As Indians, Why We Must Care About Rohingyas

Arshi Aggarwal

Rohingya genocide has grabbed headlines across India, but not for the right reasons. We Indians have rarely shown a care in the world for international humanitarian crisis in the past. So, why start now?

The chief reason for word Rohingya to have become popular is that Modi Government is trying to deport 40,000 of those who have been settled in Jammu and Kashmir for past few decades. The government’s action, being managed by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, comes at a time when the community is facing genocide in home country.

At least 1,000 Rohingyas have been killed since August 25 and over 2,70,000 have fled their homes in Rakhine region of Myanmar, a UN report said.

The terrorists, as they are called by Myanmar Government, have been accused of burning their own homes and attacking ‘Hindus’ (Myanmar Buddhists), even as the number of causalities on each side differs drastically.

But who are these Rohingyas – yet another Muslim terrorist group or victims of genocide?
Who are Rohingyas?

Rohingyas or Rakhines are a minority Muslim community in Rakhine region of Myanmar. The community was stripped of its citizenship status in 1982 when the military regime took over and enacted fresh laws.

According to new laws, any community which had relocated to Myanmar during British rule will not be recognised as citizens.

The minority Muslim community, described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted communities in the world, was denied citizenship under the 1982 Burmese citizenship law, claiming that they belonged to Bengal and settled there during British rule.

The community however contests the claim, producing prove that they have been residents of Rakhine region since at least 2000 years.

What Rohingyas endure?

Since 1983, Rohingyas have lived their lives in worst possible circumstances. The atrocities meted on to the community are unbelievable in the modern era. Even though independent media is strictly not allowed in the region, UN repertoires and observers have provided some insight into their lives over the years.

Myanmar Government, which believes Rohingyas belong to India, has been systematic in making their lives a living hell.

Since 1991, the community has been limited to ghetto like regions, which they cannot leave without permission. These ghettos do not have adequate medical facilities and are often raided by the Myanmar forces.

The community cannot marry nor have children without permission. In case a child is born without a license, it is killed in front of mother during the raids. The international medical aide working in the region has often reported gangrapes on Rohingya women after the raids.

They have been deprived of their fundamental human rights such as the right to movement, marriage, education or health.

They have no opportunity to improve their life through financial advancements because they virtually have no employment or trade opportunities.

Rohingya community is not officially recognised as citizens of anywhere in the world. The resultant statelessness means that no nation is responsible for protecting Rohingya community against discrimination, exclusion and arbitrary deprivation of human rights.

The current unrest has escalated the crisis for the community.

Heart-rending visuals of atrocities and outright genocide against Rohingya community have surfaced in media, which is generally heavily censored against any reports supporting non-governmental view.

The eyewitness accounts emerging from Bangladesh border reveal that the Myanmar forces have been opening fire of fleeing women and children. How can women and children trying to leave a country, the government wants them to leave, be terrorists?
Myanmar, world and Indian stand on Rohingya crisis

The Military government along with State Counsellor Aung Suu Kyi have blamed the Rohingya militants for the violence. The government, which usually refrains from acknowledging the community’s existence is now saying that they are responsible for a major crisis in the country.

Most of the countries, United Nations and humanitarian organisations have condemned the Myanmar Government for the genocide. Forty-nine countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka signed ‘Bali Declaration’ referring to human rights situation in Myanmar.

But India remains of the other side of the fence. Not only Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Myanmar amid violence, he expressed his support for the NLD government’s crackdown on ‘terror groups in the Rakhine’.

India also refrained from supporting Bali Declaration, signed in World Parliamentary Forum in Indonesia on Friday.

Why should you care then?

Why do we observe the anniversary of 9/11; why do you put up candle on your Whatsapp profile after an attack in London; why do you cry while watching documentaries on Nazi concentration camps?

We do all those things because we care for fellow human beings even though they are not our brothers or sisters, because if the unabated atrocities continue they can one day reach your doorstep.

Appeal to humanitarian side aside, refugees from Rohingya community cannot possibly harm our domestic balance.

In the past, India has sheltered 10 million refugees from East Pakistan fleeing unspeakable brutalities at the hands of Pakistani forces. Lakhs of Tibetan and Afghan refugees have flocked to India and are living happily in various cities. A number of tribal from eastern Bangladesh, particularly Buddhist Chakmas, have made India their home.

How can a few hundred thousand Rohingyas misbalance our communities and pose a threat?

The argument that victimised Rohingya community is susceptible to ISI indoctrination is actually oxymoronic because if we welcome these victims with open arms then they are less and not more likely to join any terrorist organisation in future.

And if you really think India cannot afford any more refugees due to domestic problems, I say it is all the more reason to care. It is the reason why we must as citizens register protest against systematic atrocities, which are forcing the community to flee and seek shelter in first place.

It is the reason why we must question our legislators as to why they are silent over such a massive humanitarian crisis in our own backyard.

To welcome them or to stop them, we have to start caring for Rohingyas either way.





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