The Rohingya issue

Mrinal K Biswas

The Rohingya Muslims are in the news again, this time for wrong reasons. They have turned militants, if not terrorists. At least some among 1.1 million of them still in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine province, are now up in arms against the coercive machinery of the Buddhist State. Myanmar denies them as people of the land entering the country stealthily in the past and since staying there illegally. The adjacent Muslim country of Bangladesh has persistently denied Rohingyas are Bengalis and have originated there before migrating to Myanmar long back in history. Though India has porous borders of some 1643 km with Myanmar, like along Mizoram State, it is Bangladesh which has immediate access to the fleeing Rohingyas though they are mostly pushed back in the no-man-lands by Bangladesh Border Guards after they being fired on by Myanmar Border Guard Police even when going across the Naf river to Bangladesh. Densely populated Bangladesh, which has seen continuous emigrations, cannot accommodate a large population like that of the Rohingyas.
Pro-democracy champion Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi now in commanding position in the Myanmar government is still being severely criticized by the liberal world for raw deals to the Rohingyas. Disenfranchised and assailed by the essentially Buddhist regime scores of Rohingyas were seen perilously leaving by boats for unknown destinations dying on the seas by many of them. Many others became illegal immigrants in Bangladesh and even pushing themselves even up to Jammu in India. Bangladesh or India are not accepting them as refugees.
Present bout of deadly clashes between Myanmar forces and Rohingya extremists this August has already taken a toll of 400 lives without any sign of conflict de-escalation. The consequent Rohingya exodus, of some 38,000 people this time, has alarmed not only Bangladesh with India worrying from a relatively distant point but the western world too whose invocation of the UN Hunan Rights Council so far yielded a report last February, quoting the victim side, alleging security forces resorted to committing mass killings and rapes of Rohingyas which “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity. UN body appointed last May a fact-finding mission led by Indian human rights lawyer Indira Jaising with Sri Lankan lawyer Radhika Coomaraswamy and Australian consultant Christopher Dominic. Countering, this August last a Myanmar government-appointed commission rejected mass killings and rape allegations involving the Rohingyas in Rakhine (which was earlier known as Arakans province).
The recurrence of violence and retaliation could no longer escape the world attention.  Pope Francis to visit Myanmar November next has already noted “persecution” of the Rohingyas and prayed for their “full rights” being conferred. That is of course a tall order; the call has come from a moral authority though. The Muslim Rohingyas nonetheless desperately wanting to see a ray of hope have welcomed the Vatican’s move to easing of the situation for the largely disowned ethnic community in Myanmar. This has to be viewed in the context of a widespread, longstanding prejudice persisting against this essentially ethnic community desperately trying to hold on their habitats in the Buddhist heartland of Myanmar in spite of the fact that the Rohingyas were recently disenfranchised when democracy was being restored there with installation of Aung San Suu Kyi as the virtual ruler with decades-long army junta taking a back seat.
In reality, the Mynamar government under Suu Kyi made some motions to placate the world opinion by setting up of a commission whose report cut no ice. Her National League of Democracy government, in which she is formally the foreign minister, has found the turf quite tough with Rohingyas turning ‘terrorists” adding  to the masses of more than 100 extremist ethnic groups on the other border lines warring against the central government while China is keeping a more than watch look in Myanmar with India becoming increasingly concerned in Myanmar developments and Bangladesh being hit hard with Muslim exodus from that land giving rise to the uncomfortable communal tangles.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s current visit to Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw has a direct reference to the Rohingya issue. Indian government appears to be the first country which comes to the support of Suu Kyi by publicly castigating the Rohingyas for violence. “India is seriously concerned by reports of renewed violence and attacks by terrorists in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar,” the foreign ministry said and added “We are deeply saddened at the loss of lives among members of the Myanmar security forces. Such attacks deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”Indian government has finally shed its silence on the Rohingyas whose violent ventures are overlooked and victim image is drawing sympathetic chords in the West.
India has already decided to deport some 40,000 Rohingyas found made illegal entry into the country and their concentrations in areas of Jammu and northern parts of the country threaten to upset demographic balance and creation of possible bases for emerging Rohingya terrorism. Little known West Bengal’s Khagrgarh incident may be a pointer in this respect. In this Burdwan district area extremist Jamaitul Mujahiddin Bangladesh along with Rohingya Muslims tried to create a secret arsenal for use of the same for making a greater Muslim landmass on India’s eastern border.  Both India and Myanmar would like to nip in the bud such efforts.

Wednesday, 6 September, 2017