Published:  01:08 AM, 13 October 2017

The new Biharis in Bangladesh?

The Rohingya issue will be with us and with the global community for a long time yet. One may not like to acknowledge this reality, but judging by the way things are going, or not going, it is obvious that Bangladesh will remain burdened with the refugees from Myanmar's Rakhaine state for an indescribably long stretch of time.

The Myanmar authorities are doing everything they can to ensure that the refugees, who now number no fewer than 700,000 or more, cannot ever return to their homes. Additionally, Myanmar is busy trying to flush out the remaining Rohingyas and push them into Bangladesh.

Of course international efforts are on-going to send relief aid to Bangladesh in order to help it cope with the problem of feeding and clothing the Rohingyas. For its part, Bangladesh has been bending over backward to make the stay of the refugees as comfortable under the circumstances as possible.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made it known that if the country's 160 million people can have food every day, Bangladesh can very well feed these Rohingyas out of humanitarian concerns. All such sentiments are welcome, of course.

But what now needs to be done, in focused manner, is for the international community to exert increasing pressure on Myanmar on the issue of taking back its nationals, which the Rohingyas properly are even if the Naypyitaw authorities deny such realities, and maintaining that pressure until it mounts to an extent that will force Myanmar to seek a solution to the conflict.

For Bangladesh, there is the sad legacy of the past. Following the War of Liberation and in interaction with the government of Pakistan, it was agreed that the Biharis, euphemistically described as stranded Pakistanis who had settled here after the partition of India in 1947, would go to Pakistan as its citizens.

In the event, most of these Biharis were forced to stay back in Bangladesh owing to Pakistan's reneging on its promise. We in Bangladesh would not want a repeat of that situation. Let the Rohingyas not become the new Biharis in this country.

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