DhakaTribune
Tuesday January 16, 2018 03:25 PM

Demons are forever

  • Published at 06:53 PM January 07, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:24 PM January 08, 2018
Demons are forever
Ground rules are essential for repatriation to take placeMAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

Within the talks of repatriation and security, the Rohingya seem to be falling through the cracks

No genocide in history happened over five days in summer. Genocide is a process.” — Florence Hartmann, journalist.

Why does the world watch and do nothing?

Is this an experiment to see if the Myanmar economy can be run burning the Rohingya as fuel?

Until the Myanmar government restricted their travel, were they considered a genuinely renewable energy source?

This is derived from Andy Zaltzmann’s observation about Britain’s old penchant for burning Catholics, until they switched to witches instead.

China, Russia, India, and Japan oppose Bangladesh and the OIC’s moves at the UN to bring international pressure to bear on Myanmar’s state-sponsored terrorism and genocide.

Yes, India and Japan only abstained, but in the circumstances, this amounts to a “no.”

Yes, India always abstains in these circumstances, but this is Bangladesh, and how do you abstain in the face of genocide?

Yes, Japan has its own genocide demons going back to times of colonial expansion.

Worth noting of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, all have degrees of ethnic cleansing on their hands, so it’s all a bit ironic that they get to call judgement.

Seems all a bit rich, given that we’ve bought billions of dollars of arms from China and Russia; the billions of dollars of trade imbalance with China and India; the tens of billions of dollars of coal plant and nuclear plant from India and Russia respectively; the billions of dollars of infrastructure projects to Indian and Chinese firms; the benign approach to India over water rights and blind eye to regular border shootings of Bangladeshi citizens.

We seem to be at a no-limit ultimate stakes poker game but playing snap.

Also now, in the event of any communal violence in Bangladesh, the Modi government reiterates its pledge of right of return and abode for Bangladeshi Hindus.

Yet nothing for Rohingya Hindus; those children of lesser gods, perhaps?

Ground rules

Currently, vague negotiations are underway to apparently repatriate some of the Rohingya. After the 2012 massacres, already 150,000 of them live in internal Myanmar refugee camps in abject conditions to which outside bodies have no access.

Repatriation is a difficult question. The groundwork for genocide has been laid down over decades and generations. After the Second World War, no one asked the Jews to go back to Germany, Austria, Poland, or Russia.

Repatriation is a difficult question. The groundwork for genocide has been laid down over decades

In an ideal world, we’d accept the refugees with open arms and give them full citizenship, instead of letting them fester in the borderland refugee camp purgatory. Yet, our very own record in the Hill Tracts and migration of minority communities since Partition says they should go home or will inspire persecution here.

Further elephant in the room, Indian claims that there are 20 million illegal “Bangladeshis” residing there. In prevailing circumstances, it’d be all too easy to whistle up agitation to send them here too, if the Rohingya were allowed to settle.

Yet, for repatriation to happen, certain unalterable ground rules must be in place: Full unconditional and irrevocable citizenship; political autonomy for a Rohingya region within Rakhine state under permanent UN oversight; trials and punishment against military, political, religious figures involved in instigating the violence in 2012, 2015, and the most recent round; school history syllabus must take into account the historical fluidity of Arakan’s borders and rebut the narrative of the Rohingya all being johnny-come-lately Bengalis, whether it be with the British after 1824 or early 20th century or whenever, and this message must be reiterated constantly on public and social media.

Without these in place, the Rohingya will be sent back to inevitable slaughter.

Why would the Myanmar authorities willingly accept these conditions? Historically, they’re sensitive and resentful of about outside interference in their affairs. So these must be imposed by sanctions.

However, who has the appetite for sanctions? $4 billion of foreign investment alone during April-September 2017 period, the six months pre-dating the current crisis, and the tens of billions of dollars before, provide billions of reasons to oppose sanctions.

Plus, will they be effective? Will they cause suffering on those that sympathise with the Rohingya? Will it fuel even more resentment against them? Will it topple the road-map to democracy? The rest of the world also understands that China will happily step in, as they have done globally wherever sanctions have been imposed.

Borders and politics

Beyond the foreign investors, the Rohingya question has a bewildering number of players and narratives. In common with former 20th century colonies the world over, Myanmar has its anguish and legacy of its peoples being divided, some favoured, some deprived, with independence movements rallying around students, unions, religion, strikes, uprisings, massacres, martyrs, and mayhem.

The Second World War brought a round of atrocities in the Rakhine, leaving permanent demarcations made in blood. A separation that made later stoking of fear, paranoia, and persecution of “the other” easier.

Burmese independence was accompanied by separatist movements erupting along many of its border areas. It stayed closed-off from the rest of the world for much of its modern history.

Since independence, Myanmar has been a military kleptocracy exerting tight control. As part of statecraft, they co-opted the Buddhist establishment and burnished a chauvinistic nationalist Myanmar identity based exclusively on Buddhism.

This form of Buddhism is prevalent in both Sri Lanka and Thailand, where it has not manifested in such extremes. The Dalai Lama has as much sway on them as the Pope has to Protestants. An opposite of the concept of the separation of state and religion.

Every decade-and-a-half, there’d be an eruption accompanied by regime change and reform, but with the military always retaining control overtly or covertly. Gradually, Myanmar creaked open slowly to the world and to investment.

Along the way arose Aung San Suu Kyi and her party of elites and ex-military, entrenched with the Burman identity. Her politics, actions, and words offer no change on the status quo for the Rohingyas.

Then there is the Rakhine state, formerly Arakan, which has always been isolated from the rest of the country by the Arakan Mountains. Historically, the independent Arakanese kingdom of Mrauk U for a while possessed Chittagong, and on occasion went on to include Tripura and Assam.

The Rakhine people are suspicious of both the Rohingya and the central majority Burman. Rakhine state is less politically devolved than other states and thus hosts a greater military presence. There, the monks tend to be more militant and extremist, working hand-in-hand with local politicians.

So, between all of these political tectonic plates, the Rohingya fall between the cracks, where the use of ethnic violence and tension has become a political tool and standard operating procedure.

Of course, there are those from all walks of life who oppose the persecution, but their voices and views are not loud or forceful enough.

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double” — The Clash

Shammi Huda is a businessman.

Related Stories

Leave a Comment

 Please read our Comment Policy before posting



Latest News

Featured Videos

Subscribe Ad_330:120

Most Read

Send this to a friend