Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that Rohingyas who have entered India from Myanmar should not be mistaken as refugees because they are "illegal immigrants" who need to be sent back due to national security reasons.
However, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Justice H.L. Dattu, present at the function where Rajnath Singh spoke, said the Commission would back Rohingyas because they were being persecuted in Myanmar.
"We need to understand the reality that Rohingyas from Myanmar who have entered India are not refugees. In order to get the refugee status, one needs to follow a certain process. None among them has followed that procedure," the minister said in his address to the "National Seminar on Good Governance, Development and Human Rights" here.
He said India would not be violating any international law by acting against illegal immigrants as the issue was related to India's national security.
"No Rohingya has sought asylum in India and we cannot question their deportation by raising human rights concerns. Don't mistake illegal immigrants with refugees. Any sovereign nation will act against illegal immigrants. The issue is also related to our national security," he said.
Some 40,000 Rohingya Muslims have taken refuge in India. Many live in Jammu and Hyderabad.
Amid a debate on whether Rohingyas should be deported or given refuge in India, the Home Ministry on Monday, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, called them a "security threat to India". The court will hear the issue on October 3.
The Home Minister told the seminar that by deporting the Rohingyas, India would not be violating any international law. "India is not even a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention".
Rajnath Singh chided human rights activists for criticising India's stance on Rohingyas.
"People who are beating trumpets that we are violating international law should know that there is no violation. This reality needs to be understood.
"When Burma (Myanmar) is ready to take them back, why should we have objections against their deportation?"
Rajnath Singh said despite concerns, India provided humanitarian aid to Bangladesh to deal with the Rohingya crisis.
Dattu, in his remarks, maintained that the NHRC would speak in favour of Rohingyas.
"We will plead the case of 40,000 Rohingyas on humanitarian ground. Cannot comment on the government policy but we are helping them because they are being persecuted in Myanmar," Dattu said.