In 1947, my mother lost her only sister during the partition of British India. My father studied in India, started his business and was living there with his extended family for a few decades. However, during the partition,my father was witness to brutal killings and riots between Muslims and Hindus and he decided to return to his homeland, East Bengal, with my mother, uncle, aunt and their family members. My mother was then only 15 years old, a newly married girl, and she had to come to Bangladesh with my father leaving behind all her relatives and memories of India. She always lamented that “At least the Rohingyas have a home but I do not”. I was unsure why my mother talked about Rohingyas and compared her life with the Rohingyas’ status in Myanmar. She was shattered thinking of her lost sister though we, including my father, me and my siblings, showered her with much love and care.
If my mother was alive today, she would know that her loss and pain is incomparable to the heart-wrenching pain and brutal killings that the Rohingyas, are facing at the Naf River in Myanmar. My mother’s 1947 assumptions are no longer true in 2017 as the Rohingyas are now homeless being neither citizens of Myanmar nor Bangladesh. Though my mother had a good lifestyle in Bangladesh, she always ‘had a longing and a sense of homeless because of partition and loss of her family in India. She was often sad as both her parents and her only brother passed away just after the partition, and her only sister left for West Punjab with her husband. And she had no connection with her younger sister since the partition 1947. War and oppression creates a vacuum and helplessness in people’s heart. Reminiscing my mother’s experience of displacement, I can comprehendthe loss and disorientation of displaced people like the Rohingyas and other war victims around the world who are suffering across because of the politics.
Massacre in Myanmar
The genocide in Myanmar has turned into a hidden agenda ofcleansing the Muslims minority there. It is time to scrutinize the Myanmar government’s actions of deploying her military for this “clearance operations”. Is there a hidden agenda to destabilize the region? To protest this genocide of ethnic Muslim minority, the Rohingyas,a crowd of Bangladeshi Canadians and other organizations peacefully gathered in front of the Ontario Provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM.
The Bangladeshi Canadians condemn Genocide 2017, the ethnic cleansing policy of Myanmar. Over 270,000 Rohingya children, women and men have been forced to flee to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar since August 2017. About 20,000 people cross the border in daily to flee the violence. Since late August, more than a quarter of a million Rohingya Muslims have flooded into Bangladesh because of the emergency state in Rakhine State. The situation is worsening with reports of violent clashes resulting in over 1,000 Rohingya Muslims being butchered, raped and killed. UN chief urges Myanmar to end this violence as 120,000 Rohingya flee military operations,forcing about 15,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh every day, raising fears of border camp crisis. The UN Refugee Agency has estimated over 290,000 people have fled for refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh out of which 80% of refugees are women and children. The Rohingya Muslims may well be the most persecuted people on the planet today. However, it’s unbelievable that top world leaders are not raising it as an issue or providing aid to the displaced people.
Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burned entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering them with knives, sticks, and machetes including women and children. They beat Rohingya children to death with rifle butts and even bare hands. Since then, half the population of Myanmar’s Rohingya has been displaced. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers. This unrest has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis in overstretched border camps, with another 400,000 of the Muslim ethnic minority estimated to be trapped in conflict zones in western Myanmar since more “clearance operations” by security forces in Rakhine state began last month.
It is unfortunate that UN aid agencies are facing challenges delivering food, water and medicine to the Rohingyas. Humanitarian workers informed that the warehouses stocking vital emergency supplies are being looted.
The UN announced that the number of Rohingya to have reached Bangladesh in recent days was estimated to be 123,600. Up to 15,000 Rohingya refugees are expected to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh each day this week, joining the tens of thousands already taking shelter in overcrowded camps and makeshift settlements. And each day thousands of refugees are fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh. UN asserts that if migration continues at this rate to Bangladesh, it will be more than 10 lakhs at the end of this year. Among them, 80 percent are women and children. It will be hard for Bangladesh to provide them sufficient food, health care and shelter; thus, there is a possibility of starvation and death among the Rohingya refugees.
Rohingyas or Bengalis?
Recently Myanmar’s army chief urged the countries to unite over the “issue” of the Rohingyas. He said a Muslim group has no roots in his country and his troops are accused of systematically purging them. The status of the Muslim minority has long been an explosive topic in Myanmar, where many in the Buddhist majority view the group as foreign interlopers from Bangladesh and they deny the existence of a Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar, thus insisting they be called “Bengalis”. “They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar. (The) Bengali issue is a national cause and we need to be united in establishing the truth,” the post reported.The Burmese government claims that the Rohingyas are Bengalis and they speak Bengali. However, the first language of Rohyingas is Burmese and second language is Bengali. They are able to understand and speak both languages. Burmese is their first language and they have a long history of living in Myanmar; thereby,Rohingyas are indeed Burmese linguistically and ethnically, not Bengalis.
Brutality started since British Raj
We need to revisit the past to know Rohingyas current political status in Myanmar. Most of us may not know that many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations. They migrated to Myanmar during the British Raj. In his new book, The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide—one of the few accessible primers on this battered group—the Oxford and U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute fellow Azeem Ibrahim tells of how the Rohingya have never had an easy time in Myanmar. Beginning in 1962, when a junta seized power, up until the transition to civilian rule in early 2010, the Burmese government effectively stripped the rights of Rohingyas. In 1982, the military government removed the Rohingya from the list of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Buddhist Rakhine people generally held a deep distrust of the Rohingyas as interlopers, a distrust heightened during World War II, when many Rohingyas fought with the British while theRakhaines fought alongside Japan.
Going back in time, history records that in the 14th century,Arakan was a sovereign and independent country under the Mughals. After the decline of the Mughals, Arakan maintained its independence and liberty. In 1775, the Mogh attacked Arakan and demolish 3000 Mosques and captured about two million Rohingyas and sold them as slaves to the government of the then Rengun. Togain freedom from slavery, in 1825 theRohingyas joined in World War II to support Britain; on the other hand, the Rakhains supported Japan. Since then the rivalry and distrust between two communities started creating a deep painful grove and has led to Genocide 2017.
Second Installment of the write up:
The writer is an anthropologist and environmentalist. She is pursuing her PhD research on Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. [email protected]