By Rakibul Hasan
Today we argue here some of the issues, which are long-settled couple of centuries back—so not supposed to even raise in modern-day, but we do as feel needed, though unfortunately. Starting with racial manipulation of identity tags (we been delicately tagged-by), which so far diffused in every nook and corner in Myanmar dehumanizing you, me and him, or collectively as ‘us or them’. I, we and you are tagged like Bengali, Mongoloid, Aryan, Black or so many other nationalities and religions (unnecessary to name). Looking at myself, thinking –how these tags keep us away to feel fellow humans and common humane cause. Why we still have to remember the immoral phrase—all men are created equal and they are endowed with certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Recently in May 14, 2015, BBC World News facebook page asked ‘Why has the Rohingya crisis blown up now?’ since the post received popularity in terms of comments and shares in social media, at least some issues, arisen there crucially needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
Looking into some comments here like—“rohingyas are bengali and any bengali muslim should only live in bangladesh ! cause you wont let hindus live in your muslim land so why would any one will let you selfish being live there land !!”. “…Bangladeshis are parasites I can vehemently say again yes they are really so…”, “Myanmar accepted all Muslims that were almost murdered , around 1850 in China. But now, we come to know why China wanted to kill them!”—a delusive justification to dehumanize Rohingya was commented there many with authentic facebook accounts, instead of pseudo names. Not a single comment ‘BBC World News facebook’ verified page replied or deleted there in the comment boxes, which dangerously inspire to continue commenting hate remarks and stay legal in long run and negatively change the thought process of audience who visited these pages. How BBC is responsible?
Today identity tags blinded us to see miseries, wakened us to strengthen dehumanization, deafened us to hear the cries, and dumbed us to voice persecution to Rohingyas.
The time I am debating some identity politics—not directly benefiting thousands of stranded Rohingyas in the seas, who are in critical need of foods, medicine or shelters, including other basic rights, but these issues can be answered in an effort to tackle same scenario in future—if not now, when? If not you, who?
Quarters who try to label Rohingyas as Bengali-Muslims and match their lingual proximity and physical commonness to the Bengali-Muslim identity of Bangladesh and thereby argument repatriation only to Bangladesh (NOT to Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and slightly in Assam etc), I would say they only like to have mangoes, not to plant the trees for. Yes they are—either incapable to dive into the basin of history (hopefully not) or intentionally skip the realities which weaken their points (likely to be).
One reality reads overwhelming majority living in Bangladesh consist of Bengali Muslims, while India’s Bengali provinces are predominantly being Hindu-dwellings. Guess why these stereotypes emerged or religious polarization clawed in one-Bengal-region of hundreds years? It is British politics. Second, do people actually live by religions or ethno-cultures? It is obviously culture. So what was the evil causes then? To sense, among others, it was Colonialization and its sonly by-product—communal ‘Two-Nation Theory’ which sliced Bengal in Bangladesh and India (also Punjab and Kashmir in India and Pakistan), during 1947, which created two independent states—India and Pakistan. Before the date, pluralist Bengal faced no remarkable cleansing riots classifying Bengali ethnicity to live by the religions and so the then-Bangladesh had not an absolute religious homogeneity as today—approx. 30% Hindus during 1940s in erstwhile Eastern Bengal (British India, today Bangladesh) and on the other hand, even presently more than 35% Bengali Muslims still live in West Bengal and Assam etc; they live there for generations, amidst facing scores of communal riots since 1940s. Therefore, Bengali Hindus and Muslims reside together over their one-Bengal-motherland for thousands of years. Here the question—how Myanmar government argues Rohingyas influxed from places which only belong to today’s Bangladesh? Actually they are sailing under false color, intentionally identifying Rohingyas as Bangladeshis, instead of Hindustanis.
Flashing back to the archives, Burma conquered ‘Arakan Kingdom’ in 1784. Later in 1826 it lost the kingdom to Britain in ‘First Anglo-Burmese War’ and was annexed to British India. Since then coastal Arakan (Rakhine) became an integral part of British India’s strategy and trade and finally it was again annexed to British Burma in 1937—just 10 years before Burmese independence in 1948. Otherwise it could be India today by colonial entitlement, or even Bangladesh by geographical proximity. Rakhine state remained as British India for a period of 111 years, which legally entitled all ethnic and linguistic groups to move freely or settle inside British India—be it Rakhine or anywhere else. And through the century British authority encouraged thousands of Indian farmers to cultivate in Arakan/Rakhine, including an unestimated number of British Indians migrated there from former part of Arakan Kingdom—Chittagong (today is Bangladesh) and these migrants, who settled in Myanmar were called as Indian Origin People (IOPs) in history. This is how it defines migration and posterior settlement of IOPs—distinct ethno geographic groups (here religious identity not an issue) migrated to Myanmar for mostly economic preferences.
