U Kyaw Min
So purported high birth rate and infiltration of Bengalis into Myanmar’s Rakhine State are popular topics among the Rohingyas’s adversaries. These are not correct assessment, but illusion. There, in Myanmar side, police, military, paramilitary (Hlun Htinn), immigration and NaSaKa (border immigration special task force) are heavily stationed. NaSaKa forces have tight grasp on the population (Rohingya) of north Arakan. They have been on patrolling duty in every village day and night for the last twenty years. Again there are six monthly checking of family members and house hold animals. Legal and administrative actions are taken for any discrepancy on records. Guests cannot stay for the night without reporting to the local authority. Further there are double fences of barbed wire along the whole border. In this situation, how can a Bengali enter into Myanmar? For a native Rohingya who for some unavoidable reasons crossed the border into Bangladesh the chance to come back is nil. Once he comes back he is subjected to extortion and long term jail. It is quite unthinkable for a foreigner to come into Arakan illegally. This accuse of illegal immigration is sheer a pretext to suppress this Rohingya people.
Finally immigration Minister U Khin Yi explained during the second session of first parliament that people from Myanmar would go to Bangladesh to earn a living. He pointed out another fact there are 7000, Black list babies in Maung Daw Township alone. Who are these babies? Their fathers are out of the country at the time of their birth and then they remained unregistered. Their fathers cannot come back to their own home where they can face long term jail and extortion. In such a harsh situation how foreigners can can illegally enter into Rakhine?
It is a wonder some Myanmar popular politicians compare Bangla-Myanmar border with Mexico–American border. Let us first consider the point that Arakan is the poorest state in one of the poorest countries in the world. Bangladesh GDP is higher than Myanmar. Here no job opportunity for fresh Bengalis. Rakhine state economy is in the hand of Rakhine people. Do they welcome the illegal immigrants? Again amidst the heavy security installation how can the Bangla-Myanmar border be a porous border as some democracy icons try to say?
Real fact is there is no immigration but emigration. To come in is very difficult but to go out is highly encouraged under depopulation policy. Thus more than one million Rohingyas are living as Diaspora in foreign countries. This people are similar to none in the world. They preserved their own identity everywhere. They are a distinct community where ever they live. Experts of anthropology and sociology can easily distinguish them as a peculiar community. Alleging them to be Bengali is a bias branding, out of sheer whim and envy.
People want to put Rohingya at the mercy of Rakhine. They keep more concern to Rakhine’s feeling and aspiration which is to kick out all Rohingyas out of Rakhine. Is it a correct concept? Government has an obligation to protect its citizens disregard of race and religion. Government should not encourage one race to suppress another. Polarizing and disparaging the Rohingyas are obvious. Media have been casting doubt on their ethnicity regularly – in some cases – explicitly calling for “ethnic cleansing”. Apartheid like campaign is ongoing. Two child policy on Rohingya is very heartening to the adversaries. One is highly condemned when his or her comment on this is not infavour of this forced two child policy.
What happening in Rakhine state is not a communal riot. Just one sided looting, arsoning, killing and burning down. A privileged community enjoying the favour of central government is determined to kick out all Rohingyas from Arakan, and is crying aloud for it. Their plan to drive out all Rohingyas from downtown areas is successful as the Rohingyas are put in camps in the extreme edge of the towns. Any understanding or reconciliation with this chauvinistic group is unprobable without fair and active involvement of the central government. This group’s slogan is “no buying, no selling, no social contact and no friendship with Rohingya”. One of their Pyithu Hluttaw member, U Maung Nyo from Sittwe constituency on 22nd February 2013 motioned a question in parliament where he branded the Rohingyas as foreign illegal Bengalis who are a danger for national ethnic Rakhine. But British records said Sittwe was exclusively a Muslim enclave when British first occupied it. Such hate based discriminatory rhetoric in parliament is very contagious; it can breed hatred and unfair consequences. To some of our own nationals, we should not call “dangerous element from foreign country. i.e. a Taing Tabatha – Lumyo Cha Bengali” whatever the leveling and branding, this Bengalis are there, for many many centuries according to authentic historical records.
We are talking of rule of law. But how can it be achieved? There should be some practical steps based on fair treatment of all citizens. We should stop race based, class based, polarity based rhetoric either in parliament or outside. Then we can establish harmonious stable society. So called Bengalis in Rakhine are not immigrants but – historic native settlers. Unless we can recognize it, there cannot be stability. Those with superiority conscience will try to assault on those who are labeled as foreigners. State policy on social, economic, political sphere should be pragmatically based on equality of all citizens. So called Bengali demography in Rakhine state in the west have some differences with the demography of border people in the east which we must understand. We cannot judge the two with the same prism. Arakan and Bengal had been under the same rules for many many centuries. So there had been some socio-political connectivity between the two. There are millions of Rakhine or Rakhine affiliated peoples in Bengal whereas the same is true in case of Bengalis in Arakan. Historically millions of Bengali affiliated peoples have settled in Rakhine state whose presence was highly welcomed by Rakhine kings. This group of people whom we called today Rohingya was the protectors of Rakhine Kingdom.
Recently our president and the immigration minister said their scrutiny proved that there were no illegally entered Bengalis. So what is the credibility of presently ongoing checking or inquiry in north Arakan in the name of finding out illegal entrants. Why everyone is required to give finger prints and photographs? Is everyone in north Arakan foreigner? People are forced, beaten and rounded up for their finger prints on computer scan. All these things made people worrisome and harassed. Sporadic arrest and torturing have been on continuation since last year.
In British and parliamentary periods all citizens so called indigenous or otherwise were equal. Their ID cards were the same. Citizens were not classified as ethnic and non-ethnic. There were no polarization and apartheid like discrimination. So we never heard of communal instability and violence in post independence period.
When marginalization, dehumanization, classification, discrimination and polarization, and Jim Crow laws and directions were introduced at a time, gradually instability grew up. Finally we saw the ethnic cleansing like violence and terrorism in Arakan which the world practically witnessed last year. HRW report early this year is a clear witness of this horrendous ethnic cleaning.
Local media have aired false propaganda and spread bias racist news which have worsen the situation. Rakhine people are so encouraged and emboldened that they cry for deportation and segregation of Rohingya. Government has to exercise every unjust and unfair policy to please the Rakhine. It is one year now, more than one hundred thousand displaced persons are not yet rehabilitated only because it is presumably the main cause of the violence to deprive this Rohingyas of their properties specially in the down towns.
In case of Rakhine brutality and terrified attack on Rohingya, the security apparatus remained silent, in some cases they were accomplices, but when Rohingya resisted forced evacuation from their original homesteads the security forces shot at the villagers on 4th June in Yinthae village, Mrauk-U. Four women died on the spot and many were injured. Here we can imagine the partiality and double standard of actions from the side of the security forces. Rohingyas are being subjected to extortion, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment under various false cases.
Myanmar formerly was Burma. It is their right to choose whatever name they like. Is it just that Rohingyas are denied that right of choice? Why are they forced to give fingerprints on computer scan, to use it for multiple purposes, including making them Bengali? Democracy icons should not stay silent on this Rohingya crisis. They should high light what is fair and true from historical and legal perspective. Their comment should not be biased. On the other side silence means agreeing to what is happening in the conflict area of Arakan.
The truth is Aung San-Atlee agreement on 27 January 1947 had clear provisions for Rohingya’s full citizenship. Myanmar constitution of 1947 section 11 and 1948 citizenship law section 4 (a,b) had fully guaranteed full citizenship to Rohingyas, which was honored by post independence parliamentary government. This 1948 citizenship law also affirmed full citizenship can never be revoked. Here the root cause of Rohingya crisis is the 1982 new citizenship law which is arbitrary and retrospective to strip of Rohingya’s citizenship. This new law is said to be a good one even by some opposition groups. This reflects in Myanmar, democracy means dictatorship of majority. Minority life is not secure. How can a law under dictatorship, deliberately enacted to suppress an intended community be a fair one in a democratic society we have been struggling to establish.
