Why Are The Rohingya Refugees In New Delhi Considered 'Entitled'?

Why Are The Rohingya Refugees In New Delhi Considered 'Entitled'?

The role of the Indian Government, UNHCR and local initiatives at the New Delhi Rohingya refugee camp.
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This past December, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Rohingya settlement in New Delhi. As much as the daily news coverage regarding Rohingyas makes our hearts bleed for the countless who lose their lives, the experience of working in close proximity with Rohingya refugees was an astonishingly different experience. Sharam Vihar is a suburban locality in the periphery of New Delhi. The enclave (more of a shanty), houses 94 Rohingya families and approximately 500 IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) from within India. These IDPs come from different states from India and are mostly devout Muslims. Thus, one could label Shram Vihar as a Muslim shantytown, in an otherwise exceedingly Hindu dominated country.

Each of the Rohingya families has been conferred a refugee status by the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency). The refugee card helps them access major dispensaries and the multi-specialty Safdarjung hospital, in case of any medical emergency. All of them remain grateful to the Indian government for sheltering them, yet they have desires to go back to their “Watan” (a Hindi/Urdu word meaning ‘Country’).

Most philanthropists make donations or bring in aid in the name of the Rohingya community. As a result, there has been a relatively suppressed personal scuffle between the IDPs and Rohingyas. It is recognized that, after the mass exodus on August 25 and the Supreme Court’s decision to deport Rohingyas, a sizable number of Rohingya daily wage workers face trouble finding work. However, the reality rests in the fact that most Rohingya refugees do not need to scrounge for work at all. Most Rohingya houses have a surplus of rations and other essentials such as sanitary pads, toiletries etc. Rohingya families usually go out to the market and sell the excess resources in the market. This stokes the brawl between Rohingyas and the rest of the slum dwellers as Rohingyas are increasingly being viewed as the entitled sect in the shanty.

On my first visit to the camp, I was strolling around the camp, hankering after middle-aged Rohingya people to talk to. Surprisingly, the only people who spoke to me were all men. Even the younger lot just comprised of a crew of teenage boys who were donning skullcaps. While a ‘self-proclaimed’ local leader told me harrowing stories of migration from Myanmar to India, the kids told me about how they withdrew out of the local school and were attending classes at a Madrassa (Islamic School). Some of the young kids attend government schools, though the general Rohingya participation in schools remains abysmally low.

On one of my visits to the camp, I visited a makeshift school run solely by a magnanimous individual named Mr. Anas (The Guncha Foundation). His initial intentions were to rope in Rohingya kids and further their education. Ironically, Rohingyas refused to let their kids mingle with any other local communities. No other breed of Muslims, let alone any Hindu! In fact, on one visit, a Rohingya leader vocalized his ardent belief in confining his women within the house (upon reaching puberty). Thus, most Rohingya girls are out of school, palmed off as young and tender child brides. This deep-seated, conservative thought process, pervasive in the Rohingya brethren has caused persistent brawls in Shram Vihar.

While the world is condemning the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya community, what I learned from my time as a volunteer at the camps was that one must not buy what the media touts. Just because the Rohingyas are experiencing the gravest of human rights violations does not mean every section of them suffers equally. The diaspora in New Delhi has a decently dignified and a ‘not completely’ deprived lifestyle.

Obviously, it is undeniable that there is much more that the Indian government must do to uplift the social and economic status of Rohingyas. Permanent housing must be provided, the deportation order must stay, there MUST be concerted efforts to facilitate higher education among Rohingya kids who were uprooted from Myanmar while enrolled in colleges, etc.

Having said that, no matter how much the community collaborates to restore the status of the inhabitants of the slum, no amount of external effort or monetary support can fill in the voids of filial separation that Rohingyas go through. The emotional turmoil of being away from their motherland and a consistent fear of the safety of those left behind perpetually lurks over.

Cover Image Credit: Mrinali Dhembla

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.

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There are, currently, 23 Democrats running for President. On the Republican side, there's, of course, Trump, but only one other candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Democrats have a whole range of people running, from senators to congressmen, a former vice-president, and even a spiritual advisor. We can now say that there are DOZENS of people running for President in 2020.

Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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