The Rohingyas: A Crisis which continues

1 month ago Saloni Hindocha 0

Every year thousands of refugees migrate to Bangladesh. The most prominent ones are the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority who has resided in Myanmar’s northern state Rakhine over several generations. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingyas has been a driving issue for a very long time. The state military has launched a vicious attack on this ethnic group to drive them out of Myanmar. The UN reports that these attacks have led to around 400,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled their homes in Rakhine. The reports also claim that the military has been killing and raping the Rohingya and setting their villages on fire in order to forcefully remove them from Myanmar territories. To support these claims, satellite imagery has shown burning villages in the Rakhine State which is the primary residence of this ethnic group.

A Rohingya refugee woman carry a child - The Rohingyas Crisis
A Rohingya refugee woman carries a child – The Rohingyas Crisis

The Myanmar military has been accused of committing inhuman acts of torture and killings against the Rohingyas. Myanmar has refused access to the human rights investigators to probe into the matter, the situation cannot be gauged fully but the situation gives distinct hints towards a classic example of ethnic cleansing. Ethnic Cleansing as defined by the United Nations refers to a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic group to remove the members of another ethnic group from a particular geographic area, by using violent and horror-inspiring methods. Myanmar is a textbook example of ethnic cleansing because Myanmar being a primarily Buddhist country is launching assaults on a Muslim minority group. These violent acts have induced thousands of Rohingyas to flee their homes. While some migrated to Malaysia and Thailand, a major part migrated to Bangladesh.

Rohingyas walk on the muddy path
Rohingyas walk on the muddy path

The discrimination against the Rohingyas has a history which is more than 70 years old. The tensions between the Rohingyas and Myanmar (earlier known as Burma) Buddhist population can be traced back to the Second World War. During the war, the Rohingyas sided with the British who at that time where ruling over Burma while the Buddhist population supported the Japanese hoping that they could help in ending the British rule in Burma after the war. This sparked a conflict between the Rohingyas and the Myanmar Buddhist population.  The modern-day wave of violence can be linked back to the 1962 military takeover of the Burmese Government in a coup. In 1962, the military took over the Burmese Government and destroyed the country’s existing constitution. They created a military regime which was powered by unfazed nationalism based on the country’s Buddhist identity. They needed a common enemy to unite the nation upon and Rohingyas proved to be an easy target. Even in the modern times, they have been continued to be singled out as a threat.

The lineage of the Rohingyas can be traced back as far as to the 5th century even then the Government has been forcing the Rohingyas out claiming that they are ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh. The tactics to forcefully remove the Rohingyas began in 1978 when a massive repression called the ‘Operation Dragon King’ was initiated which forced more than 200,000 Rohingyas to flee their homes. The military used several tactics like violence and rape to drive them out. However, 172,000 Rohingyas came back to Burma. In order to make their alleged illegality more prominent, the Myanmar Government passed the Citizenship Act in 1982. In this Act, the government granted citizenship to 135 other ethnic minority groups. The Rohingyas, which have a population of about 1 million, was not recognized in this list. Thus the Rohingyas became a group of stateless people.

Rohingyas Refugee Camp

In 1991, the military launched another campaign which was known as ‘Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation’. This led to a migration of 250,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. The violence against the ethnic group continued all throughout the 2000s. In 2012, four Rohingya men were accused of raping and killing a Buddhist woman in Rakhine. This led to the rise of large-scale violence as the military started attacking Rohingya neighborhoods and burning houses, leaving tens and thousands of them homeless. Human Rights Watch termed the 2012 violence as an ethnic cleansing campaign. To retaliate against the constant attacks from the Myanmar military, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya militant group was formed in 2016. This group coordinated small-scale attacks on border police stations.

One such attack which took place on August 25th,2017 killed 12 police officers. This attack triggered the current crisis against the Rohingyas. The state military hit back with a sense of revenge and led to around 400 deaths and a mass exodus of more than half a million Rohingyas to Bangladesh. Since the August attack, 210 villages have been burnt to the ground. The massive retaliation campaign undertaken by the military has set off the fastest growing humanitarian crisis that the world had witnessed in the recent years. It was shocking to see that Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Ky has barely acknowledged this humane crisis. Her statement included that more than 50% of the villages of the Muslims are intact as they were initially. But this also implies that some villages have been burnt. This, in fact, is proof of the various acts against humanity which have been committed by the Myanmar military to remove the Rohingyas.

Support For the Rohingyas

Recent reports claim that the Myanmar military has taken up planting landmines along the Bangladesh borders in order to prevent the community from returning back to Rakhine. The Myanmar government has taken brutal steps to force the Rohingyas out of Myanmar and now they continue to do in order to prevent them from ever coming back. Even in Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are not able to live in peace. In 2014, a law was passed which forbids them from marrying Bangladeshi nationals after the Bangladesh government declared that this was being abused by them to gain Bangladeshi citizenship.

A recent report claims that there has been an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar where they have agreed to repatriate the Rohingya population who has been fleeing to Bangladesh to save themselves from the violence of the Myanmar military. Bangladesh aims to return all the Rohingyas to Myanmar within the timeframe of two years.  Myanmar has decided to accept 1500 Rohingyas each week. The main concern here is that there is no guarantee that Myanmar won’t repeat its actions towards the Rohingyas.

The Rohingyas Camp

In 2014, a New York Times columnist visited Myanmar and walked through the Rohingya refugee camps. He made a video of his video of his visits and named it “21st Century Concentration camps” which was uploaded by The Times. The refugees who live there, survive in very poor conditions which do not allow them the basic necessities of life. They do not have access to proper healthcare, shelter, clothes or decent food to eat. These people have pretty horrendous stories to tell regarding their survival. They have no freedom of movement. The Rohingyas are a minority which has been terrorized, discriminated, persecuted and rendered stateless. Truly, the activities in Myanmar have put the whole world into shock after seeing the plight of the Rohingya population.