Published:  12:33 AM, 10 October 2017

Myanmar must seek the path of peace

Myanmar must seek the path of peace

The contiguous Muslim majority parts of Bengal and Assam were carved out to form the eastern wing of Pakistan in 1947. But the partnership with the western wing did not last long.  At  that time  when Bangladesh was partitioned out of undivided  India  as the eastern wing of  Pakistan, it inherited slow rate of modern industrialization with little overall  growth and few bank offices most of which were headquartered in the western wing of  Pakistan.  Consequent  upon the step-brotherly  and malicious treatment from  the western wing  for decades, the quarter century partnership was  legitimately severed  and  the year 1971 witnessed the  emergence of  Bangladesh as the new  sovereign  state under the able and strong  leadership of  Bangabandhu  Sheikh  Mujibur Rahman  that  proudly added another patch of color to the multicolored global map.

As a peace-loving country committed to communal harmony, Bangladesh believes in friendship with all and malice to none. But contrary to this ideology meticulously being followed by Bangladesh for decades, the government of Myanmar in collusion with the military forces and native majority Buddhists lashed crackdown with all ferocity and rudeness upon the unarmed and innocent Rohingya Muslims living through centuries in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. This sparked off instantaneous protest and indictment from the international community who called for immediate end to this brutality. Encouragingly enough the Buddhist community living in Bangladesh also echoed the protest against the Myanmar Govt. for crimes against humanity. 

A little glimpse at the historical background reveals the fact that in the 8th century AD the Rakhine state of modern Myanmar was the kingdom of Arakan populated by the Rohingya Muslims. But with the passage of time, in 1784, 1942 and much later after liberation in 1977, 1991, 2012 and 2014 the Buddhists majority with full Govt. support and in a planned and systematic way triggered waves of repression attended with genocide and expulsion of the Rohingyas from their inherited homeland living through generations.

After liberation till now, almost all the Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh that swelled to the size exceeding 10 lakh. At present they are passing their days in shabby and squalid settlements. The Rohingyas forcibly, illegally and inhumanly uprooted from their own homeland, have every right to go back to their homeland-the Rakhine region of Myanmar in utter disregard of the fact that Myanmar is a Buddhist dominated country. 

In this connection it needs to be emphasized that India feels proud of being the 2nd largest Muslim dominated country in the world (followed by Indonesia) with Muslim population exceeding 200 million. However, it needs to be clarified that present population of Pakistan is around 210 million inclusive of all religious communities. But size of exclusively Muslim population of Pakistan is smaller than that of India.

Despite this fact the Hindu majority country of India is pushing in the minority Muslims neither towards the eastern side (ie Bangladesh) nor towards the western side (ie Pakistan). Same is the case in China( with Muslim community over 22 million ), Russia( with Muslim community  exceeding 14  million consisting of around 10% of total Russian population ) and other countries of the world where  size of Muslim population are quite significant.  Myanmar and Israel are the only exceptions in the global map who have out - herded Herod in tyranny 'while behaving with the Muslim community.

Under such circumstances the international community has a moral imperative and obligation to support the Rohingya refugees and lash heavy pressure on Myanmar through economic sanctions. The inhuman torture of the Rohingya Muslims pervading plundering, killing, raping by the Myanmar military horde has been termed 'clearance operation' by UN officials. Myanmar has now   degenerated into a land riddled with rape, murder, racism and barbarism against the defenseless   Muslims. 

In Myanmar, in 2012, clashes between minority Rohingya Muslims and majority Buddhists led to the displacement of 1.25 lakh Muslims. Valid allegations are there that Myanmar military forces sided against the Muslims in the inter-communal clashes. Since 2012 Myanmar military horde torched 1,200 houses and forced 1.5 lakh Rohingya Muslims into concentration camps. Added to this hundreds of thousands of Muslim minority were forced and disallowed from casting vote in the last election. During the period from 2012 to 2014 the recurring atrocities caused an additional 25,000 Rohingyas to flee to Malaysia and Indonesia in addition to Bangladesh.

The concentration camps were sadly ringed with Govt. check posts compelling the inhabitants to lead the captive life and obtain permission to leave. Over and above military bars were placed on the journalists and aid giving agencies with food and medicine to enter. According to UN sources,  their planned  visit to Myanmar  Rakhine state which bears  testimony to mass killing and  exodus of  Rohingya  Muslims  was sadly  postponed by the  Myanmar authorities for reasons still shrouded  in mystery.

Finding no alternative to defending their ethnic cleansing, Myanmar branded the Rohingya Muslims hailing from the Rakhine state as illegal emigrants from Bangladesh and Bangladeshi terrorists. This is nothing short of shameless and blatant denial of the ethnic identity of the Rohingyas which the international community is fully   aware of.  This military brutality resulted in rising hunger, malnutrition, illness and death. Amnesty International has termed such activities of Myanmar potential crimes against humanity.

Bangladesh called upon the Security Council to fully examine the persecution of the Rohingyas. Bangladesh further alleged that reportedly more than 2 divisions of armed forces had been deployed   by Myanmar in the areas near our border since the 1st week of August of 2017. Troops were spotted within 200 meters of zero line and in addition heavy armaments and artilleries were placed in close proximity from our border. Also there occurred 19 times violation of air space lying within Bangladesh by the helicopters and drones of Myanmar which is repeated, unwarranted and willful provocations.

The UN Secretary General on 28th September 2017 urged the Myanmar authorities to immediately stop their military operations, terming the refugee issue as 'the world's fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare'. The UN Secretary General warned that the humanitarian crisis may lead to a serious turn inviting inter-communal strife afflicting the neighboring states.

Appreciatively enough, the USA, Britain and France demanded an immediate end of violence against   the Rohingya Muslim minority. Further, the USA Ambassador to the UN made a call to the international community to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar over violence against the Rohingya Muslims. Over and above USA called for punishment of the military leaders behind the repression and ethnic cleansing. Also the UN chief reiterated that all refugees in Bangladesh should be registered as a first step. Secondly, the Muslims of Rakhine state should be granted nationality. Those who are not entitled to citizenship according to present laws must be allowed to enjoy a legal status that permits them to enjoy a normal life including freedom of   movement and access to labor market including education and health care. 

Myanmar has recently proposed to repatriate the Rohingya refugees on certain conditions who fled to Bangladesh following persecution at Rakhine state. The Rohingya issue was discussed between the officials of the two countries in Dhaka on Monday, 2nd October, 2017. But still uncertainty looms over regarding when and how many of the refugees exceeding 10 lakh will be taken back and with what status. In this connection it needs to be asserted that one of the refugees remarked that their houses and family members were burned. So, it is unwise and unsafe for them to return to Myanmar as an animal to be bullied, raped, burned and killed to satisfy the long felt inhuman profligacy of the demons and the devils ruling Myanmar.  Amnesty International also served a note of warning that the Rohingya refugees must not be forced from home under any circumstances.

Therefore, in the interest of its own goodwill, political and economic stability, Myanmar should accept the path of peace and deviate from the path of violence and atrocities and pay heed to the international community to give the Rohingyas their due share in terms of their citizenship, property right as well as security of life and property. Otherwise, Myanmar will have to pay a heavy price like Israel which, despite being an independent state, is absolutely dependent on its masters for continuously providing the umbrella of defense for its survival against the Palestinians. Myanmar should realize that a situation may crop up when the strongest among the defenders may itself become defenseless. History has such records which are as plenty as blackberries.

The writer is a former General Manager, Credit Information Bureau, Bangladesh Bank

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