It is true that Rohingya Muslims are up in arms against their own government in Myanmar and fighting a battle in the Rakhine province. They have an organisation which indulges in violence against the state and the Buddhist majority. The Myanmar government terms them a terrorist organisation and has unleashed a lethal persecution of the Rohingya population, creating a humanitarian crisis and loss of thousands of human lives. The bulk of them have fled the country of their origin and taken shelter in India, Bangladesh and other places, but till now, I had not heard of these refugees being a part of any larger global terrorist design or that they had done in other countries something that raised a question mark about their intent.
What is true about them is the fact that despite living in Myanmar since 1200 AD, they have been denied citizenship rights by subsequent Myanmar governments. Myanmar, which was earlier called Burma, was part of India under British rule. In 1947, like India, it got independence and became a free nation. When the proponent of Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, propagated the two-nation theory and demanded a separate country for Indian Muslims, Burmese Muslims did not find any favour with the Muslim league. It is surprising that despite fighting for a separate nation on the basis of religion, Jinnah and advocates of Pakistan did not include Rohingya Muslims in their scheme of things. Rohingya Muslims then were organised under the umbrella organisation named the Arakan Muslim League and wanted to merge with the East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh. Since then, they have been fighting for their identity and existence.
After forming the government in 1948, the government has denied minority Rohingya Muslims rights of citizens, and under the Union Citizenship Act, they were only allowed an identity card. This was also reserved only for families that could prove that they had lived there for two generations by then. Their situation further deteriorated in 1962 when the new military government took over and made it compulsory for all its citizens to have a national registration card, but Rohingya Muslims were literally bracketed as foreigners. They were issued foreign Identity Cards that meant they were excluded from the Myanmar society and state with very limited access to education and other facilities. This status continued even after the formation of new citizenship laws in 1982. They could not find a place in the state that recognised 132 ethnic groups. It was also stated in law that only those who could procure proof that they had been living in Myanmar since 1948 could become a citizen, which was an impossible task for them, and Rohingya Muslims literally became homeless in their own country.
It is also true that a section of the Buddhist citizenry has not forgiven Rohingya for their exercise to align with East Pakistan at the time of independence. Their leaders spread hatred and venom against Muslim minorities. They are against their presence in Myanmar, forcing them to live in ghettos in the most inhuman conditions. The state is openly supporting them. It conspired with militant Buddhists to execute a plan to send Rohingya Muslims to a third country in 2012 that led to unprecedented violence and massacre. A shaken global community called this genocide, but President Thein Sein and militant Buddhist nationalist leader Ashin Wirathu remained unrepentant. Wirathu attracted a lot of international attention. Time magazine put him on the cover with a comment - "The Face of Buddhist Terror". He is known for his vitriolic hate and provocative speeches against Muslims.
To escape "systematic violence", Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee in thousands. In fact they are dubbed the "Boat People". They have taken refuge in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Bangladesh, India and the United States. Except India, all other countries have looked at them sympathetically and provided them shelter. Malaysia and Indonesia were initially reluctant, but later they agreed to take care of them from a humanitarian point of view. India had also received around 40,000 such refugees and is now preparing grounds to deport them in the name of national security. These refugees are living in the most pitiable conditions but are not willing to go back to their homeland for fear of their lives.
The BJP government's policy and its affidavit is a betrayal of Indian ethos. It does not add to India's glory internationally. It also does not behoove the stature of a country who aspires to be a future superpower and, in Modi's word, a "Vishwa Guru" (the world leader). Unfortunately, the BJP government is inspired by the philosophy of the RSS, whose second chief M S Golwalkar writes in his book, Bunch of Thoughts, while questioning the patriotism of Indian Muslims and Christians - "Do they feel it a duty to serve her? No! Together with the change in their faith, gone is the spirit of love and devotion for the nation."
The country's foreign policy and national policy could not be and should not be the prisoner of any particular ideology, be it left or right. This is the time to tell the whole world that India stands for humanity and universal values of brotherhood and compassion.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)
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