We take a look at the Rohingyas’ history, the reason for their torture, Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence, India’s stand on the issue.
The Rohingyas are an Indo-Aryan tribe whose existence in the Indian subcontinent (before it disintegrated into Bangladesh and Myanmar) dates back to the 8th century. They have lived in the Rakhine state of Myanmar for most of their lives, and constitute mainly of Muslims and a small section of Hindus.
Most of the Rohingyas lived in the northern area of the Rakhine state, which used to be a sprawling land of hills, beaches, and fertile agriculture before the infamous 1962 Burmese coup d’état. Subsequently, in 1982 and then in the 2000s, the Burmese torture upon the Rohingyas continued. Ever since then, the government and some high-profile lawyers have tried hard to invalidate the Rohingyas’ existence by tampering with evidence.
The Rohingyas have suffered from ethno-nationalist bigotry at the hands of the Burmese military for decades because the military considers them as ‘Muslim intruders’ in the largely Buddhist Myanmar. Their taking the side of the British during World War II added fuel to the fire, as the Rakhine residents were pro-Japanese. Their houses were torched, women raped, and the minority tortured, which is why the United Nations (UN) has called it ‘a slow genocide’.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a revolutionary in Myanmar and the world applauds her for it. When we think of her, we think of complex concepts like resilience, peace, and patience. Her journey from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and to winning the general elections has inspired students, and reformed and reshaped the global political sphere. Her role in establishing democracy in the country has been imperative, but her role after being elected as the State Counsellor (de facto Prime Minister) has been nothing but disappointing.
The treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is loathsome, and Suu Kyi’s silence on the matter even more so. Silence from a leader with a platform to implement change, in this specific matter, is the worst crime against basic human rights. Along with this is the denial of well-documented evidence and obstruction of humanitarian aid. The UN has time and again called this section of the society as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, and this description has not changed since she took office.
Kiren Rijiju, the Minister for Home Affairs, has declared that the 40,000 Rohingyas distributed across Indian states will be deported. Neither Bangladesh nor India has the resources to harbour this community. The community also poses a threat on the safety frontier. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) allegedly has connections with Al-Qaeda, and lately, with ISIS too. These connections can spread like wildfire among the refugees in India and elsewhere. On the other hand, a community this vulnerable and oppressed, with hardly any country to turn to, is the responsibility of all better placed nations. In fact, the UN’s intervention has already failed to restore peace and order in the West so far as the rehabilitation of Syrian refugees is concerned. If the global community is not careful, the Rohingyas’ mass displacement could become an even greater crisis, this time plaguing the East. And then, the fault will lie squarely on these nations’ shoulders. The need of the hour is therefore for Myanmar to take its people back with peace and harmony, and for other nations to convince Myanmar regarding the same.
Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express