Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 | Last Update : 06:27 PM IST

A facade of refugee doesn’t hold water

RSS thinker and Honorary Director, India Policy Foundation.
Published : Sep 24, 2017, 4:45 am IST
Updated : Sep 24, 2017, 4:46 am IST

There is no doubt there has been violence in Myanmar and army action on Rohingyas is also not untrue.

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to receive packets of biscuits thrown at them as handouts. (Photo: AP)
 Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to receive packets of biscuits thrown at them as handouts. (Photo: AP)

The nation has witnessed an imposed storm in the teacup of intellectual and political discourse on the question of Rohingya Muslims, who have infiltrated India in their thousands.

A section of the intelligentsia and political leaders opposes the government’s decision to deport these illegal migrants. Debates on TV channels particularly seem to polarise intellectuals into pro and anti-Rohingya. However, this is not farfetched because those supporting the Rohingya in the country are the same people who are often seen voicing themselves against national interest issues. They raise concern over human rights violations in Myanmar and want Rohingya to be conferred refugee status in India. However, this façade does not hold ground.

Such intellectuals and politicians, who have been shedding crocodile tears and invoking human rights, have the record of not at least once speaking for refugees who came from Pakistan and Bangladesh following the unprovoked ethnic and religious cleansing drive by the majority Muslim community of these two former territories of India.

This is enough to understand their selective moral positioning, humanism and human rights. It was not farfetched when they blamed the present dispensation (Modi government and the RSS) for adopting double standard with Rohingya and went to the extent of comparing their situation with Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, Tibetans and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This was a deliberate attempt to give it a communal colour and target the government for using religion as a parameter to decide the refugee status. Communalisation of the issue could be seen in Muslim leaders increasingly showing solidarity with Rohingya and borrow pseudo secularists’ aforesaid arguments. Here it becomes pertinent to understand the Rohingya crisis.

There is no doubt there has been violence in Myanmar and army action on Rohingyas is also not untrue. Rohingya–Buddhist clash can be traced since 1940s when the former wanted an independent Islamic state.  Not less than 20,000 Buddhists were massacred in a direct action by Rohingya on February 28, 1942. Even Rohingya leadership was in dialogue with Mohammad Ali Jinnah during formation of Pakistan.  

Therefore, Rohingya is a political construct and rooted in religious nationalism, which they dream, aspire and struggle for. After the independence of Myanmar, radical Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam declared jihad against the newly independent nation. It was a combination of separatism and radicalism, surfacing at intervals. Aung San Suu Kyi, known for her democratic credentials, is also being condemned and has been equalled with the ex-military ruler of Myanmar. The solution lies in cultural integration of Rohingyas and earning the goodwill of the majority community.

Here, India can play a role but the larger question is Rohingyas’ own will and rationality. Their leadership’s integration with terror organisations and radical Islam disallows all constructive solutions.

Myanmar’s newspaper, The Irrawaddy, reported that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army had orchestrated the offensive, slaughtering more than 60 Muslims who allegedly cooperated with authorities, as well as other non-Muslim civilians. Al Qaeda militants have called for support for Myanmar’s self-identifying Rohingya Muslims, warning that Myanmar would face “punishment” for its “crimes.”

Unless Islam comes out from the meta narrative of fundamentals and takes regional, national and cultural variants, separatism and terrorism will continue to recur and religious clashes would remain undiminished all over the world.

Another newspaper, Mizzima, quoted Bangladesh intelligence report that ARSA enjoyed close links with Bangladesh’s leading jihadi group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Pakistan’s Lashkar-e- Tayyaba. Moreover, religion prevents them from controlling their population and they are becoming extra burden on limited resources, as Myanmar Times accused them of using a ‘demographic bomb’. The Indian position is rationalised by primarily both security concern and also dynamics of emerging new international relations. How can India invite a group of people whose radicalisation is beyond any doubt? TV channels show pictures of helpless people in camps, but remarkably women and children are shown while youths remain outside the camera! Rohingya population has 45 per cent youths and several hundreds of them have been trained into terrorists.

China has extended unconditional support to Myanmar government and ‘Indian intellectuals’ wanted India to become part of Myanmar–demonising club. But it would only pave the way for Myanmar becoming a strategic asset of India’s permanent enemy, China.

It is also a folly to compare Rohingyas with Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Bangladesh used Enemy Property Act to disempower Hindus, who were killed, converted, their property plundered and temples destroyed. Hindus have neither demanded a separate homeland nor any political or cultural privilege. Their existence has been in peril. There are millions of ‘missing population’ of Hindus confirmed by Bangladesh government itself. Where have they gone? Either converted to Islam or killed.

Therefore the comparison of Rohingyas with Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindus is unnatural and irrational.

The danger

  • Why should we take upon ourselves Myanmar’s burden? By keeping our doors open to all and sundry we are making ourselves susceptible to the humanitarian crisis, just like the larger fundamentalist terror threat that stares at Europe today. The crisis in Myanmar is a direct offshoot of the policies of majoritarian governance. The State and the Rohingya Muslims have been perpetually at loggerheads with each other.
  • Non-State people/ refugees prove to be a burden and a threat, as Europe experiences now. Religious fundamentalism is deeply ingrained in their minds and it pops up conveniently. European nations are now re-examining their refugee policy, especially as they face strong protests from within their own civil societies.
  • The new refugee crisis in the world emanates from the assertion of religious fundamentalism in Islamic nations. Victims of violence search for shelter to live in dignity and without fear. Offering such people temporary shelter is not the solution. Genuine solution lies in tackling the core issue emanating from the Islamic world.
Tags: rohingya muslims, rohingya crisis, modi government