The Rohingya Genocide

ArulMozhi.T.N.K
  
The Rohingya plight as we know it, has been called by many names.  In the year 2000, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues had called this plight an Ethnic cleansing, and by the year 2010, the plight was referred to as the Crimes Against Humanity by the Irish Center for Human Rights.  Has the time come for us to call it a genocide?
  
 
 
 
Who are the Rohingyas?
 
 
The Rohingyas are Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State, Burma/Myanmar, who speak the Rohingya language. Their modern inhabitant history in Burma dates back to the 8th century and they were inhabitants of a state called Arakan/Rakhine in the western border of Burma. The Rohingyas were part of Burma's history since 1400s CE. The Rohingyas had served as advisors to Buddhist Kings who ruled that part of Burma. Later in 1785 Buddhists Burmese from the south of the country conquered Arakan and drove the Rohingyas out of the area. Then in 1826 the British conquered Arakan in the First Anglo-Burmese War and resettled the Rohingyas in its depopulated farming lands. From that day onwards the tensions between the Buddhist Burmese and the Muslim Rohingyas were on the rise.  
 
However the conflict that lasts till date and the discrimination against the Rohingyas started to accelarate in 1982 after the Burmese Government decided to strip Rohingyas of their citizenship and categorised them as Bengalis under the pretext of the 1982 Citizenship Law. Bengalis are foreign to Burma, and thereby, by categorising Rohingyas as Bengalis, the Government made them stateless and foreign in their own soil. The only thing the Bengalis and the Rohingyas have in common is their religion. The Rohingyas speak a different language and represent a different culture and history as opposed to the Bengalis.
 
From 1982 onwards till date succesive rulers and governments of Burma are forcing the Rohingyas to identify themselves as Bengalis and despite international pressure the Burmese government is reluctant to reinstate their citizenship rights.
  
  
Even though they were denied citizenship rights, the Rohingyas were still offered “white cards” which provided them with the much needed temporary identification papers and most importantly the right to vote.  "Thanks" to the relentless opposition from Buddhist groups and Rakhine nationalists the Government has now revoked the white cards of 1.5 million people in Burma, thereby stripping the Rohingyas of their right to vote too. The Rohingyas will now have to first apply for a citizenship test for the right to vote and as part of the citizenship verification process they will have to identify themselves as someone that they are not, the Bengalis.
 
After denying them their basic citizenship rights, education, health care, and their freedom of movement, the Burmese government has now disenfranchised them too, and on top of this all, the continued violence meted out against them has made them the most persecuted minority on Earth.
 
 

 
  
  
 
The recent political change in Burma has also not helped the Rohingyas in anyway. It has infact further alienated them from the Government. In his article, “The Myanmar Government’s Systematic Destruction of the Rohingya” Dr. Nora Rowley of Genocide watch states that “Even after reforms in Myanmar that freed Aung San Suu Kyi, the “transitional” national government has maintained the military dictatorship’s authoritarian control of Rakhine State, including selection of all state government officials, control over national security forces, and control of movement, access and communications.
 
Aung San Suu Kyi has remained silent about the Rohingyas’ plight, ignoring pleas from other Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Tutu. The Myanmar government’s narrative blames the Rohingya victims for provoking the Rakhine Crisis. The official narrative claims that “Bengalis,” i.e. Rohingya, started killing and arson attacks upon ethnic Rakhine in downtown Maungdaw on June 8, 2012. The narrative portrays national security forces as neutral peacekeepers and protectors for both the “Bengali” and Rakhine communities. What followed was Rakhine communal vengeance provoked by the “Bengali” aggression.
 
My personal investigation, including in-depth interviews and eye-witness testimonies from over 118 Rohingya, and many other survivors and witnesses to the Rakhine Crisis has revealed a narrative diametrically opposed to the official narrative. The forced deportation of Rohingya from Sittwe city was planned by the national government leadership, national security forces and the local Rakhine officials in 2010, two years before the deportations. Two months before the Crisis began, some Rakhine citizens received reports of government plans to drive Muslims out of Rakhine State. Two weeks before the violence, Sittwe Rakhine were informed of the plan of attack and promised protection.
 
Since 2012, Myanmar officials have been committing systematic and organized destruction of Rohingya in Rakhine state, i.e.. This is not only persecution. It is actual Genocide"
  
 
 
  

  
  The Universal declaration of human rights states that;
 
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, the Rohingya children are not born free in their own land and are not treated as equals by the Burmese state.
 
“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state” but the Rohingyas have long lost their freedom of movement.
 
“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, but the Rohingyas despite being persecuted are ignored by the international community.
 
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family” but the Rohingyas are denied treatment at hospitals in Burma because some hospitals in Burma have this “only Rakhine patients” policy.
 
 
The United Nations defines Genocide based on two objective elements.
The first one of these two elements, relating to prohibited conduct (actus reus), requires the offence to take the form of:
(a) killing,
(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm,
(c) inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,
(d) imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group or
(e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
 
The second objective element requires that the group targeted by the prohibited conduct be a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
 
The events that are taking place in Burma clearly fits the "Genocide" description, and a lot of experts have also warned that the current events are early warnings of a Genocide.
 
 
 
 
Isnt it about time that the media start discussing the Genocide narrative? 
 
  

 
 
 
 
 

The author can be reached at leftoutvoices@gmail.com.