During recent years we have read series of depraved propagandas by a group of fanatics, who are restless to tarnish the image of the Rohingya people, under the pretext of so-called scholars/academics/Burmese experts preaching annihilation of the Rohingyas, a predominantly Muslim community in Arakan, Burma. One of them is U Khin Maung Saw, a Rakhine Buddhist living in Berlin, who recently wrote a foul-mouthed and blasphemous paper titled Islamization of Burma Through Chittagonian Bengalis as “Rohingya Refugees”.
The very title is disgusting where U Khin Maung Saw accuses the ethnic Rohingyas of illegal Bangladeshis and their refugees of ‘not genuine but illegal immigrants’. On top of that he makes cry wolf about islamization of Burma with 55million population by a small neglected and underprivileged Rohingya community. His work is packed with false propagandas, make-believe stories, fantasized historyand inflammatory writings that transmit the odor of ‘systematic racism’ and ‘Muslim Phobia’. It is an effort for Rakhinization, Buddhistization and de-Muslimization of Arakan through extermination of the Muslim Rohingya population using the oppressive state apparatus of the military regimes that emerged from 1962 in various shapes and manifestations, the last being the current civilianized military government of U Thein Sein.
The two pictures on the front page of U Khin Maung Saw’s paper
The two pictures U Khin Maung Saw put on the front page of his paper are not in accord with the title. Both pictures speak themselves. The upper one is a picture of rescued distress Rohingya boat people praying in a place of their refuge in Indonesia, while the second one is a picture of the Rohingya freedom fighters. It seems that these two pictures have invited his extreme anger. The pictures are related to religious practice and self-defence against persecution. In no way it relates to so-called islamization.
The fable of camel
U Khin Maung Saw’s fable of camel depicts that he escapes into a world of fantasy. The story does not relate with the Rohingya people, the sons of the soil of Arakan. It reveals that he extremely hates the Muslim Rohingyas and incites, aides and abets communal strife or crimes in Arakan. But Rohingyas are as much citizens as anyone else in Burma. Neither they are aliens nor do the Rakhines have special privileges over them. They believe in peaceful co-existence. They regard the hate-mongers as evils of the society.
Islamization of Burma, a monomania of U Khin Maung Saw
U Khin Maung Saw often misquoted the word “islamization”, may be due to his lack of understanding of Islam. Religious enlightenment among the Muslim society is not islamization, but recommended prayers. The Muslim Rohingyas are peace-loving; they love to preach their religion, but they don’t impose it. They have long been subjected to criminal atrocities and crimes against humanity of various kinds on daily basis perpetrated by the state and non-state actors. They are living in subhuman conditions as ‘stateless” within Burma and ‘refugees’ beyond its borders. How this dying-alive small negligible oppressed and persecuted people could islamize the 55 million people of Burma. U Khin Maug Saw proves himself to be a xenophobe as well as an islamophobe who is trying to reap benefit from the global sentiment against the Muslims and Islam particularly after September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on United States by trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. No sensible man will believe this made-up story.
Rohingya people and their ethnic origin
The Rohingya with bona fide historical roots in the region have evolved with distinct ethnic characteristics in Arakan from peoples of different ethnic backgrounds over the past several centuries. Arakan sits on a line dividing Hindu-Muslim Asia and Buddhist Asia. Genealogically Rohingyas are Indo-Aryan descendants. Genetically they are an ethnic mix of Bengalis, Indians, Moghuls, Pathans, Arabs, Persians, Turks, Moors and central Asians. They are South Asian in appearance in contrast to Southeast Asian, and have developed a separate culture and a mixed language, which is absolutely unique to the region, reflecting this geographic reality and trueness of Arakan. The Muslim settlements in Arakan date back to latter part of 7th century C.E. Rakhines are last significant group of people to come to Arakan and are an ethnic mix of the Tibeto-Burman.
