Rohingya Problem Needs A Solution


Once again Rohingya people of Myanmar are being massacred. There is gross human rights violation and the most disturbing thing is that the massacre is being carried out under the leadership of Buddhist monks — supposed messengers of peace and non- violence. Whenever violence erupts in the western state of Rakhine of Myanmar, its neighboring countries like Bangladesh, India, Thailand and other South East nations face refugee problems. The countries refuse to accept refugees and many of them are drowned in the Gulf of Bengal.

The recent incident of violence erupted after a terror attack on Buddhist monks and their followers. Those behind the attack claim to be fighting for the freedom of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. They want a homeland of their own in the western state of Rakhine, which is close to Chittagong of Bangladesh. Their fight for a separate Muslim nation within Myanmar is as old as the demand for Pakistan in India. When Jinnah was spearheading an agitation for a separate nation for Indian Muslims, some Muslims of border areas of Myanmar adjacent to East Bengal wanted to be part of east Pakistan but Jinnah refused to accept their viewpoint.

India attained freedom in 1947 and Myanmar in 1948. Both were colonies of British. Before 1938, Myanmar was a British Indian state named Burma, which had been separated from India in 1937-38. Along the border of east Pakistan (Now Bangladesh), Muslim population constituted around 80 to 90 percent of total population of the area. They started their fight for an independent Muslim nation — That was the beginning of Rohingya Muslim problem, which has taken a bloody shape. According to United Nation, Rohingya are considered the most prosecuted people in the world.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country and it refuses to accept the Rohingya as its citizens. They dub them Bangladeshi refugees, though earlier they were enjoying citizen-status and some of their leaders were also members of legislative bodies after independence. But, now they are a stateless people. This has created a piquant situation where Myanmar does not allow Rohingya refugees of other country to come back.

The question arises as to who these people are. Ethnically, they are Indian settled in the Rakhine province for the past 400 years. After the Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-26, the number of settlers started rising. In English, Rakhine was called Arakan. Arakan was renamed Rakhine after independence but before that Rohingya were called Arakan Indians. They were from that part of India which is now Bangladesh. They are all Bengalis and their mother tongue is Bengali. Most of them are Muslims—only five percent are Hindus. Rohingya have been at loggerheads with the local ethnic population ever since they were part of British India. In fact, after the separation of Burma from British India, the clashes between Rohingya and local ethnic Buddhists had started. During Second World War, when majority Buddhists were supporting Japan, the Rohingya were recruited in British force. The bad blood still remains.

Rohingya Muslims number around 20 lakh and 50 percent of them are living outside Myanmar as refugees. Bangladesh has around 5 lakh such refugees. Myanmar wants Bangladesh to take back all Rohingya Muslims because they are Bengali. But Bangladesh out-rightly refuses its demand —Refugees coming from Myanmar are being chased back by Bangladeshi guards.

India also has around 40 thousand Rohingya refugees in its territory and most of them are living in Jammu and Kashmir which is a troubled state. Hence, there is a demand to throw them out. The government is also of the view that they should be deported. A question then arises: Where should the Rohingya go — or where should the Indian government deport them to — given that Myanmar does not accept them as their citizens?

The world community should pay more attention to its problems. A permanent solution to its problems is needed.  If the Rohingya cannot be adjusted in Myanmar, the world community should find some unpopulated islands in the Bay of Bengal, where 20 Lakh Rohingya people can find a permanent residence.

– Contributed by Kriti

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