NEW DELHI: In April last year, a fire gutted a refugee camp which sheltered about 50 Rohingya families in south Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj area. Meenara Begum along with her husband and four children had to start afresh. Three months later, fresh tragedy befell Meenara as she lost her husband. Till date, the 30-year-old is confused about what went wrong with Jahid. He must have died of depression, she thought then.
Meenara regrets that she did not get a post-mortem examination done. “All kinds of thoughts come to my mind now. Maybe, someone killed him...I can’t say. Maybe, he had a disease we didn’t understand. He was quite plump and healthy but used to complain about some pain in his left thigh. I should have got his post-mortem (examination) done,” she told this newspaper.
“At that time, I was so shaken by his demise that I couldn’t think of anything else. Also, I was sure that his was a natural death and that there was no foul play. Nobody ever bothered us, unlike our own people, who threw us out. We got this space to live,” Meenara said.
The family had fled Myanmar in 2012 and found shelter in Kalindi Kunj. Jahid had started working at a men’s hostel run by Zakat Foundation of India. She said, “He used to remain quite tense after our hutment and his shop in the basti (slum) were gutted in the fire. It was a huge loss. Our shop had confectionary items worth Rs 3 lakh.”
“One day, I got a call from a neighbour saying that he was terribly sick and a few boys from the hostel took him to a private hospital. Unfortunately, he didn’t return,” Meenara said
The couple’s 5-year-old son Sheikh Abdullah has no knowledge about the tragedy. “He tells me ‘Papa has gone to the hostel and will come back soon’,” she said. Now, Meenara has to fend for herself and her three four children, including a daughter.
As one of the few widows in the basti, Meenara is one of the five or six women who have found menial jobs in nearby areas. She works at a madarsa. “Ours is not an advanced community. Women don’t work. But I don’t have a choice. I need to earn for my children,” she said, adding, “Women must work. Why shouldn’t they? I want my daughter to grow up and do a respectable job and not end up like me.”
No wonder Meenara is “sceptical” about the life ahead. “People from United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) come to check on us from time to time, but there’s little help from their side. This land belongs to the government. I don’t know what we will do and where we will go if evicted,” she said.
According to ‘Rohingya Human Rights Initiative’ founder Sabber Kyaw Min, there was “not enough” support from the International community.
“We are very grateful to the Indian government for letting us stay in this country. The condition of the Rohingyas living here is still better than what it was back home. We lived in detention in our own country and felt shackled. However, I’ve heard there’s an order to deport Rohingyas living here. It has put fear in our minds,” Min said.