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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

'Where prevail justice and independence'

Why I can no longer proudly sing 'Kaba Ma Kyai', the national anthem of Myanmar

Update : 31 May 2018, 04:29 PM

I had my early education in a traditional Islamic madrassa in our village. I remember, as a four-year-old I enjoyed my experience there learning the Arabic alphabets. The ustaad (teacher) would point to a letter on the blackboard and we would all scream together to read that letter. Those were truly moments of pleasure. 

Few years later I was enrolled in 'regular' school. I started learning Burmese and English alphabets. Here the teacher also pointed to the blackboard, but this time Burmese and English letters were written on it. The two schools weren't too dissimilar.

But one thing was different. Singing 'Kaba Ma Kyai', Myanmar's national anthem, together. Unlike in the madrassa, we had to sing the anthem everyday, and twice no less. Once in the morning, before lessons started; and another time before the end of a school day. 

Whether for the haunting chorus or its beautiful meanings, 'Kaba Ma Kyai' enthralled me completely. It made me happy and proud for who I was. It made me feel that I, too, was a citizen of Myanmar. It was 'my' country, as much as it was anyone else's. 

What is the national anthem? As the definition of a national anthem we can understand: "A song that is used in an official capacity to represent and inspire patriotism in a country. It plays a similar role to a country & apposes motto or flag. So it is not only bound to play at the beginning of any game it can be played anywhere, but it is just to show pride and patriotism."

Looking further back, before I was even alive, in 1930, Saya Tin, member of a Burmese nationalist group called Do Bama AssiAyone (We Burmese), wrote the words to the song, rebelling against the British government. It was adopted as the party song of the group and was first performed on July 20, 1930. Tin was promptly arrested for inciting rebellion and was jailed until 1946. Meanwhile, the song became a national symbol during the British rule and then the Japanese occupation.

In 1947, before Myanmar's independence, a committee was formed to select proposals for the future flag, coat of arms and national anthem. Saya Tin became a member of this committee in July 1947. It was decided to adopt Tin’s composition with some slight changes of the text. On September 22, 1947, another correction of the text was made and this version became official upon independence in 1948. 

The history of 'Kaba Ma Kyai' was also what inspired me and was a reason why I enjoyed reciting it for more than 10 years in school. But, ultimately I discovered, the words to the song moved me the most. The title of the song 'Kaba Ma Kyai' (Till the end of the world) begins by proclaiming the principles on which the country is supposed to be founded: ta rahmya ta: lwat lap hkrangna/ma  switui  prany  tuimre (Where prevail justice and independence, This is our nation, this is our land.)

Unfortunately for me, a Burmese Muslim, there was no independence and justice did not prevail. Nor did we enjoy “equality and rightful policy”, as the national anthem promises. Since the flare up of violence in 2012, my Buddhist government's genocidal operations have been intensifying against my people in Myanmar. Even though persecution had been going on from a long time, the devastation that occurred since 2012, when I was 27, completely stripped me off the love I had for this land. I had to leave Myanmar, my motherland. Our rulers couldn't let us stay and live. Since last August, hundreds of thousands like me were forced to leave the country as well. 

Perhaps one day the government and the people of Myanmar will actually honour 'Kaba Ma Kyai' and heed its true meanings and settle the Rohingya. But until then, the song has no meaning or relevance.


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