The longstanding Rohingya issue reached its climax when the Myanmar authority’s crackdown on the ethnic minorities forced them to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. The world saw it in silence, with India and China keeping mum over the issue, but Bangladesh could not turn its back on the oppressed, rather it displayed the utmost humanity – that the world has ever seen – to the refugees.
The Bangladeshis humane approach and their prime minister’s role in dealing with the diaspora are being lauded far and wide. So, there is a tug-of-war between cruelty represented by Myanmar authority and humanity showcased by Bangladesh. And in the end, humanity gains the upper hand.
When the oppressive Myanmar regime was up and doing its best to render the Rohingyas homeless through deliberate killing and setting their dwellings on fire in an apparent effort to make ethnic cleansing and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi playing the role of a silent spectator, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on the other hand, extended her sincere sympathy and graciousness to the refugees out of her sheer compassion and the sense of humanity. UNHCR Head Filippo Grandi accords Bangladeshis an accolade for their humane approach.
The comparative role of Hasina and Suu Kyi has become the topic of the columnists worldwide while the world leaders have kept their eyes peeled for the exodus of Rohingyas. Khaleej Times in UAE termed Hasina a star leader of the east. Its Opinion Editor Allan Jacob made the complimentary remarks about Hasina for her compassion and empathy in opening the border to save thousands of fleeing Rohingya.
He even went on to say that with leaders like the Bangladeshi PM at the helm, there remains hope in a world that is suffering from migration fatigue.
Suu Kyi has also been advised to follow Hasina’s footstep, which is an achievement for all of us. Our premier has not won any Nobel prize, but the adoration she receives from across the world far exceeds the Nobel award.
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but she desecrated the award, by letting such a situation unfold. The atrocities committed by the Myanmar Army during Suu Kyi’s regime are tantamount to the crime against humanity. May be the sense of humanity has nothing to do with the tyrants and Suu Kyi’s role of a silent spectator bears the testimony to that. These are all for the Nobel laureate to cling to power.
It is true that Bangladesh’s capacity per se is not like that of German that takes refugees from war-ravaged Syria and other places, and there are some other impending problems that might emanate from the Rohingyas, but the sense of humanity overshadows everything. Bangladesh is trying its best to cope with the growing number of refugees. Our premier has not only sheltered the destitute population, she has ensured their food and treatment – an unprecedented humane role Sheikh Hasina has played par excellence. This has worked as an eye-opener for the world leaders, who have started reconsidering the Rohingya issue and pressing Myanmar that has resulted in softening Suu Kyi over the refugee crisis. The Myanmar leadership has recently called for national unity, claiming that she created a committee that would coordinate all international and local assistance in Rakhine State. She acknowledged in a speech on the country’s state-run television that Myanmar is facing widespread criticism over the refugee crisis.
Suu Kyi succumbed to the international pressure. She said her government is holding talks with Bangladesh on the return of those now in Bangladesh. She, however, did not use the word “Rohingya” in her speech, but referred to several other ethnic minorities by name.
In a bid to address the Rohingya issue, World Bank has come ahead to support Bangladesh for its generosity and empathy to save thousands of displaced lives. The credit goes to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina is eulogized to be a foresighted leader, uncompromising against injustice, and such like, but this time the world could recognise her compassion. This compassionate attitude is actually an inheritance from her father, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. There is hardly anything she has not observed throughout her life, i.e. from the country life invested with natural phenomenon and the destitute life and livelihood of the poor to the inhuman oppression of the erstwhile West Pakistani forces. Sheikh Hasina is not a prime minister merely surrounded by political framework. Her generosity sets her apart as a premier. She is an exceptional head of the government, with sometimes hanging out with people clearly in distress, even downplaying security risk, only to listen to their woes. Sometimes she is seen to ride a van and stop on the way to talk to people, sometimes cook herself to feed her son on the latter’s birthday and sometimes in the stadium greeting the “Tigers” with a loud round of applause. Again the same prime minister is found shedding tears in the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital beside the burn patients, having great empathy with those under critical condition in hospitals, sometimes taking the responsibility of their treatment, thus working as a saviour of those fighting a life or death situation.
It is entirely a heartfelt sentiment on the part of the prime minister. How many of us can feel the other problems the same way? Sheikh Hasina can, because she is Bangabandhu’s daughter. Like Bangabandhu, people’s sufferings hurt her more than anything else, and so, she cannot but take the helpless orphans into her lap and feed them with her own hand. That is why our prime minister could not shut her eyes to the repressed Rohingyas. She let them in to save their lives. The world watched her move in silence, and discovered a new Sheikh Hasina, who was earlier entitled by Noble Laureate Amartya Sen as the voice of the oppressed. It is the humanity that drew the world leaders on the same platform to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis, leaving Suu Kyi in the eye of controversy.
The writer is Senate and Syndicate member, University of Dhaka, former general sectary of Bangladesh Chhatra League