Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar: The warning signs of a possible ‘genocide’

According to majority of the Burmese Buddhists, ‘Rohingyas’ is a fabricated religious identity.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: September 7, 2017 11:53 am
Rohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian Express Considered by the United Nations as the “most persecuted minority group in the world”, the Rohingyas are a stateless group of people concentrated in western Myanmar

Myanmar has been under severe attack from the international community in recent times for what is being considered as ‘genocide’ against the Rohingya Muslims. Considered by the United Nations as the “most persecuted minority group in the world”, the Rohingyas are a stateless group of people concentrated in western Myanmar, and facing brutal assaults from the Burmese state and military. Since October, frequent reports have come in of the Burmese army burning down Rohingya villages, rapes and murders of the nature of ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Faced with the savagery, about 10,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have rushed into Bangladesh for refuge. This is not the first time that this group has been seeking shelter from the Bangladeshi government on account of being brutally persecuted at home. Last time a mass exodus of the Rohingyas happened was in 2012 when communal clashes erupted between them and the Rakhine Buddhists who were later represented by the Burmese Army. While Bangladesh remains their favourite destination for decades now, they have been seeking out refuge in other neighbouring countries as well. According to a UN report, at present around 5,500 Rohingya refugees have been registered in India and are living in makeshift camps under precarious conditions.

Interestingly, while Bangladesh considers them to be unwanted refugees from Myanmar, the latter perceives the Rohingyas as erstwhile migrants from Bangladesh, leaving this group of about one million people to float in mid air, without a legal citizenship in any country. Who are the Rohingya Muslims and what is the nature of the conflict they face in Mynamar, these are questions Indianexpress.com tries to answer.

Rohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian Express Interestingly, while Bangladesh considers them to be unwanted refugees from Myanmar, the latter perceives the Rohingyas as erstwhile migrants from Bangladesh.

Why are the Rohingyas hated in Myanmar?

While Buddhism happens to be the religion of the majority in present day Myanmar, the region is believed to have been home to a thriving multi-ethnic society in the last 2,000 years. Muslim influence in Myanmar can be traced back to the 15th century. However, those who call themselves as Rohingyas have a more complicated origin which makes their presence within the current borders of the nation problematic in the eyes of the majority.

The Rohingyas trace back their ancestry to those who were brought into western Myanmar (referred to as Arakan previously and as Rakhine at present) by the British colonial government when they took over Burma in 1824. Majority of them belonged to Chittagong in present day neighbouring country ,Bangladesh and were brought over by the British to work as farm labourers.

The massive rate at which they entered Arakan was a cause of great resentment among the local population, among whom a strong sense of nationalism developed. Soon after the Second World War, the British departed and with them a large population of Indians who had been brought in also followed. However, soon enough, communal clashes started taking place between the local Buddhist population and the Muslims from Bangladesh who stayed on. Several among them formed groups demanding either an autonomous state for themselves or the discretion to join the newly formed East Pakistan. Over time Rohingyas went on to acquire the status of foreigners in the newly-formed state dominated by Buddhists.

How did the Burmese government ensure an institutionalised discrimination against the Rohingyas?

In 1982, the Burmese government passed a Citizenship law that continues to be regarded as unfair and discriminatory by the global community. The law that gave national citizenship to only those Burmese who could prove having ancestors residing in the country before British colonial rule, was the strongest case of institutionalised discrimination against the Rohingyas. They found themselves classified as ‘associate’ citizens.

The rules laid out for ‘associate’ citizens deprived the Rohingyas of holding any government office and several other citizenship rights. Further clauses of discrimination restricted their movements and even marriages and birth rates within the community were closely monitored and inhibited.

Rohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian Express The rules laid out for ‘associate’ citizens deprived the Rohingyas of holding any government office and several other citizenship rights.

With the change in citizenship rules, frequent cases of armed struggles erupted that aimed at destroying Muslim villages and mosques, followed by mass outflow of Rohingyas into neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh and India.

A further confusion with their status in Myanmar is the denial of their Burmese identity by the Rakhine Buddhists. According to majority of the Buddhists, ‘Rohingyas’ is a fabricated religious identity. Citing historical documents and ancestry records, they claim that there was never any community by the name ‘Rohingya’ in the Burmese past. Whether or not the claims of the Buddhists are authentic is yet to be verified by scholars and historians. What is certain though is that since the 1950s a unique cultural and linguistic community did gain recognition in western Myanmar who consider themselves as ‘Rohingyas’.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on the Burmese government’s denial of the Rohingya identity, Professor William Schabas, an expert on genocide, says “trying to deny the identity of the people, hoping that eventually they no longer exist, denying their history, denying their legitimacy of their right to live where they live; these are all warning signs that it’s not frivolous to envision the use of the term, ‘genocide’.”

Why did communal clashes erupt in October 2016?

On October 9, three border posts on the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh were attacked by a group of Islamic militants leading to the death of nine policemen. The attack, that was reported to have been carried out by Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, was soon followed by a counter terrorism insurgency carried out by the Tatmadaw (Burmese military).

Rohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian Express Police forces prepare to patrol in Maungdaw township at Rakhine state, northeast Myanmar, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

In the following months close to 100 Rohingyas have been killed, several others detained and about 1200 Rohingya inhabited buildings burned down. Reports suggest that over a dozen women have been raped and assaulted by army officers at gunpoint. Any form of humanitarian aid has been blocked in the areas under military attack and close to 30,000 people have been forced to flee for their lives. Most of those persecuted are rice farmers and petty traders who have been living in dire poverty conditions.

