Significance: The Rohingya community is currently facing religious persecution and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.The current crisis involves the ongoing military crackdown by the Myanmar Army and police on Rohingyas in Rakhine State in the country’s western region. The Rakhine state had since seen mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar in 2015.
Who are Rohingyas: The Rohingyas are a mostly-Muslim minority in Myanmar, the Buddhist-majority nation in Southeast Asia. However, the Myanmar government says the Rohingya do not exist. In fact, they object to the very use of the word “Rohingya” at all, instead arguing that they are Bengali and entered what is now Burma during the time of the British Empire or later as illegal immigrants after Bangladesh’s war for independence in 1971.More than 1 million Rohingya are estimated to live in the country, mostly in the northern part of Rakhine state along the border with Bangladesh and India, and almost as many live outside of it.
Reasons for Rohingya crisis:
- 2011–2015 Myanmar political reforms : These include political, economic and administrative reforms in Myanmar undertaken by the military-backed government. These reforms include the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Su Kyi from house arrest, establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, general amnesties of more than 200 political prisoners, institution of new labour laws that allow labour unions and strikes, relaxation of press censorship, and regulations of currency practices. Myanmar suddenly became the Asia’s final frontier and a hub of economic activity.The renewed emphasis on development agenda by the Myanmar government resulted in land grabbing by the government from people itself.It has often been acquired for projects, like military base expansions, large agriculture projects, infrastructure and tourism.Shortly afterwards, in 2012, violent attacks escalated against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
- Also, the geographic location of Myanmar is between the countries like China and India. Since the 1990s, Chinese companies have exploited timber, rivers and minerals in Shan State in the North.Also, the Chinese and Indian interests are very high the Rakhine state. They undertake development in the region like the construction of infrastructure and pipelines in the region. Such projects claim to guarantee employment, transit fees and oil and gas revenues for the whole of Myanmar.The government of Myanmar therefore has vested interests in clearing land to prepare for further development and to boost its already rapid economic growth.
- Role of Bangladesh: Bangladesh is refusing calls from some states and NGOs for a bigger role for the UN’s refugee agency in the international response to the Rohingya refugee crisis.Bangladesh has also chosen the International Organization for Migration to lead international relief efforts, not UNHCR.
- Civil War: The world’s longest continuing civil war in Myanmar caused the ethnic Bamar Buddhist majority in the central valley has sought to dominate dozens of non-Buddhist ethnic minorities inhabiting the mountainous borderlands.Also, Rohingyas were removed from the official ethnic group list of Myanmar.It triggered ethnic cleansing against them.
Major incidents of the Rohingya crisis: Since the 2011 political reforms , Rohingyas started to face ethnic cleansing. Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army was formed in response to the attacks among the Rohingya people and mounted unusual coordinated attacks on the government security forces in northern Rakhine. There have also been significant attacks on property and human lives in the Rohingya areas of northern Rakhine. Human Rights Watch released images that showed mass destruction of buildings in Muslim areas
India’s stand on the Rohingya crisis: India has refused to refer to the Rohingya in P.M.’s press statements in Naypyidaw in early September. Nor did India refer to anything other than the terror strike by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army while discussing the violence in Rakhine. India refused to endorse a 50-nation parliamentarian conference’s declaration because it referenced the Rohingya. Every other South Asian country, including Buddhist-majority Bhutan and Sri Lanka, endorsed the Bali declaration.Later, the government began to dispatch humanitarian aid in an operation rather grandly named Operation Insaniyat. India has a tradition of rushing humanitarian aid and medical assistance, doctors and volunteers to other nations has been seen visibly hold back during the Rohingya crisis.
Foreign secretary of India have told India is engaging with all stakeholders in the region who are faced with the massive exodus of the Rohingyas from Myanmar. Objective of the government will be to see how they can be send back to their place of origin. Also, the Border Security Force is pushing back the Rohingyas who try to migrate to the border states of India from Bangladesh.
Current situation: Bangladesh and Myanmar announced an agreement to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees back to Rakhine province in about two months, as part of China’s intervention in a three- phase solution. However, there are criticisms that the agreement reflect the desire of Myanmar and not Bangladesh. The agreement is unlikely to have any impact as it does not ensure safety of Rohingyas and they are unlikely to go back.