The Rohingya are a minority living in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where they are not
recognized by the government as an official group and are denied citizenship. An estimated 1 million
Rohingya are stateless Muslims in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country that has long been hostile to their
presence. Under Myanmar’s discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law, only those who trace their residence in the
country to before 1823, or those belonging to the majority Burman, or Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon,
Rakhine, and Shan ethnic groups qualify for full citizenship. A list of another 135 ethnic groups drawn up in
1982 and made public in 1990, did not include the Rohingya. The Rohingya trace their origin in Rakhine to the
15th Century or earlier.
But the official name for them now is ” Bengali“. The Burmese Government interpret that they came to
Rakhine as part of the British East India Company’s expansion into Burma after it defeated the Burmese king
in 1826.Hence 1823 is the cut- off for both the 1948 and 1982 Citizenship Acts.
Why Did The Rohingya Exodus From Myanmar Begin?
The Rohingya problem is an old one that goes back to 1940s,when they sided with the British against the
Japanese, who had the support of the majority Burmese Buddhist population. Indeed ,immediately after
independence, the Rohingya Muslims tried to form a breakaway muslim nation. Therefore the bitterness
between the Rohingya and the rest of Myanmar was waiting to explode.
A major effort to wipe out the Rohingya ethnic Muslims from Myanmar started in 2012. Rohingya had
major violent clashes with Buddhists triggered by the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman. ‘Human Rights
Watch’ released satellite pictures of entire Rohingya villages burning. Thousands fled to Bangladesh and to
camps set up under UN supervision in Rakhine. Some 1,40,000 homeless people still live in the camps. On 09
October, 2016 nine policemen were killed in armed attack on border posts in the Rakhine province which were
carried out by ARSA, then known as Harraka al Yakin/ Aqa Mul Mujahideen. Over the past year there have
been allegations of grave human rights violations by the Myanmar Army against Rohingya.
The mass evacuation from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state began on 25 August,2017 after a group of
Rohingya militants ( ARSA) attacked police outposts and a military base, killing a dozen officers and men.
The military responded with what it deemed “clearance operations” to root out fighters it said might be hiding
in villages. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have escaped the military crackdown and vigilante
attacks that have burned villages and killed hundreds. As of today UN estimates proclaim an exodus of nearly
3,00,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh. The ARSA attack was ill- timed since the Kofi- Annan led
Advisory commission on Rakhine State submitted its report favouring the inclusion of Rohingya Muslims as
Burmese citizens one day prior to the attack, to the de facto Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. The
commission strongly recommended a review of the 1982 Citizenship Act.
In view of the massive massacre and exodus of these poor people, Suu Kyi has been criticised
internationally for her negative attitude towards the Rohingya and there have been calls for withdrawing the
Nobel Prize ( for peace) awarded for her fight to restore democracy in Myanmar. But it was also at Suu Kyi’s
orders that the Annan Commission was appointed and the report was appreciated by her and she hoped that the implementation of the report would have a positive impact on the process of reconciliation and development.
However the powerful Military lobby more or less rejected the report. Criticising Army could endanger the
limited power Suu Kyi exercises in the governance of the nation. Hence it seems that she is compromising
with her principles to survive in Myanmar politics and in power. Today, if she speaks, it’s about Rohigya
terrorism and the killing of security personnel. She has nothing to say about the thousands of innocent men,
women and children who have been killed and rendered homeless.
Though India has been concerned at the events in Myanmar since 2012,New Delhi believes in ” quiet
diplomacy”, but apprehensive about our involvement in the ethnic issue. Pushed by Bangladesh, India has
asked Myanmar for restraint in its military operations against the Rohingya in the Rakhine state. India ,
however, is concerned about the intelligence reports that ARSA and its front militant outfit ‘Rohingya
Solidarity Organisation’ are allegedly close to Hafiz Saeed and the Jamaat- ud – Dawa front- Falah-e-
Insaniyat,which had an active presence in Rohingya Refugee Camps in 2012.
No one believes the crisis will be resolved soon and Myanmar is in no mood to accept Rohingya Muslims as
their citizens. Which is why the Home Ministry’s plan to “deport” the 40,000 Rohingya in India may be
premature. There is nowhere yet to deport them. They belong to no country, and no country wants them.

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