NEW DELHI: The Indian government has decided to deport seven Rohingya Muslims who have been in prison here since 2012 for “illegal entry”. They are being sent back to Myanmar, to a fate that could be worse than death, given the ongoing state violence against the ethnic minority, with documentation now of brutal killings and rape.

The Supreme Court refused to entertain advocate Prashant Bhushan’s effort to raise the issue for urgent hearing, with the new Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi saying, "No mentioning for urgent hearing... unless someone is hanged tomorrow, don't mention for urgent hearing." He then added, "We are working out a system. If the case is urgent it will be listed... You file the petition. We will read it. If it is urgent we will list it.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Racism Tendayi Achiume denounced the decision, describing it as “a flagrant denial of their right to protection and could amount to refoulement.” She said that the Indian government has an “international legal obligation” to recognise "institutionalised discrimination, persecution, hate and gross human rights violations these people have faced in their country of origin and provide them the necessary protection".

The Indian decision came during the visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said in an interview to India Today that he had appealed to India to accept the refugees, and not to send them back against their will to their countries of origin, where they might still face persecution.

New Delhi maintains that Myanmar has agreed to the deportation. The seven who fled violence are reportedly from Kyauk Daw township in central Rakhine, and were in a detention centre in Assam. They are being sent across today and according to reports were taken in a bus on Wednesday to the border town of Moreh in Manipur district. New Delhi insists that Myanmar has accepted the documentation and issued ‘travel permits’ for the seven Rohingyas, who were kept in prison through the last six years.

More than 700,000 other Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape the brutal Myanmar military.

The BJP had refused to accept the refugees as they fled the army in Myanmar, making it clear that the 40,000-odd Rohingyas who had sought refuge in India over the years were no longer welcome. Rallies and demonstrations were held by the BJP against the hapless community, with several refugees who spoke to The Citizen at the time maintaining that they faced “certain death” or life long detention if they were sent back to Myanmar.

UN chief Antonio Guterres during his visit said that India, which has good relations with Myanmar, should use its influence and exert pressure to create conditions for the Rohingyas to return. "I believe that countries like India that have really good relations with Myanmar are in a good place to put all possible pressure, like China, like others, on Myanmar to do this kind of investment and to create the conditions for people to go back," he said at a programme in Delhi.