India’s first Rohingya graduate woman, Tasmida Johar, is as proud of her achievements as she is sad to think about it. She says that she is the first girl to achieve this success whereas there were many girls who should have achieved this feat earlier, but they could not get this opportunity. Tasmida has done her graduation in Political Science from DU. She became India’s first Rohingya graduate woman in December 2022.
Speaking to Aljazeera, Tasmida said that she is actually 24 years old, but according to her UNHCR card, she is 26 years old. Rohingya parents usually raise a girl’s age by two years to get her married early. Tasmida said she has faced displacement twice in her life. Born in Myanmar as Tasmin Fathima, her parents were soon forced to change her name. Regarding her name, she told that her real name is Tasmeen Fatima, but it was a compulsion to change her name in Myanmar because keeping a Muslim name did not give admission in any school there. If someone wants to get education, it is mandatory for him to have a Buddhist name.
Tasmida said that if you are a Muslim and even if your name sounds like a Buddhist, you will not be given a prize even after getting first position in schools. There a Buddhist child was kept in the first place only after that the number of the rest came. Regarding discrimination in schools, Tasmida said that Muslim people were not allowed to speak loudly there, non-Buddhist children always had to sit at the back of the class. We were not allowed to wear headscarf (hijab) in schools. Tasmida said that as the persecution escalated, her family left Myanmar in 2005.
Tasmida’s family fled to Bangladesh and lived here in Cox’s Bazar. Here his father started working as a daily wage laborer while his mother started working in a local factory. Even though Tasmida had studied in Myanmar till the third grade, she had to start all over again from the first grade. Here Tasmida started learning Bengali, Urdu and English apart from Rohingya and Burmese. In the year 2012, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh faced targeted violence. Johar’s father was also briefly arrested.
After this Tasmida’s father decided to go to India. They fled to Haryana first, but here they could not get access to proper education. After this Tasmida’s family fled to the capital Delhi. After coming here, the Rohingya family settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp in South-East Delhi. Johar said that when she came to India, there were many hesitations in her mind. She was scared because she was a Rohingya. He did not even know Hindi. Tasmida said that she faced some problems in India too but it was nothing like what she had faced earlier.
Tasmida conveyed the concerns faced by her community in India. Rohingya refugees in India feel that if they send their girls abroad to study, what if the government will pick them up? What if they are kidnapped, raped or sold? Tasmida said that this does not happen in India, but they have experienced this in Myanmar, so they are always afraid of any untoward incident. They are always worried about the safety of their children. Tasmida said that neighbors often asked her parents, “What would you do by teaching it? What if something happened to it?”
Johar said such things are common, but when his neighbors saw him succeed in his studies, their attitude changed. “There has been a slight change in her mindset and suddenly her comments have changed like ‘we knew she could do it’ and ‘our daughter will become like you’,” Tasmeeda said. Johar was among the 25 refugee students. has been selected by the UNHCR-Duolingo program to help the underprivileged and academically bright individuals pursue higher studies. She is waiting for her confirmation letter from Wilfred Laurier University in Canada. Tasmida aspires to be a human rights activist in the future is of.