By Mubashir Naik . Mehran Firdous / Artilce14

Stateless & with no State support or proper education, 32 children live in Jammu slums, their parents among 271 Rohingya refugees detained since March 2021. Another 70 children live with detained parents, many born in a holding centre within a jail. In July, refugees who rioted were beaten and tear gassed. Their demand—freedom or repatriation to Myanmar, which they fled after a genocide—indicated their desperation. About 40,000 Rohingya refugees live in India, which violates its own and global laws in detaining many of them, with no immediate hope for release or rehabilitation.

Jammu: On 18 July 2023, in a ramshackle shanty town in a neighbourhood called Kiryani Talab, Haseena Begum, a 62-year-old woman, was preparing breakfast for her five grandchildren when an unexpected visitor rushed into her modest dwelling. The young woman bore sombre news—some of Rohingya refugees had been baton-charged and tear-gassed within Kathua jail, 60  km southwest of Jammu.

Haseena Begum’s immediate concern was the well-being of her son and daughter-in-law, who had been in detention since March 2021—among 271 Rohingya now detained at the Hiranagar holding centre in the Kathua jail, including 74 women and 70 children, many of whom were born within the confines of the centre.

After their parents’ arrest and detention, in violation of India’s own and other international laws, Haseena Begum’s five young children, aged five to 14, now have only one guardian, their grandmother, who also battles her deteriorating health.

“Someone will have to care for these children after I die,” she said.

There are about 32 children living without their parents in similar circumstances in Jammu, refugees we spoke to estimated.

The sequence of events leading up to this incident had been marked by clashes that erupted at Hiranagar. Rohingya refugees held there had launched a hunger strike to protest against their indefinite confinement, coinciding with the observance of Eid ul Adha on 29 June.

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