GUWAHATI, Sept 12 - The reported ethnic cleansing and the resultant exodus of Rohingya people from Myanmar seems to have led to some confusion as well as divergence of opinions within the Congress party in Assam.
Senior leaders of the party told The Assam Tribune that the party leadership was caught unawares by the walkout staged in the Legislative Assembly by some of their MLAs last week after the Speaker did not allow legislator Sherman Ali Ahmed to raise the Rohingya issue.
Some MLAs, including Ahmed, had also staged a protest outside the Assembly.
�The Congress Legislature Party was not informed by Ahmed and others that they planned to raise the Rohingya issue. That created confusion when the walkout happened and many of our senior legislators like Ajanta Neog, Rakibul Hussain and Nazrul Islam did not leave the House,� said a leader on condition of anonymity.
He added that Ahmed and other legislators who had taken part in the walkout and protest later had to hear some angry words from senior MLAs of the party, but added that the matter has now been sorted out.
�The Rohingya issue has the potential to cause major problems. Already, there are attempts to flare up communal passion in many parts of India, including Assam. In such a situation, any word of compassion extended to the Rohingya victims may be touted by our opponents as an attempt towards minority appeasement,� said the leader.
He said that the party has now decided to take a stand that as per international law India must extend temporary shelter to persecuted Rohingya people.
�But, there is no question of sheltering them in Assam. Besides, it is not a Muslim versus Buddhist issue. There are many Rohingya people who are Hindus. For us, it is not a matter of Muslim or non-Muslim but one with a humanitarian angle and international covenant,� said the leader.
However, on being contacted, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Ripun Bora said there is no difference within the party on the issue.
�Our stand is clear and there is no difference within APCC on the matter. We condemn any kind of violence or violation of human rights or atrocities perpetrated anywhere in the world. But, Assam cannot do anything on its own in this matter, as it concerns foreign policy and so only the Central government can act on this. The Narendra Modi government should raise its voice to stop the genocide of Rohingya people. The UN and the Amnesty International should intervene on the matter,� Bora told this newspaper.
He added that the Rohingya issue has strategic, defence and external implications for India and hence the Centre needs a firm policy.
India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and already around 40,000 Rohingya people are in this country, and of them around 16,000 have received refugee documentation.
Most of the Rohingya refugees in India are based in the Jammu and the Ladakh regions of J&K, but surprisingly, are not present in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.