It is widely said and accepted that history has a way of repeating itself. But in reality, not only does history simply repeat itself, it has quite an ironic way of coming back in circles: Reversing roles, shapes, characters, and people in a rather cruel fashion.
The issue I’m trying to bring into focus is the Rohingya refugee crisis. Thousands of Rohingya men, women, and children are fleeing into Bangladesh from the Rakhine State of Myanmar to save their lives from what many are calling a genocide.
Unfortunately, very few things in this world are that simple. Contrary to what the international media is saying, Bangladesh is not at fault here.
Bangladesh houses almost 200,000 Rohingya refugees already. On top of that, every humanitarian effort is made to accommodate the needs of the new Rohingyas coming to Bangladeshi borders before they’re sent back.
Now this may sound like a farce, but there is actually very little that Bangladesh can do for these new incoming refugees. It is no secret that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet, and taking more people in is almost socio-economic suicide.
There are enough problems already with the existing refugees. For instance, on average, a Rohingya labourer charges only half as much as a Bangladeshi day labourer in Teknaf, which means Bangladeshis are losing jobs.
Because the world has changed to become more humane, it is about time that this issue was put to rest
Since Teknaf is a border area, these unemployed Bangladeshi men, along with the Rohingya refugees who don’t work, are lured into the world of smuggling and drug dealing.
As a result, crime is rampant throughout these areas, and that is just the tip of a very nasty iceberg.
It is probably unfair to compare this crisis with the refugee crisis caused in 1971 by the Liberation War. India had an active interest in the liberation of Bangladesh and had the support of the USSR.
Additionally, there was an active resistance going on in East Pakistan, and it was fairly obvious that a country united only by religion and physically separated by another country cannot exist for long.
That is to say, there was an end in sight. The same cannot be said for the Rohingya refugee crisis.
History is full of conflict
Every so often in the news, you are likely to read about the atrocities committed by the Myanmar government on Rohingyas. There is never a solution, just a mellowing down of the situation, until the next time.
There doesn’t seem to be anything indicating a lasting solution. To make things more difficult, the Myanmar government has strong diplomatic ties with a world power like China, while very few world leaders are even talking about the ethnic cleansing that the Rohingya are facing.
The history of the Buddhist-Islamist conflict in the area goes back many centuries. There are records of Mughals going to war with Buddhist kings in the Chittagong-Rakhine area. But, when it comes down to it, the struggle has more to do with ethnicity than religion.
The Myanmar government doesn’t recognise the Rohingya people as their citizens. Rather, they term the Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
While there are debates surrounding this, the truth is that the Myanmar government cannot deny that these people belong in Myanmar, even if the sole reason is the erratic division of land following the British exit of the area in 1948.
Throughout the centuries, the world has changed, but this conflict hasn’t. And because the world has changed to become a more civilised and humane place, it is about time that this issue was put to rest.
Instead of putting pressure on Bangladesh, which is already pulling more than its fair share to help out in this crisis, the world leaders should put pressure on the Myanmar government and their Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader to stop persecuting their own people and accept them into society.
After all, a problem has to be solved at its roots, not elsewhere.
Nibir Mostafa Khan is an intern at the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute.