Bengalization of ethnic Rohingya Muslims
Myanmar’s authoritative illegality continues in ‘legal procedures’ surpassing all UN
standards regarding citizens’ rights. United Nations said all Burmese should be allowed
an option to self-identify their ethnicity. But most recently, the country declares it won’t
count Rohingya as Muslims rather as Bengalis to be registered first ever in the President’s
Census since 1983. Burmese border forces (NaSaKa) and soldiers (Lone Htain),
immigration officials and Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) perform
as main actors for controversial registration process, checking personal details from
house-to-house. NaSaKa for several years is trying to continue a process of begalizing
its repressed citizens, Rohingyas. A four-page survey form represents name details,
age, village, occupation, education, marital status, race and possessed documents in the
first page. The second page constitutes ancestral details, grandparents, and immigration
information. And then, criminal convictions or proceedings. The final page holds just
signature and fingerprint.
1982 citizenship law, enacted by former dictator Gen Ne Win include 135 official ethnic
groups excluding the Rohingya. The law imposes upon restrictions on travel, marriage,
reproduction as well.
Dictatorial and semi-military authority wearing so-called democratic uniform alleges
its citizens, ethnic Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants intruding from neighboring
Bangladesh. Primarily Myanmar pursues two calculated goals. Firstly Bengalizing this
ethnic entity, the country would certainly gain more upper handing stands to push back
Rohingyas to Bangladesh, may be several steps and years later. On the other hand, the
country may pursue to appease growing Buddhists fundamentalism in Rakhaine state
in a sense that Myanmar has been able to segregate them identifying as ‘Bangladeshi
immigrants’ banishing their Rohingya status.
But the sequel of current affairs stages different way. Rakhine state’s Buddhist
organizations boycotted the census suspecting in the ground that the recognition can
possibly persuades Rohingyas for legal movements to establish their citizens’ rights.
Seemingly, possible Rohingya movement can’t be able to grow now in the authoritarian
state which sponsors inactiveness to control ethno-riots against Rohingya minorities.
Even ethnic Rohingyas also refused the census in a fear that their Bengali identity may
deport them to the Bengali lived Bangladesh abolishing their Rohingya identity. Another
reason, they haven’t any option rather to practice Bengali language because their long-
practiced-Rohingylish language does not exist anymore at the time when they register in
the census. Through the census process, the ethnicity will certainly loose control over its
culture and identity.
United Nations (UN) views Rohingya, nearly 60 million (about 5% of the country), as
the world most persecuted minorities in Myanmar, a country of half-century of military
rule having self-imposed isolation. It is continuously experiencing torture, negligence,
and repression since the country’s independence in 1948. The country blatantly fails
to promote its security mechanism towards Human Rights Workers. At present, they
started escaping working offices as Buddhists mob attacks escalated in Rakhine region.
Rohingyas pass their horrible days in apartheid-like condition in crowded camps
with no access to jobs, education or medical care. In May, 2013 a brutal riot erupted
scoring hundreds of deaths and countless casualties while the country was celebrating
transitions to democracy. About 73, 000 Rohingya has now decreased in 5,000 people
confining into camps escorted by the forces. The UN estimates approximately 140,000
Rohingya displaced aftermath of 2013’s riot outbreaks. Majority of Rohingya people
for generations, are denied citizenship under 1982 law attributing them stateless.
UNHCR counts more than 25,000 Rohingyas live in two official camps in Cox’s Bazaar,
From linguistic perspective, ethnic Rohingya is completely a distinct identity. They
neither Bangladeshis (Bengalis) nor any of Indian nations or tribes settled in the state.
For example, Rohingya write their Rohingyalish scripts and speak distinct accents and
phonology, never ever, even tiny-closed to any of Bengali or Bangladeshi dialects.
If agreeing for the debate only, the Rohingyalish is little closer to the Chittagonian
Language which is NOT a Bengali Dialect. Because Chittagonian Language is a member
of the Bengali-Assamease sub-branch of the Eastern group of Indo-Aryan Language,
a branch of Indo-European language family, spoken in the original inhabitants of the
Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Originating from the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the greater Indo-European language
family, Rohingyalish assumes as the modern written language of the ethnicity. Rohingya
linguistic specialists have successfully selected various scripts including Arabic, Hanifi,
Urdu, Roman, and Burmese. Hanifi is newly developed alphabets derived from Arabic
and two characteristics from Latin and Burmese. Latin letters Ç (for retroflex R) and Ñ
(for nasal sound) are widely used to properly represent Rohingya phonology. It represents
five accented vowels (áéíóú). Significantly this distinct language has been acknowledged
by ISO with ISO 639-3 “rhg” code.
In 1650, Shah Alwal, the great poet of then Arakan Kingdom wrote Rohingya Language
for the first time ever in Arabic script. Later in 1973, Master Sultan revived increasing
its acceptability where Rohingya scholars appreciated him to a great extent. The most
exclusive linguistic change happened in 2000 when Eng. Mohammed Siddique Basu
brainstormed and applied an intuitive idea to write Rohingya language in 28 Latin letters
only creating a new system called Rohingyalish, recognized by ISO. A certain number
of Rohingyas, being illegally intruded into Bangladesh from Myanmar are constantly
crossing into West Bengal, Indian Bengali speaking state. But, this illegal migrants
neither speak nor understand Hindi, Bengali or English. On the other hand, Rohingyas
also can’t speak Urdu or any other Indian Languages. Myanmar authority classified
as ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh and Bangladesh identifies them as undocumented
The history shows that the direct descendants of Arab settlers started residing over
(Arakan) Rakhine state during 8th century. After 24 years of exile in Bengal, King
Narameikhla (1430–1434) of the Kingdom of Mrauk U regained his lost throne in 1430
where Sultanate of Bengal collaborated him providing military assistance. Then, a
little number of Bengali settlers under his endorsement started settling there. Even after
acquiring independence, the Arakanese Buddhist kings continued Sultanate title. The
kings employed Muslims descendants in prestigious position.
From religious perspective, ethnic Rohingya practice Sunni Islam combined with Sufi
ideology. Majority of elderly Rohingyas have beards while women wear Hijab. Basically
Madrasahs, religious school are appeared in almost every village in Rohingya areas. On
the other hand, the Bengali Muslims practice moderate Islam wearing Bengali costumes.
It can be a boomerang for the Myanmar while abolishing an ethnicity. Because history
proves no nation and identity can be abolished like Hutu-Tutsi, Palestinians-Israelis or
Bengalis-Pakistanis. Growing complex situation regarding Rohingyas will welcome
different outsider actors to intervene in the region. Moreover, the deprived Rohingyas can
choose the way of terrorism and separatism if the persecuting situation continues or this
century’s modern world has to hear unfortunately the scream of the repressed Rohingyas,
pushed at the edge of persecution!