Rohingya: A People Condemned!
Massive protests are being witnessed in many countries, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, India among others against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in
Myanmar (September 2017). This time around violence seems to have been
triggered due to the attack by militants (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) on
police and military posts.
United Nations has said that the extent of violence indicates that it is
crime against humanity. His Holiness Pope Francis said that he is following the "sad news of the religious persecution of Rohingya communityâ€¦ he asked that the
members of the ethnic group be given full rights."
The suppression of the Muslims of Rakhine province of Myanmar has
created grave situation. What seems to be going on is a sort of slow genocide,
ethnic cleansing. India has also witnessed the protests against this
suppression in many cities in India. Here in India there is an added problem as
there are thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in different parts of the
country and there is a demand from the Hindu right wingers to expel them from
These Rohingya Muslims are mainly concentrated in the Rakhine Province
of Myanmar. The Government says that they are illegal immigrants while their
history in Mynmar is very old. As such the Muslims in Myanmar are very diverse
as most of them have come from different parts of India, when Myanmar was part
of India. In particular Rakhine province earlier had a Muslim ruler, which fact
attracted many Muslims to settle there.
It is after the military dictatorship that they have been deprived of
their citizenship rights and have been the target of persecution and
atrocities, particular after 1982 Law, which does not recognize their
citizenship rights. Earlier they even had a minister at the Cabinet level apart
from many elected representatives.
The problems related to communalism have so many parallels in different
South Asian countries. We see in South Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India that
religious minorities are subject to persecution and the pretexts are very
similar. After the military dictatorship came to Myanmar, the fleeing of
Muslims went up in large numbers and many of them came to India also.
These reasons are purely humanitarian, but here in India it is being
presented as if it is a security threat. Indian laws permit giving shelter to
persecuted communities. As per that Tamils from Sri Lanka, Buddhists from Tibet
and Hindus from Pakistan have been given shelter here. Since Rohingya happen to
be Muslims the Hindu right wing is opposing them and has stepped up campaigns
through media to expel them.
As such in India the communalists have been harping on Bangladeshi
immigrants, while the fact is that most of the Muslims being accused of being
Bangladeshis have migrated earlier through Human plantation policy of British,
which encouraged Bangladeshis (then Bengal) to settle in Assam. In the
aftermath of 1971 war also many Hindus and Muslims fled Bangladesh to settle in
different parts of India, depending on where they can get some opportunities to
In the aftermath of 1992-92 violence, the campaign to step up the
expelling of Bangldeshis from Mumbai and other cities picked up. In one of the
studies done in Mumbai by Shama Dalwai and Irfan Engineer, it was found that
most of the immigrants (Bengali speaking Muslims) have been engaged in low end
employment, as maid servants, as jari workers(artisans) etc., who had been
putting long hours for mere survival.
In popular perceptions the issue is presented as nationalist one related
to security and this has been one of the major propaganda plank around which
BJP has been making inroads in the North Eastern states, particularly Assam.
In Myanmar, the process of democratization is very slow and painful. The
military takeover in 1962 worsened the process. The military had the strong
backing of feudal elements and the many Buddhist sanghas (organized
priesthood). The hold of feudal powers in Myanmar is a great obstacle for
democracy to deepen itself.
As in Pakistan (Military-Mullah), the hold of Sanghas and military is
strong here also. In Pakistan we witness that irrespective of democratically
elected Prime Minister the military wields great power and Military-Mullah
complex keeps asserting itself, affecting the policies even of the elected
In Myanmar while the major Buddhist organization 'Sangha Maha Nayaka
Committee', has called for humane approach; Buddhist monks like Ashin Wirathu,
very much like Sadhvis and Sakshi Maharaj's in India, is the major figure
spreading hate against the Muslims.
In Myanmar, the battle between these two tendencies, (military and
section of Buddhist Sangha) is strong and Prime Minister, Suu Kyi is part of
the military decision of genocide. Suu Kyi is hankering for power rather than
upholding principles of human rights which a Nobel laureate should do. At
places campaigns are on to take back her Nobel Prize.
In India, with the high communal polarization, Rohigya being Muslims is
reason enough to attribute to them the motives of militancy, and to try to link
them with terrorism. Major humanitarian agencies are asking for justice for
these persecuted people in Myanmar.
In India, this is an 'add on' issue for Hindu communalists who have been
baking their political bread in the name of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The latest in this is to try to formulate the law where the Hindu immigrants
will be granted shelter while Muslim immigrants will be expelled by the state.
PM Narendra Modi in his visit to Myanmar has been silent on this crucial issue
of violation of human rights for tactical and ideological reasons i.e. due to
his political ideology.