved ones. You seek refuge in a different country, but you have to live with this terrible experience for the rest of your life.
The Rohingyas are one such persecuted group, among millions of others in the world. Fleeing persecution from Myanmar- in one of the most brutal ethnic clashes- these groups have sought refuge in many countries, including in India. But their life continues to be filled with despair, poverty; all that has changed is that there isn’t an immediate threat to their lives at this point of time. Structural and socio- cultural problems are still evident.
A Rohingya Refugee camp in Jasola Vihar, New Delhi, presents a picture of the abovementioned qualities. There is a lack of basic sanitation facilities, and garbage disposal as well. Resulting from this, the refugees live amongst filth and garbage that lies around almost everywhere. Their ramshackle, make-shift huts, are in desperate need of repairs. Since the land that they are residing in belongs to private individuals, it is also possible that they may be asked to move out from their current residences at any moment.
There are also a number of socio-cultural problems that are currently being faced. Education facilities are sorely lacking, with a local Madrasa taking up this all-important task for the hundreds of children in the camp. Girls are rarely sent to pursue their studies, and even among the boys, the attendance rate remains critically low. The atmosphere around the camp is peaceful, but the camp itself is filled with stories of hatred and sadness. The refugees also carry the trauma that they faced while being forcefully displaced from their indigenous homes. This trauma, if not resolved properly, may lead to permanent psychological damage. As of now, no efforts have been made to reconcile and resolve the mental or physical health of these individuals.
However, Youth for Peace International (an NGO that works with peacebuilding efforts), is carefully monitoring the situation, and remains one of the few civil society organisations that is actively engaged in helping these people. Various activities and programmes have been conducted by this organisation, aimed at ameliorating the socio-economic conditions. Education is being provided to a few students by volunteers, in the project entitled “Inaayat”. Moreover, to improve morale within the camp and to bring some amount of happiness, the “Letters of Love” campaign was initiated. This involved distributing letters (sent by people from all over the world, expressing their new year wishes) to the refugees. Thus, Civil Society organisations such as YFPI have been extremely successful in trying to achieve change.
“Conflict is the motor of change”, writes John Paul Lederach. When conflict is resolved and reconciled in a correct manner, it can often lead to positive changes and developments. A lot remains to be done to assist these refugees, but even the smallest acts of kindness may go a long way in bringing change. For these individuals who have known only violence, hatred and bloodshed their entire lives, a life of dignity remains wanting. It is now up to the youth of India to try and improve the conditions for these individuals.