Millennium Post

Rohingya problem

Nobel peace prize winner and Myanmar's most prominent political figure, Aung San Suu Kyi has denied allegations of gross human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims committed by the country's military. She has rejected the United Nation's human rights council's decision to look into allegations of atrocities perpetrated against members of the Rohingya Muslim community. In March, the UN body had decided to send a fact-finding team to investigate the claims levelled against the country's Army. A report by the UN's Human Rights Office said that the "area clearance operations" launched in the country's northern Rakhine province in October 2016 "has likely resulted in several hundred deaths", with Rohingya refugees reporting violations amounting to crimes against humanity, based on interviews with civilians, the report documented abuse committed by both the Myanmar army and civilians. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in a Buddhist majority country, and since October 2016, over 80,000 have fled the country. A large segment escaped to Bangladesh, but many were unfortunately turned back by border guards. Thousands also made their way by boats to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, which provided them with temporary shelter before pushing them out in the open seas once more. Others managed to reach Indian shores illegally, some even attempting to enter by the land route. The largest concentration of Rohingyas (some 6000 people or so) has been accommodated in poorly run makeshift camps in Jammu.

They have expressed their gratitude to India, although they do not receive much assistance or attention. Some earn by working as daily wage labour in nearby areas. Reports, however, indicate that the Indian government is planning to identify, track and, if possible, deport Rohingya Muslims living illegally in Jammu and Kashmir. "If deportation is not possible, we should at least know where they are so that their activities can be checked. Given their vulnerability to radicalisation, they are being considered a potential security threat," said a senior official to an Indian daily. The government is under pressure from BJP leaders in the state to send them away. "India, a traditional home for Myanmar's pro-democracy activists, has been reluctant to either speak out about the violence against the Rohingyas or accommodate them in significant numbers. Beijing's closeness to Myanmar clearly worries New Delhi. Its reluctance also comes from the fact that Myanmar's assistance is seen as significant in dealing with the insurgency in the Northeast," writes Happymon Jacob, a Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Despite such compulsions, it is in India strategic interest to ensure their peaceful rehabilitation. There are reports of increasing radicalisation among sections of the Rohingya community, which could pose serious security threats for India.

Since 1982, the 1.3 million-strong Rohingya community has been declared stateless by Myanmar Government, as per the 1982 Citizenship Law, which was promulgated by the former military junta. The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar rank among the most persecuted communities in the world. "In Myanmar, most Rohingyas have been stripped of citizenship, and face gross human rights violations including restriction of freedom of movement, marriage restriction, exclusion from education and health care, enforced birth control, arbitrary taxation, and forced labour," as per a report in The Conversation. In the past decade, the United Nations has often accused the Myanmar military establishment of seeking to cleanse the country of its Muslim ethnic minority. The Rohingya Muslims primarily occupy the Rakhine territory close to the Bangladesh border in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Their historical claim to the land comes from the fifteenth century when a large number of Muslims voyaged and settled in the Arakan Empire of Burma. During colonial rule, much more had made the journey from the then Bengal Province to the Rakhine province in Myanmar. The Buddhist majority view them as Bengali immigrants with no claim to Myanmar. The treatment met out to the Rohingya Muslims by the Burmese state has often been compared to the apartheid regime of South Africa. The systematic and persistent injustice against a particular ethnic group by another is the common thread that ties the two.

Under the new NLD government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, there has been a tremendous effort towards building a nation which reflects democratic values. But her administration's inability to stop or even contain the violence against the Rohingyas remains a black mark. The government had done little to stop their systematic exclusion from the political process. In fact, during the historic 2015 election campaign, there were allegations that she did not visit the Rohingyas, fearing the wrath it might invite of the majority Buddhist community, some of whose leaders are vociferously anti-Rohingya. Suu Kyi also does not possess the requisite political muscle to change attitudes in her country. Despite Myanmar's historic embrace of 'democracy' in 2015, the military continues to exert significant influence over the civilian governmen. The country's constitution also reserves one-fourth of the seats in Parliament for the military. Despite these circumstances, Suu Kyi's response to the growing humanitarian crisis has been disappointing.
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