The Burmese government, however, has denied any allegations of rapes and assaults and suggest that the Rohingyas have themselves been burning down buildings in order to gain international sympathy. According to state counsellor, Aung San Su Kyi, those attacked were Jihadists and that the military lock down is a means to ensure state security against extremist organisations in the region.

How has the international community responded to the crisis?

While Human Rights Watch has called the military crackdown on Myanmar a case of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ the UN’s office of Human Rights has declared that the crisis in the South East Asian country ‘could tantamount to crimes against humanity’. In November 2016, the former chief of UN, Kofi Anan arrived in Myanmar with his team to look into the armed struggle, and was met by protesters who were against foreign intervention.

Rohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian ExpressRohingya, Rohingya refugees in India, Who are the Rohingya, Rohingyas and India, What is the Rohingya crisis, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Burmese persecution of Rohingyas, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Rohingya kid, Rohingya Alan Kurdi, picture of Rohingya kid, Rohingya crisis, Indian Express “We want to tell Aung San Suu Kyi, enough is enough,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on
Sunday. (Source: File)

In Early December 2016, the Malaysian Prime Minister carried out a rally in protest against the torture of the Rohingyas. “The world cannot stand by and watch genocide taking place,” he said. In November, protests also took place in Dhaka where about 5,000 Muslims congregated outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque to denounce the military assault in Myanmar and the inaction of Su Kyi. They also demanded the Bangladesh government to give refuge to the Rohingyas. Similar protests were held in Jakarta and Bangkok as well.

The assault on the Rohingyas has been fast gaining attention from Jihadists around the world, making the ground ripe for extremism. The West has been particularly wary about the possibility of a breeding ground for religious terrorism as a response to Myanmar’s brutality and has been urging neighbouring Muslim majority countries to strongly resist the repression of the Rohingyas.

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  1. D
    Deepak
    Nov 25, 2017 at 6:38 pm
    I think that the government of Aung San Suu Kyi is fully for the bloodshed in Myanmar - it is horrible genocide and I can not understand how India is ignoring this. Our PM Modi is touring Burma and still silent. I think that the nobel prize committee should ask Suu Kyi to return the prize and hand her head in shame. I saw the BBC Documentary just now on how women narrated how they had been raped and then hacked by local Buddhists and the Burmese Army, their babies snatched from their arms and smashed to the ground as well as into the fire. I can not but believe what I saw on BBC. How my my great country India remain silent on this issue. Shame on us as a people. Do watch the entire BBC Documentary and you will shed tears of blood!
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    1. SAJID URRAHMAN
      Sep 25, 2017 at 5:36 pm
      Humanity Current situation of the world is humanity and its values are burning and no Maseeha (Saver) is present in current times. All so called power full killing innocent humans. UN is now seems to be baseless, a spectator only watching doing nothing or very little. UN totally failed to safe valuable human lives. In this situation time is near to find Maseeha who have a sharia Law in his hand to make this world in peace and dignity below is some of Sharia Laws according to me if apply achieve very good results. 1. No innocent human shall be killed whatever background he belongs to such as Religion, cast, national, poor or rich: A. if someone kills he shall get capital punishment, apply see the result nobody will dare to kill innocent. B. If someone broke one eye or teeth take out his eye and teeth so no one can dare to heart or fight. C. Whoever make mischief or murder his or their burden would not imposed on his relative friends or his community group only culprits to be punis
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      1. L
        L Hmar
        Sep 17, 2017 at 3:30 pm
        one should treat others on humanitarian ground. genocide is the worse form of human conflict. I appeal everyone should get rid of inhuman treatment. Love is the aim of all religions. I even appeal the UN interference to bring those distressed children so that they see the value of life for which we are created otherwise the world will be too much imbalance.
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        1. Srislp Srithi
          Sep 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm
          REDUCE population: KRISHNA PATIENCE In WOMEN ```````````````````````````````````````````` Lord KRishna from Gita 'Iam the patience in WOMEN. BUT when men degraded in MASS, WOMEN also degrade, IF women degrade, OVER POPULATION occurs, Then SINNERS increase' Who degraded FIRST and who HAS patience VEDAS never told having kids/boys can take u to heaven. DOGMA that later yugas created, Just like CHRISTIANITY and QURAN told, accepting JESUS or ALLAH , can gurantee heaven. INDEED, its the opp. If u have no kids, since no wife No Bonds. So during middle age, u can get dettached to bonds and can attain moksha if u THRIVE for it.
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          1. Srislp Srithi
            Sep 10, 2017 at 7:41 pm
            DONT let these society degraders enter any HINDU(Buddist Jain Sikh Bon Toaism etc) . Show the real meaning of cution to the x-hindus as till know they drank the hardwork of us with reservation/benefits/jobs/cheapLand/CostlyDailyCowMeatForOverPopulatedFamily/Rent/DiscountFood/Medicine while a very poor Hindu cannot get in a Hindu country. (both X-Hindus, Christian and Muslims, Christian r more dangerous, secretly do all filth, digging grave back and bribe to cover their crimes). OUR Christian PRETENDED as westerners (and now as Russian to create enmity) and passed horrible comments ON THEIR OWN COUNTRY and their ANCESTORs religion from over a decade. Now OUR Muslims also did, but less when compared. NOTE: West/Europe/Arab CIVILIANS christian/muslims r very good. They do not get anything for following their faith and point at Hindus. So do not blame them and get bad karma. All these X-HINDU filthy tactics r bought up by them.
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            1. Ahmed Khan Tausif
              Oct 1, 2017 at 2:05 am
              you ben 1000 times
              (0)(0)
              Reply
              1. Ahmed Khan Tausif
                Oct 1, 2017 at 2:06 am
                MC you have no idea, Go Faq your mom sis, and behead them like burma
                (5)(0)
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