We will die in our own country: Rohingya refugees flee Jammu in fear of detention

9 May 2022

Kamran Yousuf is a multimedia journalist, who reports on the impact of political crises on people’s lives. He tweets at @kamranyousuf_.

In this photoessay, Kamran Yousuf gives an insight into the life and trials of the Rohingya refugees in Jammu, their oppression at the hands of the state and ways in which they manage to find moments of relief.

As anti-Muslim sentiments escalate in India, Rohingya refugees are planning to return to their native Myanmar in spite of the ongoing prosecution. Human Rights Watch estimates that there are 40,000 Rohingya refugees in India, the majority of whom live in camps and slums in Jammu, Hyderabad and New Delhi. Approximately 10,000 of these Muslim refugees live in makeshift shanties in the Hindu-dominated city of Jammu, where they are the target of hatred and intimidation by right-wing groups. More than 150 refugees are currently imprisoned in the local Hira Nagar jail following what the authorities call “verification drives.”

On 15 March 2022, Indian authorities deported Hasina Begum back to Myanmar – a country she had fled in 2012 along with hundreds of thousands of others to escape Myanmar Army’s repression against Rohingya Muslims. Hasina Begum was detained in 2021 and lodged in the Hira Nagar sub-jail of Kathua district before being deported. She was separated from her husband and three young children and her family claims they were given no concrete reasons for her deportation, but there is a general feeling among refugees that it was motivated by communal sentiments. Her deportation sparked fear and prompted several refugees to sell their belongings and leave Jammu.

Jafar Alam, a father of seven, was detained by the authorities during a verification drive. The Police said his identity card was invalid. He is currently lodged in Hira Nagar jail in Jammu, leaving his wife Hajra Khatoon to fend for their children.

“The Police had told us to bring our UNHCR refugee cards for verification and then they took my husband to the Police station saying that his card was invalid,” Hajra Khatoon told me. “After three days in Police lockup, the authorities told us that he was shifted to the Hira Nagar jail.”

Despite the increasing violence and intolerance against Muslims in India, several Rohingya refugees have decided to return to Myanmar, where the Muslim minority’s persecution since 2012 has been acknowledged as a genocide.


Hajra Khatoon carries her niece as she walks in the refugee camp in Bhatindi area, Jammu.
Dil Mohamamd works as a shopkeeper in the Rohingya camp in Bathindi, Jammu. As he prepares to leave the camp, he is selling all of the items in his shop to a local businessman.
The family of Hasina Begum show their UNHCR documentation inside their shanty in Jammu.
Several refugees tore apart their shanties before fleeing Jammu.
A Rohingya refugee enters a mosque housed in a tin shelter in the refugee camp in Bhatindi.
Residents of Jammu carry away a refrigerator bought from a Rohingya family in distress.
Residents of Jammu load goods bought from Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya shopkeeper who is clearing his shop before leaving the refugee camp in Bhatindi.
Ibrahim, a Rohingya refugee, demolishes his shelter in the refugee camp in Bhatindi as he prepares to leave for an unknown destination
Rohingya children take a break from their daily routine. Since the fear gripped the camps, children have stayed away from the community-run schools.
Several refugees hide in the forests, fearing authorities would detain them if they were found in their shanties.
A Rohingya refugee, whose wife and three children were taken to the Hira Nagar jail, poses for a photo inside his shelter in Jammu.
Noor began wailing outside her locked shanty shortly after returning from the forests where she had fled to avoid arrest.
The above essay
is a part of
Photo Essay