Some try to compare Rohingya with Myanmar workers in Thailand. In Arakan, Rohingyas are not fresh job seekers from Bangladesh. They are there from the beginning of history, records of which are authentic and ample.
To mention a few; a report on British census of 1872 says;
There is one more race which has been so long in the country that it may be called indigenous and that is the Arakanese Mussalman. They are descendants, partly of voluntary immigrants at different periods from the neighboring province of Chittagong, and partly of captives carried off in the wars between the Burmese (Here Rakhine is taken as Burmese) and their neighbor. There are some 64,000 of them in Arakan, differing from the Arakanese but little, except in their religion and social customs which their religion directs.
Again James Baxter head of the 1941 inquiry commission on Indian immigration writes:
There was an Arakanese Muslim Community settled so long in Akyab (Sittwe) district that it had for all intents and purposes to be regarded as an indigenous race. There are also a few Mohamadan, “Kamans” in Arakan. (Report by Baxter 1941, Gov: print Burma, Rangoon)
The First British administrator of Arakan Charles Paton took a population census in 1826. There the Muslim population was one third of the total. Today the Muslim (or) Rohingya population is one third of total population too. Hence the notion that Rohingya population is terribly increasing due to illegal immigrants, does not seem logical and practical. Present Rohingyas are Myanmar (Rakhine) indigenous. Here the view that indigenous Rakhine people deserve more privileges than the Bengalis, who are not indigenous, is a negative one. These view holders say indigenous right is more important than Human Rights. Is it democracy?
Francis Buchanan a British diplomat in 1790s in Ava, in his article, “Comparative vocabularies of some of the languages spoken in the Burma Empire” write:
“I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of Hindu nation.
The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans who have been long settled in Arakan who call themselves Rooinga or natives of Arakan.” (See: Asiatic Researches, vol.5, 1799)
From above original and authentic records we can see Muslims or Rohingyas in Arakan are not illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as it is intensely highlighted in Myanmar media, but are there for many centuries. Their root can be traced from time immemorial. Rohingya is an antiquity in Arakan. Since Rohingya issue become stalemate, third party should decide it. To clear Rohingya’s ethnicity an independent inquiry commission is an urgent need of time.
Inquiries after inquiry, checking after checking of population have been carried out since Burmese independence. The sole objective of this was to expel out the non Myanmar non Buddhist population. In course of time hundreds of thousands of Muslims had been driven into Pakistan then. The last inquiry was Dragon operation in 1978 which drove away nearly three hundred thousand Rohingyas (or) Muslims, Most of whom were later repatriated and rehabilitated in their original places. All this discriminatory state mechanism to harass the Rohingya did not bring any good result. Rohingyas are still there, though highly marginalized and impoverished.
So my request here to all concerned is to abandon the discriminatory racial policy. Untold injustice done on this vulnerable community will take volumes to narrate. Jim Crow laws and instructions have been introduced since some decades ago. Consequently, Rohingya became literally lifeless and miserably vulnerable. Enough is enough. We expected justice in ongoing democracy transformation period. But we find adverse of what we expected. Let us reverse our mindset and have a better harmonious, prosperous society based on justice and equality. I hope all economic, social, political restrictions presently imposed on Rohingya would be withdrawn so as they have an access to normal livelihood. Disgust, hatred and discrimination based on religion is not a democratize norm. In Myanmar, Buddhist Rohingya-Bruwa (a.k.a) Myanmargyi- is enjoying full indigenous rights despite their similarity with Muslim Rohingya in complexions, language and culture. It in because they are Buddhist.
Lastly I implore international community to consider the refugee issue more seriously where as to raise the question why are this people abandoning their native land? What wrong is happening there? Let us seriously engage in dialogue to restore this people their right. Let there be peace, stability, rule of law and security for this people in their own province of Rakhine state. The critical question is from which quarter this dialogue will start? Who will initiate it first? Rohingyas are waiting to see this initiative.
Copyrights: Rohingya Blogger