September 8, 2017
Grave Threat to the Survival of the Burmese Muslims
By Saeed Qureshi
According to the International news agencies including the United Nations Refugee Agency that fleeing from the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, more than a quarter of a million (270000) Rohingya Muslim refugees have flooded into Bangladesh in just two weeks. In the wake of this colossal humanitarian upheaval around l,000 people had been killed in the violence over the past two weeks.
Dozens of Rohingya women and children fleeing the violence have drowned while attempting to escape to Bangladesh by boats. As refugees continue to pour across the border, discontent is growing inside Bangladesh at the ongoing violence in their neighboring Rakhine State. Out of the 50 million estimate Burmese population Muslims are about 4 per cent while the Buddhist population forms 87 percent of the total population.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote to his fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, urging her to stop the violence. Kyi who herself suffered at the hands of various military regimes and have been incarcerated for a prolonged period of time is now holding a very prestigious position of State Counselor which is second to the incumbent president Htin Kyaw.
The misfortune rooted in history is that these Rohingya refugees Muslims either from Bangladesh or Myanmar have been all along on the wrong side of history. While in Myanmar they are treated as non-Burmese citizens, the Bangladesh government labels them as those who sided with then Pakistan and supported the military action against then then East Pakistan.
After the emergence of a new state of Bangladesh they were branded as unpatriotic and therefore were expelled periodically from Bangladesh by the respective regimes which have been pro- India and a replica of the Awami league or the Awami league itself.
These Muslims were hunted out and majority of them pushed towards the sea and the cities were vacated from them. Without any sustained help from the international agencies these rootless people started living along the sea. They constructed makeshift huts and dwellings and had also put up schooling and health systems. Visibly they didn’t have any jobs and permanent sources of income.
While living along the sea coast and or on water boats, they started moving towards Burma thinking that it would be safe havens for them, although the Rohingya Muslims were also being persecuted. Already there were sizeable Muslims living there for ages because India and the Burma were under the British colonial rule.
But with exodus of the bulk Bangladeshi Muslims to Myanmar hampered the jobs and social life of the non-Muslim and non-Bengali Burmese. the majority Buddhist population was alarmed on account a parallel religious entity emerging before their eyes. Many new mosques were built and jobs was also being taken over by the newly arrived Muslims population from the native citizens.
The creation of Bangladesh happened in December 1971. In these 35 years there has been consistent efforts on the part of displaced Bengali population to settle in Burma. The Burmese or Myanmar government under pressure from their Buddhist population perceived the newly arriving Bangladeshi population as a threat to their religion as well as to the social, cultural and economic life. The people of Bangladesh are very hard working so they gradually started having firm foothold in the Burmese society. In addition to their arrival from Bangladesh there were millions of Rohingya Muslims already living in Myanmar for decades.
When the Burmese government which has been mostly by the military realized that change of demography and particularly Muslim refuge community, they started expelling them out of Myanmar. This campaign is continuing and might continue until the UNO and UNHCR take firm decisions and come to the rescue of these displaced people who are homeless and have been neither here and there.
When the ethnic cleansing as well their expulsion and severe persecution began in Burma these people started living in boats along the banks of the ocean. Correspondingly, the displaced people in Bangladesh also used the coastal areas and even boats to survive. As such they got a new nomenclature the “Boat people”. These people starting living along the ocean banks as the people on no man land. But since their contacts with the people living on land both in Bangladesh and Myanmar continued they were not spared and instead were attacked, persecuted and killed on the land, boats and ferries they were lodged.
The latest upsurge against them is a willful resumption of the expulsion campaign by the present Burmese government to make the Myanmar free from these hapless people and one of the most persecuted peoples in the history of mankind.
There is a dire need for the joint efforts by the United Nations, the leading Islamic countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other international humanitarian agencies to save these people from further agony, persecutions, deaths and disintegration. It is really heart-wrenching to see their young generations, boys and girls becoming victims of a horrendous tragedy that is not their fault and of their making. Tis option ought to be applied both the displaced people of Bangladesh and Rohingya Muslims of Burma.
The Rohingya are considered to be among the world's most persecuted people. The predominantly Buddhist Myanmar considers them Bangladeshi but Bangladesh says they're Burmese.
The Rohingya population are denied citizenship under the 1982 Burmese citizenship law.
They have faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991–1992 2012, 2015 and 2016–2017. The United Nations officials have described Myanmar's persecution of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com