Tasmida wrote “Myanmar” in the column for nationality on her application form for the senior secondary exams of the Jamia Millia Islamia board here. The receipt for the application came with “Indian” printed on it.
“I told my teacher and she asked me to submit the form again. The second time too the receipt showed ‘Indian’,” the 21-year-old Rohingya told The Telegraph at her tin-and-bamboo hut in a slum on the Yamuna’s banks here.
“My classmates told me that I’m an Indian now because I look Indian and speak Hindi. But I’m from Myanmar. I want my nationality.”
Tasmida is the first female candidate for the Class XII exams from the Rohingya refugee community in India.
The journey from Class III to Class XII has taken her 14 years, four schools, and the challenge of learning three languages from scratch — courtesy her family’s double immigration, from Myanmar to Bangladesh and then to India.
“When I was younger I didn’t know what ‘nationality’ means. But today, when I see how my friends can call India their own country, I too want to have my nationality of Myanmar,” she said.
Of the more than seven lakh Rohingya who have fled ethnic conflict in Myanmar, 17,500 —including Tasmida’s family — had got registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in India till last year. The UNHCR provides a semblance of security against deportation.
The Centre had told the Rajya Sabha in 2017 that it estimated that India had about 40,000 Rohingya refugees.
Community leaders say that hundreds have fled to Bangladesh following attacks by zealots and deportations over the past year.
The Rohingya Literacy Programme, headed by Tasmida’s brother and UNHCR translator Ali Johar, has counted only 40 Rohingya children in India currently enrolled in educational institutions.