Arakan found itself at the crossroad of two worlds: South Asia and Southeast Asia, between Muslim-Hindu Asia and Buddhist Asia, and amidst the Indo-Aryan and Mongoloid races. During its days as an independent kingdom until 1784, Arakan encompassed at times the Chittagong region in the southern part of today’s Bangladesh. Historically, it has more interaction with the region now comprising Bangladesh than Burma. Particularly “the Arakanese kings became the master of Chittagong and remained so for the next eighty years, until 1666 A.D. when the Moghul Viceroy Shaista Khan finally conquered Chittagong.”
The northern part of Arakan, today called the “North Arakan” was point of contact with East Bengal. These geographical facts explain the separate historical development of that area – both generally and in terms of its Muslim population until the Burmese king Bodaw Paya conquered it on 28th December 1784.”
Various historians and scholars have recorded that Islam began to spread from the eastern bank of Meghna River (in Bangladesh) to Arakan since eight and ninth centuries, that is long before the establishment of Muslim kingdom in this frontier region. Since then the Muslim influence in Arakan grew fast and was consolidated fully by 17th century. Arakan was virtually ruled by the Muslims from 1430 to 1531. ‘Establishment of God’s rule over the earth’ was the state emblem of Arakan. Coins and medallions were issued inscribing
“Kalema” (the profession of faith in Islam) in Arabic script. Even Buddhist women of those days practiced “purda”.
Traditionally the Burmese kings were envious of Arakan and its people. They attacked Arakan whenever there was a chance whereupon its kings, nobles and even commoners took refuge in Bengal. The Bengal kings looked after them and helped them regained their throne from the hands of the aggressors, Burmans and Mons etc. The Burman invasion of Arakan in 1784 was by invitation from some royal traitors, all of them Buddhists. These conspirators persuaded the Burman King Bodaw Phaya making a mountain out of a molehill that the invading forces would be welcomed by the people with melody.
The Burman invading forces tortured and massacred both Buddhists and Muslims and pillaged all its resources, including royal library. Muslims were specifically targeted for (i) the last king Thamada was from the commoners, and Muslims played a phenomenal rule of kingmakers (ii) Muslim nobles did not support the Burman invasion (iii) Muslim Bengal used to help the kings, nobles, and people of Arakan with shelter, moral and material assistance and armies to regain their throne from the hands of the occupiers, (iv) Arakan had turned into a Sultanate and Islamic civilization and Muslim culture flourished to its zenith with Persian and Bengali as official and court languages of Arakan, (v) Muslims played important role in the country’s administration and defence; and Prime Minister and Lashkar Wizir (War Minister/Defence Minister) mostly happened to be Muslims with sizeable Muslim administrators, judges, artisans and armed forces. As such, not only Buddhists, but also a number of Muslims took refuge in Bengal.
Dr. Shwe Lu Maung writes, “In 1403 CE, the Rakhaing King Narameit Hla took refuge with Sultan Ghiasuddin Azam Shah (1399-1409), at Gaur. … After 27 years of his service as minister and soldier, Sultan Jalal Uddin (r.1415-1433 CE), a Hindu convert Muslim, gave him a 30,000 strong Muslim army to restore his throne in Rakkhapura. Why a Muslim army? Because there virtually was no Rakhaing of prime age left to be soldiers. Such was the history. Again in 1784 the Myanmarese invaded and depopulated our Rakhaing kingdom. How many were killed? Exact head count is not known, but the Rakhaing historians assert that some 250,000 were killed.”
The Burmese administered Arakan from 1784 to 1825 A.D. but taught nothing to the people of the country. The fall of Mrauk-U was a mortal blow to both Rohingyas and the Maghs for everything that was materially and culturally Islamic was razed to the ground and hundreds of Rohingyas were brutally killed. Two hundred thousands are said to have fled to Bengal. U Khin Maung Saw stated Rakhine refugees to be 40,000. Here, the number of Muslim Rohingya refugees can be estimated to be more than Rakhine. On top of that the precious and sentimental Mahamuni Buddha image, to which the Buddhist Arakanese have religious attachment, was carried to Mandalay. The Rakhines look upon it as a premonition.
