Let’s clear out a few misconceptions
I’ll cut to the chase about the crisis at hand. Let’s clear up few misconceptions:
1. Bangladesh is an over-populated country. With very limited land resource, we cannot reasonably accommodate so many Rohingya, and thus we cannot afford to open up the borders
Wait. Weren’t we very recently discussing how dynamic and massive the development of Bangladesh has been? Weren’t we talking about how Bangladesh is flying high and proud on the world’s radar, on all sorts of socioeconomic indicators and what not?
But the moment the Rohingya start coming in, all talks of how we’re gradually becoming a wealthier nation vanishes, and we’re back to using a politically correct version of calling Bangladesh “a bottomless basket.”
2. Say what you will, we still can’t take in so many Rohingya. We just don’t have the resources
Nobody does. Nobody should have to. But things are what they are; if we close our borders completely, we will be acting as accomplices in this genocide.
And, taking in all Rohingya is not a solution by and for itself. What we must do is create international pressure on the Myanmar regime.
3. Sounds good, but international pressure in this case naturally means the Muslim world, since the US is quite non-interventionist these days, and with continued support from countries like China and India, neither the UN nor the EU seem to be strong enough (or one could argue, interested enough) to hold the Myanmar regime responsible
Then we pressure the Muslim world.
4. We don’t have enough international standing to do that
We can shut down newspapers, curb any domestic dissidence, and pave the path for a lifetime of development. But we cannot stand up (where we should) in the international arena?
5. You’re making it political
It is always political. In the past, Rohingya who managed to get Bangladeshi citizenship (or any identification tantamount to it) were saif to have supported the wrong political groups.
And on another political note, weren’t there reports on the press about how Bangladesh is so food sufficient these days? Then why must we buy rice from Myanmar?
6. The Rohingya shouldn’t have gotten citizenship in the first place
Getting a Bangladeshi citizenship is definitely easier than fighting for an independent Arakan state. Though it would be in everyone’s best regards if they focus for the latter.
But the truth is, they are fighting anyway; for food, for water, for security. In their case, that is a lot more than what anyone would’ve expected of them.
Even with all our demerits, Bangladesh has still showed a lot more humanity than many other countries
7. Why don’t they fight the Myanmar regime?
What are they supposed to fight with? Guns? Where will they get guns? We’ve already established that the international community is considerably uninterested in them, so there’s clearly nobody around to arm them and train them. Besides, they are being called terrorists as is.
Seeing as how there is something in existence called ARSA, and our government proposed a joint military mission against them, it would be incredibly hypocritical to just tell the Rohingya to fight.
8. Some people have been comparing Rohingya in 2017 to Bangalis in 1971. That’s so naïve. I mean, Bangalis in 1971 had the patronage of India and the international community. That’s not the case for Rohingyas in 2017
All this bravado talk about 1971 and about the values it represents, and now we suddenly decide that it was all about geo-politics?
With one crisis, our Liberation War gets reduced to a favourable outcome in a diplomatic card game?
And we talk so much about Bengali language, nationalism, culture; but what about the fact that to the genocidal Myanmar regime, the Rohingya are merely Bengali immigrants?
If our nation was truly founded to redress the historical oppression of the Bangali people, then why should we be OK with one of our neighbouring countries engaging in such vicious violence against people they consider as “Bangalis”?
If Myanmar thinks it is OK to kill Bangalis in its own border today, what will it think about Bangladesh in the future?
And let’s not even start with India’s role in all this.
9. Let me rephrase the question: If the Rohingya have no ability to take on a nationalist Arakan project, why should our country bear their load?
Two: We dearly incline towards foreign funds, and I am pretty sure we will be using Rohingya to get some more of it. I am also sure that the people who will be paying the money will make sure that most of it is going to the right place. Present talks with Turkey seem to be going that way. But our eventual target must be repatriation.
10. And, in the meantime, our country gets flooded with so many people
Yes, that’s the downside, and frankly I am not at all comfortable with it. It would be foolish to expect just the greater Chittagong locality to house all these people. Long-term plans are necessary to ensure repatriation, and we actually have a 1978 treaty with Myanmar that deals with this issue very closely.
It is sad and alarming that the present government seems to be reluctant to focus on that treaty, simply because it was made by the Ziaur Rahman government.
But our government’s apathy will hurt us in other ways too.
So far, it has not taken any steps to make a register of most of the Rohingya who have been able to escape to Bangladesh despite the borders being closed.
Only 33,000 of the estimated figure of more than a million refugees have been documented by the UNHCR.
If and when repatriation becomes a topic of discussion, to the point of being considered as an option, Myanmar will ask for records, and it will refuse to take back any undocumented person — I am more or less quoting the UNHCR representative here.
11. The Rohingya are so involved in the drug trade, what about that?
Drugs as in yaba, right? These days, all 64 districts of Bangladesh have a yaba supply line. If Rohingya were solely responsible, the supply line would be limited to the greater Chittagong locality.
And let’s face it; we know who the ring leader is behind the yaba trade. What are we doing with that information?
I will end with a simple statement: Genocides leave behind a mark. Our present generation may understand the land issue and the drug issue, but the generations after us will only look at the humanitarian angle, and they’ll feel incredibly ashamed that their fathers and grandfathers did not do as much as they could have.
And this does not just apply for our country; it will happen in many corners of the Muslim world, in Europe, in India, even in China.
Shocking as it may be, even the Israeli left-wing is vocal about their government’s military support for Myanmar. Pakistan already has one genocide in its history — with reports of its planes being sold to Myanmar, it has become complicit in another.
Even with all our demerits, Bangladesh has still showed a lot more humanity than many other countries. Even then, we do not want our children and grandchildren to feel that we did not do as much as we could have.
This genocide may not be completely stoppable, but if we try, at least the blood will not be on our own hands. Isn’t that the least we can work for?
Fardin Hasin is a freelance contributor.