Chennai: All we want is sound sleep and peaceful mornings and Chennai in a way is assuring us that, say Rohingya women, who are now taking refuge in the city. More than five years have passed since quality of life, proper clothes and food became an issue. The men, however, feel safe leaving the women back in the camp and this is the reason the refugees do not want to go back to their country again.
“Houses were reduced to ashes, family members burnt alive and teachers molested in front of all the students. If I was there for a year more, I would have become a sex slave or not there at all”, said 18-year-old Noor Khaida recollecting her horrific past in Myanmar before she found her refuge here. For her wheatish skin tone and fluency in Tamil, anybody would mistake her for a local
After Noor's house was burnt four times and everybody was completely deprived of food, their family sailed to Bangladesh and took a bus to Kolkata and finally ended up in Chennai after their journey. Along with their family of three are 91 others and all are currently living in a refugee camp originally built for Sri Lankan refugees at Kelambakkam. There are 47 children, 25 women and 22 men belonging to 19 families living in the camp now.
More than half of them said Chennai is a safer place. “Back in Myanmar, agitators would burn at least 200 houses a day and if a major fight erupts, the number can go up to 1,500. They enter schools and ask the teachers to strip in front of the students”, said a kid refusing to give out her name.
She added that in Chennai, the scenario was completely different as the government school in Kelambakkam agreed to admit the kids, though the government did not recognise them officially.
“Moreover, girls aged 18 and above are not allowed to step out of their homes in our village. This place gives much freedom as the volunteers have arranged for tuition at the camp when my family stopped sending me to the school”, said Nazima.