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Burmese Crisis: Rohingya Chapter

by Fareed Ali

posted in News and Society

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Burma is the poorest country in South Asia in the neighborhood of China, Bangladesh and India. This country is like an ethnic salad bowl with less tolerance for the minorities. After the coup in 1892, a military government ruled the country for three decades. This went on until the civil unrest of 2012-13, which gave a way to reforms and negotiations. Despite this the transitional government has always shown zero tolerance even antipathy towards some minorities. And most afflicted among them is the Rohingya faction, dwelling mainly in the state of Rakhine.
The worst and recent unrest started two years ago, when extremist monks took to the streets, and started violence against the Rohingya people. The background incident is the rape of a Budhist woman which is being charged with the Rohingya Muslims. The monks have been constantly preaching that these people are a threat to the nation and there is a dire need of "ethnic cleansing." This cleansing movement is often called,"969 Movement" and is fully backed by the military. These persecuted people are drawn out of their houses and are forced to live in refugee camps. Almost, equally have fled their country to unknown fate.
There are 135 ethnicities in Burma, out of which Rohingya people make 5 to 7 % of the total population of 60 Million. This year the country marked a census, but Rohingyas were denied citizenship to the state. The state says that they are "Bangalis" who have illegally settled in their lands, and only those Rohingya will be granted citizenship that could produce a proof of their ancestors settling in Burma before 1948. On the other side, the Bangladesh government does not claim them either and has been lending them a cold shoulder in the matter of refuge. In the recent years thousands of such people are again pushed towards border, back in danger, by Bangladesh.
The religious polarization in Burma started with the advent of "969 Movement" by Budhist monk Wirathu. This movement originally came into existence as a protest against the Taliban's destruction of Buddhas in Bamian, Afghanistan. Opposed to the teachings of Budha, these monks incited the people and provoked violence. Their protest took a dramatic turn and it became a movement to clean Burma of Muslims. Two years ago a spark after the rape of a Buddhist woman was fueled by these monks and Muslims were burned alive, murdered, beaten or pushed out of their residents. All these forced the afflicted people to leave their ancestral lands and find refuge in the neighboring countries. But the neighbors lent a cold shoulder to them either.
Rohnigya are termed as, "Most persecuted Minority" by Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General, UN, and World community, from time to time raises voice against this ethnic crimes. But the silence of Aung San Suu Kyi, Muslim world and human right activists on this matter is a heinous crime. And if UN and World communities have to grant justice to Rohingyas, it has to be now. As "Justice delayed is Justice denied."
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