Mixing Rohingya as IOPs seems like barking up the wrong tree. Rohingya is an ancient ethnicity to Rakhine state. That time they belonged to Arakan of Burma, today Rakhine of Myanmar. Just for a support to people who see Rohingyas originating from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—simply could say ‘All India’. Maybe pre-generations of Rohingyas originated from All India, but they settled in Rakhine state for more than 1000 years ago. So how it makes them Bangladeshi now, since then wasn’t any Bangladesh? Can Australians be told as ‘British or Irish’ today for their resettlement from Britain or Ireland? See all our forefathers migrated from Africa some million years back. Doesn’t it mean African governments should start taking all of us back now? If Myanmar is so diehard to repatriate so-called illegal Rohingyas to Bangladesh, why do not find the Rohingya ancestors—primitive settlers who ‘infiltrated’ first to Burma. Please exhume their remnants from graveyard and send them to be reburied in Bangladesh; legal issues, if you can prove it anyway. You Myanmar have made your own people stateless, who were born in Myanmar, speak Burmese, attend schools in Myanmar, work professions in Myanmar, lifely stay in Myanmar and Buddhist terrorists again kill them in Myanmar and are finally buried in Myanmar, but how strangely Myanmar authority is asking Bangladesh to take back Rohingyas, who have never been in Bangladesh. Isn’t it insane?
Historical facts prove ethnic Rohingyas lived in Arakan even before Burma conquered the Arakan kingdom, annexed it and surprisingly claimed to exterminate aboriginal Rohingyas to resettle majority Burmese ethnicities in evacuated lands. Like Europe’s Christopher Columbus sailed, discovered and claimed America to be royal land, later outnumbered majority of Native Americans (Red Indians) to settle illegal Europeans in Americas. Besides, once upon a time Israelis were expelled from their homeland in the Middle East and today it started regaining through illegal occupations of Palestinian territories. But here is no legacies of justification what colonial Columbus bizarrely looted other’s land/resources and today communal Myanmar repeating ‘invader Columbus’ in outnumbering/marginalizing native Rohingyas from their ethnic land. However, Israel has at least a ‘poor legacy’ to reclaim its lost territory, though disputed, but how Myanmar proves itself to displace an ethnic group what Myanmar conquered their territory—Arakan Kingdom and today expelling them—Natives Rohingyas.
However, hopes still remain—martial laws rarely gain popular support and the military sustains in investing in religious divisions and communal hatreds which incite Rakhine monks against Rohingya Muslims. But general citizens do not support it and suffer some degrees of deprivation from freedom of expressions and citizens’ rights. This way the Rohingyas and masses of Myanmar can find them in common ground for common support for Aung San Shu Gyi.
When communal Buddhist rioted people, mostly Rohingyas in Myanmar, international community and neighboring states—Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia responded nothing enough to stop brutality and now they are humanely compelled of taking risk to camp Rohingya refugees inside their territory (wouldn’t emerge as crises at all, if powerful neighbors could force Myanmar to settle the disputes inside Myanmar).
Each and everybody of us should go through the true narratives in history, which will make us wise enough before commenting out of blow. We should also remember that lies can never veil the truth, never happened nowhere in past and shall never happen in future for sure (a moral resort to be hopeful)
Since we trust in international community and are last-resorted to United nations, we do not expect to see International community acting in a way, which helps people comment like “Because UN did nothing to stop the killings.. just because the Rohingyas are Muslims. What if they were Christians, the UN would go all out just tlike they did for Timor Leste”.
Moreover, “The mainstream media don’t make wide coverage on this issue because this isn’t involving big nations”. Or “If burmese muslim defends then the western crusaders call them terrorists…”.
See USA and Europe where emigrants constitute a larger number of people and are still on rise—these migrants are proudly contributing to American and European economy today. Rohingyas also can be proud Burmese as well, like Indian Muslims and Patriotic Hindus in Bangladesh. Give them a chance, respects of life and equality of citizenship as they deserve simply as humans and Myanmar, which will give them chances to prove their loyalty and efficiency to Myanmar. See the kid, who was born today in a Rohingya family in Myanmar and automatically fated to get a cursed life in camp, instead of enjoying all rights as normal. The kid could bear in Rakhine family too.
‘Crisis Blown and Chris Brown’. Do you find any difference in the inverted phrase? Look back again and agree a total difference. Yes we should never label ALL people as Islamist terrorists, Christian crusaders, orthodox Jews, chauvinist Hindus, riotous Buddhist monks. These are identity tags, which unfortunately dehumanize people and reprise collective punishment to mostly innocent commoners, than few perpetrators. We should remember each and every issue demands individual judgment and according treatment.