The exodus of Rohingyas since the pre-colonial (1799) and colonial (1942) periods, and more importantly since 1978, causing their infinite pain, pangs and plight in terms of fundamental needs of life, or human rights is a multi dimensional issue – humanitarian, racial, regional and global – in a globalised world. The forceful and inhumane exodus has been created by the fanatic Buddhists and the savage Army of the communal, racist and fascist Myanmar government by displacing, torturing and killing the civilian Rohingyas what the word community has been witnessing for decades.
But the world community has not witnessed such brutal atrocities upon any ethnic groups, sects or races before in world history throughout centuries, even in pre-historical ages perhaps, what mankind is observing from 25 August 2017 to till today in Rakhine State (formerly Arakan State) where the Rohingyas, sons of the soil, are helpless victims. The italicised adjectives are not adequate to label the perpetrators; lexicographers or legislators may not find right words to weigh the crimes against humanity which are being committed in dehumanised Myanmar in current days.
Exodus: The Rohingyas comprising indigenous, trader Arab diasporas and Indo-Bengal immigrant origins have been living in Arakan State for centuries. Historically the plight of the Rohingyas started when the then independent Rohingya/ Arakan State was invaded by the Konbaung Dynasty in 1785; consequently as many as 35,000 natives of Arakan fled to the neighbouring Chittagong region of British Bengal in 1799 to escape forced labour, exile in different parts of Burma, and murder. Notably, in World War II, thousands of pro-British Rohingyas were victimised by the acts of torture, rape, and murder committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, who invaded British-controlled Burma, and the pro-Japanese ethnic Rakhines. During the war time in 1942, some 22,000 Rohingyas fled to Bengal to escape atrocities.
In post-independence Burma, the Rohingya population enjoyed their rights as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma and participation in politics and public jobs. But the Rohingyas have been compellingly deprived of their rights - human, political or constitutional - since Burma’s military junta took control of the country in 1962. The roles of the Rohingya leaders, however, for democracy were very significant; later they supported the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Now, for the controversial 1982 Burmese citizenship act, the 1.1 million Rohingyas have no voting rights, and do not have a single parliament member to speak for them even inside Myanmar. The Rohingyas become the most persecuted race, having lost their all rights - rights for life, property and protection. And the world community witnesses a race’s exodus from the rights of statehood to the rightlessness/ statelessness, without doing very effective measures to stop the genocide upon this indigenous ethnic group, a race indeed.
The military junta led by Ne Win carried out military operations termed as Operation King Dragon against the Rohingyas in 1978; as a result, around 200,000 people fled to Bangladesh. In July 1978, after intensive negotiations mediated by UN, Ne Win’s government agreed to take back the refugees to Arakan, recognising them as legal residents of Burma, and equally in 1992, a joint statement by governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh “acknowledged that the Rohingya were lawful Burmese residents”.
In 2012 Rakhine State riot, more than 140,000 Rohingyas were displaced from their homeland, and took shelter again in Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries. Fanatic Buddhist monks led the riot against the Rohingya Muslims, forgetting Lord Buddha’s enlightened teaching about humanity. In 2015, to escape violence and persecution, thousands of Rohingyas fled from Myanmar, who were termed as ‘boat people’ by international media. Since October 2016, thousands refugees have entered Bangladesh to escape the genocide; some 300,000 are estimated to have been here already.
But all the atrocities in world history are not heavier than those taking place from 25 August 2017 to today. As per UNICEF, on these days so far 400,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh by losing their own homes, relatives, and property; a substantial number of the homeless people are terribly injured. A Bangla Daily writes, five thousand women have been gang-raped, and ten thousand men, women and young children including babies have been killed within less than three weeks. The Home Minister of our country has said 90% women refugees have been raped. 176 Rohingya villages have already become absolutely empty. According to the UN, the number of refugees may exceed 1,000,000 very immediately. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) admits that the victims are slaughtered, burnt and their limbs are cut apart, and organs are dissected inhumanely. Their homes are burnt, and their properties are plundered. The barbaric acts are uneven that cannot be compared with Vietnam, Armenia and even Bosnia massacres. The barbaric country devoid of all human standards creates an unprecedented example of atrocities in the twenty first century - the age of rationality, human dignity, and equality irrespective of creeds, cultures and castes. It is the criminal who is de facto Head of the Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing who should be brought to face the trial in International Court of Justice (ICJ) for committing genocide or holocaust.
In 2015, the Simon-Skjodt Centre of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Yale Law School termed the mass atrocities in Rakhine State as genocide under international law. UNHCR has used the term ethnic cleansing to describe the exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar. Now the world community considers it to be genocide conforming to its all features.
Genesis of 2016–17 Insurgencies: Exoduses are often juxtaposed with the genesis of insurgencies. The oppressed have the right to save them and the right of self-determination. The can organize their nationalist movement what is often called violence by the oppressor. The movement may even be turned into militancy, and may connect itself to international terrorist groups. No way, can terrorism, however, be justified.
As Myanmar media published the violent incidents that on 9 October 2016, unidentified individuals who the Myanmar government claimed were insurgents attacked three Burmese border posts along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh in Maungdaw, resulting in the deaths of nine border officers. On 11 October 2016, four soldiers were killed on the third day of fighting. On 17 October 2016, a group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility. In the following days, six other groups released statements, all citing the same leader. The Myanmar Army announced on 15 November 2016 that 69 Rohingya insurgents and 17 security forces (10 policemen, 7 soldiers) had been killed in the clashes in northern Rakhine State, bringing the death toll to 134 (102 insurgents and 32 security forces). The last one was on 25 August 2017- the ARSA attacked government buildings including police posts, and killed 12 security forces. We observe following all the attacks, the Army and Buddhists start crackdowns on civilians on the pretext of eliminating insurgents, which results in human rights violations like killings, rapes, arsons, and other atrocities, or in genocide as a whole. Myanmar Government sources also claim the attackers use knives, machetes and homemade slingshots that fire metal bolts.
Without denying all the claims, it can be said state violence leads to insurgency; suppression may beget terrorism. It is hence imperative to stop Rohingya exodus and to stop Rohingya genocide now for stopping Rohingya rebellion which may engulf the regional peace. To quote a former ASEAN Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan, in the Bangkok Post: “The regional grouping needs to act urgently to prevent the Rakhine crisis from spiralling into regional tensions.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has termed the Rohingya situation a “humanitarian catastrophe with implications for peace and security that could continue to expand beyond Myanmar’s borders”.
The writer is Associate Professor and Head, Department of English, Northern University Bangladesh. Email: email@example.com