The people of Arakan take the Burman invasion of their country as a reprehensible development. Of course, British colonialism was blameworthy for its colonial rule, economic exploitation and infamous ‘divide and rule policy’ in Burma. “On the other hand, British occupation brought Bhama domination and oppression to an end. This gave an opportunity to smaller ethnic groups to build up their social, cultural, educational and economic institutions… There appeared a common sense for unity in the struggle for independence. For the first time in the thousand years of rivalry and domination of wars, the people of Burma started to try to sink their mutual hatred and discrimination and to forge unity.”
But the Burmese rule over Arakan, supported by local xenophobes or islamophobes, implanted deep-seated hatred, with inherited divide and rule stratagem, between the two otherwise peaceful living Rohingyas and Rakhines, on cultural and religious lines, thus putting the two sister communities permanently at loggerheads the brunt of which is to be born by generations. Had not Arakan been invaded and occupied by the Burmans at the invitation of royal conspirators, the people of Arakan would have emerged as an independent nation again at the end of the British colonization or through decolonization. One can hardly agree with U Khin Maung Saw’s assertion that the British did more damages to Arakan and its people than the Bodaw Phaya’s invading forces.
This is a passage from later on in the essay:
Since 1942 the Muslim Rohingyas of Arakan are under tyranny. Their life is a story of woe upon woe without any respite since independence of Burma. It has been hellish from 1962 military rule; the worse comes to the worst during the rule of SLORC, SPDC and ruling civilianized military regime of U Thein Sein. Under the pretext of looking for rebels or immigration checks barbaric operations have been conducted often committing crimes against humanity of destruction of settlement and villages, rape, murder, forced starvation, confiscation of their arable lands, moveable and immovable properties, forced expulsion from their homeland. Over and above, the measures of deprivation of basic freedom like freedom of movement, marriage, education, trade and business are enormous. While the situation is just the reverse, U Khin Maung Saw lied that Bengalis from overpopulated Bangladesh regularly infiltrated into so-called resourceful Arakan. What are the resources available to Muslims in Arakan? It is a planned deception against the Rohingyas and Muslims.
Conversely, the whole northern Arakan has been dotted with many settler villages of Buddhist communities, who include a large number of Bangladeshi Maghs/Rakhines/Marmas settled on the Muslims’ lands, lands endowed to the mosques in and around the places like Alethankyaw, Bawlibazar, Taungbazar, Zedipyin Taungbyo, Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyunt, Taungup and Akayab city etc. Mosques were destroyed and established Buddhist settler villages on and around them; and few pagodas were erected on the mosque yards.
Some of the major armed operations conducted against the Rohingyas that resulted in their expulsion and massive destruction of their homes and settlements:
- Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment) November 1948
- Burma Territorial Force (BTF) Operation 1948-50
- Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin Regiment) March 1952
- May Yu Operation, October 1952-53
- Mone Thone Operation October 1954
- Combined Immigration and Army Operation January 1955
- Union Military Police (UMP) Operation 1955-59
- Captain Htin Kyaw Operation, 1959
- Shwe Kyi Operation, October, 1966
- Kyi Gan Operation, October-December 1986
- Ngazinka Operation 1967-1969
- Myat Mon Operation, February 1969-71
- Major Aung Than Operation, 1973
- Sabe Operation, February 1974-78
- Naga Min (King Dragon) Operation, February 1978-79
- Shwe Hin Tha Operation, August 1978-80
- Galon Operation, July 1979 to 1991-92
- Pyi Thaya Operation, July 1991-92
- Ongoing Na-Sa-Ka Operation from 1992
Based on the definitions of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), we can now infer that the followings Crimes Against Humanity have been committed by the military regime and non-state actors against the Rohingya people:
- The Crime Against Humanity of Murder;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Extermination;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Deportation or Forcible Transfer of Population;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Imprisonment or other Severe Deprivation of Physical Liberty;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Torture;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Rape;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Forced Pregnancy;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Sexual Violence;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Persecution;
- The Crime Against Humanity of Enforced Disappearance of Persons;
- The Crime Against Humanity of other inhuman acts.