Thursday, March 22, 2012

77 - I have Never Heard of the Name “Rohingya”

I have Never Heard of the Name “Rohingya”

Abid Bahar Ph. D.
Well, the above can’t be my statement. Those of you, who know me,  know, I have been working with the Rohingya people and Burma for the past 31 years. But surprisingly Burmese people who lived with Rohingyas are the ones who clam that they have never heard of the name “Rohingya.” It is as if saying I have never met my brother, or I have never seen my neighbour; sounds strange to me but not funny. Such assertion about an ethnic group aimed at intentionally ignoring them is called xenophobia, fear of the stranger. When Rohingyas as Burmese are made into strangers by the Rakhine gentlemen like Aye Kyaw and Aye Chan and the monk Ashin Nayaka in their statements and in their writings, it is more than xenophobia but is called racism. A matter of extreme intolerance: an idea that also goes against even Buddhism.
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1. Burma is a huge country with more than 130 ethnic groups. Rohingyas are not included within them by the military government and their collaborators because the xenophob’s assertion that they entered Burma after 1824 when the British occupied Arakan.
2.  How is this possible, the recently arrived Rohingya refugees show some of them are not as old as 5 years to enter Burma in 1824. Strange logic indeed, against some people’s birth rights. Well, the real story is Rohingyas as the Arakani Muslims are racially and religiously different from the racially Asian and religiously Buddhist Burmese majority population. The Karen Christians have similar problems in Burma because of their religious differences..
3. The fact is Arakan had an Indian kingdom first Hindu, later on Mohayana Buddhist (See the history of Mohamuni of Buddha statue now in Mandayay, see in the research work of Martin Smith ”Muslim Rohingya of Burma). This is similar to Mohayana Buddhism in Bengal of the time. The Rakhines (also known as the Moghs in British history took the official name during the 40′s) recorded to have entered Arakan with Theravada Buddhism in the 10th century much later than Muslim arrival in Arakan.
Wher did all these people called Arakani Muslims go that began to settle in Arakan from the 8th century? Where did the soldiers of Wali Khan and Shandhi Khan who married with the local women go? These army of 30,000 by Wali Khan and  40, 000 by Sindkhan that who went to Arakan to help the Arakani king and settled in the Kaladan valley. Where did the captured Bengalis forcefully brought to Arakan by the Portuguage in the 15th century to work in agritural lands go?
Well, when the British identified all the Arakani Muslims as the Indian Muslims because India and Burma were under the one British empire the problem actually began. In 1937 Burma was seperated from India and Arakani Muslims’s fate was also alloted with the Burmese country.
To avoid the anti-foreigner movement that began in Rangoon by Otama, an Arakani reactionary monk, Rohingya leaders began to seperate their British labelled identity as Indian Muslims from the immigrant Indian Muslims settled in Rangoon; they officially adapted an existing Burmese name called the ”Rohingya.” That was during the 50′s.That was a smart move but to the military it was another excuse that they have never heard of the name “Rohingya.” “They must be “Bengalis” immigrant “Kula.”
4. Surprisingly, the name “Rohingya” was heard by Francis Buchanan in 1799 in Burma, recorded in Francis Buchanan, in Southeast Bengal (1798): His Journey to Chittagong, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Noakhali and Comilla, (Dhaka: Dhaka University Press, 1992), 82.
Jacques Leider calls Arakan a “frontier culture.” Rohingyas are as if like Shans of Burma who have their Thai causin across the border.
5. No wonder, there are still some Burmese people in Arakan says “We have never heard the name “Rohingya”.Well, my question to a Burmese who says ” I have never heard of the word “Rohingya”
(a) Did you hear the news of Rohingya exodus of 1978 when 200,000 Rohingyas were forced out from Burma who were carrying NRC (national Registration Cards) I personally saw in refugee camps in Ukiya, in Bangladesh. Burmese government was forced to take them back by the international body because they were carrying documents.
(b). Did you hear that in 1982 Burmese military government through a constitutional Act officially denied Rohingyas’s Burmese citizenship?
(c) Did you hear that in the 1991-92 there was another huge Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh. This time Burma made sure that Rohingyas don’t carry any NRC?
If you are still not sure of the name Rohingya, it is your problem because you are most likely not informed of your country; I can not help in your ignorance.
Worst of all if you as a xenophobe is acting strangely it is called hypocrisy. If you are a citizen of Burma, you are intentionally keeping yourself ignorant, so that you can pretend, surely you are a hypocrite.
But if you are promoting this pretension, “I have never heard the name “Rohingya, they must be foreigners” and you are helping the military to exterminate them, and let me tell you, even if you have deserted a Burmese government job in a foreign embassy and is now a powerful democracy movement leader in USA or in UK, you are more likely to be a double agent a war criminal that demads to be investigated and exposed to the world.
If you say to me “I have never heard of the word “Rohingya before.” in your role of denying a people’s birth right, and helping the military to exterminate them, you can not be a democracy movement leader.
In the mean time,
The …exodus is a deep, sustained trickle of low visibility. The Rohingyas progressively leave Burma in small groups, families or individuals…. Little by little, the population is being forced to leave Arakan because of a deliberate policy of cleansing.”- says FIDH International Federation of Human Rights.
Revolutionaries are not shy people. They know the difference between democracy-lovers and the reactionaries. As a matter of duty to Burma’s democracy movement and to discourage the growth of xenophobia, reactionaries and their pretensions should be brought to public attention.
(Dedicated to the spirit of Stephen(UK) a friend of Burma, “Rise up 4 Burma” and also to those who despice the cyber bullies (both the Rohingya and non Rohingya); the latter, the hudlums find pleasure in making the Rohingya image on the rohingyanet and in elsewhere their ultimate victim)

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