It is 21st century. Technology has advanced and mankind in general has progressed greatly. Yet, something as grotesque as ethnic cleansing is happening in this very era! Rohingya, who are described by the United Nations as the world’s most persecuted people, has a population of 1.1 million. 1.1 million is surely a colossal number for these people to be called a ‘minority’, yet they are still termed so. So who are the Rohingya people and why are they being persecuted?
Rohingya Muslims have been living in the north-west state of Rakhine, Myanmar (also known as Burma) for centuries. Myanmar which is a Buddhist majority nation refuses to give them citizenship even though their families’ roots in modern-day Rakhine, once called Arakan, can be traced back to the Eighth Century. Since World War-II they have been treated increasingly by Burmese authorities as illegal facing apartheid-like conditions that deny them free movement or state education while government forces intermittently drive out and slaughter them. In 1936 and 1939, several Arakanese Indians were elected to the Legislative Council of Burma under the Burmese native category in British Burma. After Burmese independence in 1948, Rohingya leaders held high ranking positions in the Burmese government and parliament. In 1960, a separate province for the Rohingyas was proposed.
However discrimination against minorities increased after the 1962 Burmese coup d'état. Subsequently, the Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Burmese citizenship law. The Rohingyas have faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991–1992, 2012, 2015 and 2016–2017. The recent outrage has sparked rage against the Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who refuses to take responsibility or even acknowledge this humanitarian crisis. Leading newspapers and TV channels all over the world are promulgating this helpless situation of the stateless people. Pictures and videos of Myanmar army beheading children and burning people alive at Rakhine have also taken the social media by storm. Yet Aung San Suu Kyi denies all of it.
After breaking an unduly long silence, Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first public comment on the topic but her words couldn’t do any justice to the situation. Myanmar’s de facto leader claimed during a phone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that a "huge iceberg of misinformation" about the Rohingya crisis was being distributed to benefit "terrorists." Protests are being held all around the world by common people against the persecution of Rohingya people and many are also asking for Aung San Suu Kyi’s noble prize to be revoked.
On the other hand, the latest military crackdown, which began on August 25, caused almost 123,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladeshi border in just two weeks. International Organisation of Migration (IOM) office in Cox’s Bazar had estimated that around 74,000 Rohingya refugees entered Bangladesh between October 2016 and February 2017. Though Bangladesh is neither a party to the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention nor to the 1967 protocol, it has still been hosting this considerable number of Rohingya refugee population since the 1970s. The refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar are full and overloaded. The new refugees and asylum seekers are currently living under the open sky.
Well, few times in the past, Bangladesh has been criticized for not taking in enough refugees. But the world community will have to understand that the weight of nearly 1.1 million oncoming refugees is too much for Bangladesh which is not only the world’s eighth most populous country but also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Other countries can also come to the rescue and it is indeed a moral duty of all the nations. The refugees who arrive in Bangladesh can be temporarily relocated in other parts of the globe. This may alleviate the hardship of those Rohingya refugees living in makeshift houses without food or security and also decrease the population pressure in Bangladesh. In the meantime simply condemning Aung San Suu Kyi is not enough. Calling it a crime against humanity is not also enough. Rather it is high time for the international leaders and human rights agencies to step up and put an end to this ongoing atrocity.