While prosecution of Rohingyas by the Burmese State and Army has evoked worldwide condemnation, the Indian Govt. has issued instructions to identify and deport Rohingyas who have come to India. Nearly 40,000 Rohingyas are in India, about 16,000 of them are documented. This inhuman and insensitive stand of the Indian Govt. has been criticized by the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
Rohingyas are facing a genocide in Myanmar (Burma) where they live in the south west state of Rakhine (along the sea coast and bordering Bangladesh to the west) constituting an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in the northern part of the state and a majority of the people in the state if those who are forced to flee are taken into account. Myanmar Army and Buddhist gangs patronized by the Army are killing people, raping women and burning whole villages. Myanmar Army is even shooting dead the people who are crossing the border with Bangladesh and has mined the border crossings. The unprecedented scale of violence against Rohingyas has forced nearly one million of them out of Myanmar, nearly 370,000 since August 25, 2017 when the current round of violence against them was unleashed by the Army. The scale of military action against Rohingyas clearly proves that this is aimed at ethnic cleansing. Myanmar Army is not only carrying out massacres, it is blocking all aid to the suffering Rohingyas including from the UN, it is blocking all investigations into its gross human rights abuses, not permitting even journalists into the region.
This genocide aimed at ethnic cleansing is being enacted under the Govt. whose de facto leader is Aung San Suu Kyi, who has since long been a darling of the western powers and who was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the military junta ruling Myanmar since 1962. In 2012, Suu Kyi reached a power sharing arrangement with same military junta, abandoning her struggle and in turn being rewarded with an opportunity to rule the country in an arrangement where military still wields considerable power. She is now supervising over one of the most heinous massacres perpetrated against a helpless people. She is decrying all stories of killings, rapes and burning of villages as “fake news”, “fake rapes” and “burning of their villages by Rohingyas themselves”. Wielding power she has revealed herself as a mongerer of hatred and ethnic cleansing. And she is doing it through the very Army whom she used to describe as anti-people and for struggling against which she was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in 1991. She obviously suffers no pricking of conscience. She is not thinking of returning the Nobel Prize which she must. Enjoyment has made her immune to shame on her role opposite to what she had said about human rights when she had accepted the Nobel Prize.
Rohingya have been suffering since decades under the rule of the Army. In 1962, the Constitution promulgated by the Army deprived them of their citizenship, excluding them from the list of ethnic groups which were entitled to citizenship. Before this, Rohingya were treated as citizens of Burma (Myanmar) and many had also been part of the power structure in that country. Rohingyas have been traditional inhabitants of the area though Myanmar ruling classes claim that they came there from the then Bengal along with British colonial rulers. Hence, the provision of proving residence in the area since 1823 as British had occupied the then Burma in 1826 after defeating the King of Burma. Though some may have migrated to the region in later times, there are enough records of Rohingya living in the region in 15th Century and by some accounts as early as 8th Century. This propaganda is obviously targeted at proving Rohingyas to be outsiders. Rohingya have suffered several massacres, beginning in 1977-78 and then in 1991-’92, in 2012, in 2015 and in the current phase since 2016.
This drive to portray Rohingya as “outsiders”, even the term Rohingya is not permitted in Myanmar, is aimed at ethnic cleansing. Their motto is killing as many as possible and driving the rest out of Myanmar. Their attempt is to block the return of Rohingya to their homes in Rakhine state.
Myanmar Govt. including Aung San Suu Kyi are parading the lies that Army action is against ‘terrorists’ and portraying their genocidal violence as part of their struggle against terrorism. There is propaganda of their links with Al Qaeda and even ISIS. They cite the attacks by Arakan (old name of Rakhine region) Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as justification of their actions. But they do not bother to explain why attacks against Rohingya have been going on since decades, much much prior to any evidence of the existence of ARSA. This is in fact keeping the cart before the horse.
In the attack against Rohingya, besides Burmese Army and militant Burmese nationalists including Ang San Suu Kyi, Buddhist clergy is also playing an important role. In the recent years, a part of the clergy have build a movement (MaBATha) called the Association for protection of Race and Religion. Burmese Army since it directly took over power has been targeting minority nationalities during decades of its rule. Their targeting Rohingya is to manufacture an enemy so as to keep their control over Myanmar.
Imperialist powers paticularly US and UK had supported Ang San Suu Kyi to increase their influence in Myanmar and to counter Chinese and Russian influence there. Betraying the revolutionary movement in the then Burma, Chinese revisionists had built close relations with ruling military junta. Even the growing clamour against Islamic fundamentalism and foisting it upon hapless Rohingya also fits in the larger western imperialist policy framework. But western imperialist powers are also looking to counter Chinese influence in the region. Hence the new clamour for Suu Kyi being silent specatator to this genocide of Rohingya is aimed at pressurizing herr while the fact is that she is the de fact leader of the Govt. executing this genocide.
Rise of militant Buddism in Myanmar is no isolated phenomenon. Imperialists and reactionaries the world over are propping up such organizations to pre-empt and counter the struggle of the people against deepening economic, social and political crisis. Strengthening of white supremacists in US, anti-immigrant racist groups in a number of European countries and of RSS in India are all part of this international trend of which growth of militant Buddhist forces in Myanmar are a part.
RSS-BJP Govt. has not only closed its doors to the victims of this humanitarian crisis, it has been propagating lies against Rohingyas. Hindutva gangs, intelligence agencies and sections of electronic media have been portraying Rohingyas as active agents of terrorist groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda. Such a propaganda has started only after Modi Govt. came to power in 2014 though Rohingya refugees have been in India from an earlier period. They are also engineering violence against Rohingyas as was recently seen in an attack on them in Faridabad before Eid-ul-Azha and disturbances were also attempted in Jammu where too some Rohingyas are staying.
RSS-BJP Govt. is planning to send Rohingyas back, going back on commitments under international law and even Indian Constitution. They are displaying utmost callousness towards this grave situation. Both Rajnath Singh and Kiren Rijiju have alluded to security considerations in dealing with Rohingyas. Their main campaign plank against Rohingyas is that they are Muslims and hence in their eyes, terrorists or at least potential terrorists. RSS-BJP has planned a law to give refuge to victims of religious persecution which excludes Muslims.
Equally sinister is the design of RSS in forging closer links with extremist Buddhist organizations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. International New York Times (October 16, 2014) in its editorial “Deadly Alliances against Muslims” had commented on such links in the emerging strategic scenario where both Hindu and Buddhist organizations are targeting Muslims in the region. In that there was a report of attempts at developing close links between RSS and Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Buddhist extremist group of Myanmar led by Ashin Wirathu, who was dubbed as “the face of Buddhist terror”. He was a guest of honour at the Convention organized by BBS.
Our neighbour, Bangladesh, is facing a large number of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar. Bangladesh Govt. is also appalled at the stance of the Indian Govt. on the issue of Rohingyas. Bangladesh Govt. must realize that the Hindu communal forces dominating the Govt. in India are no ally in the struggle against communalism and for rights of the minorities.
Progressive, democratic and secular forces must rise to the occasion to demand that Rohingyas who have fled in face of genocide by Myanmar Army should be provided refugee status and should be dealt with humanely. They must oppose the venom of communalism being injected into this issue by RSS-BJP.