By Uzair Qadri
Among the very many devastating consequences of the Imperialism in Asia and Africa is the very nature of the Nation-states it left in its wake. Imperialism left and instilled in nation-states the queer sense of nationalism as the central goal. These entities were actually the fraught ones and rather poorly-cobbled patchworks. It is only but natural then that these nation-states with the currents of times have never been stable. All in all, it has been a bloody business for almost all of them, no matter how deftly they have put the garb of normalcy on the set of skeletons in their respective cupboards.
Whether the nation-state is as large as India or as small as Cambodia or Myanmar, there has always been a heterogeneous ‘other within then’. In India, it is Kashmir, besides many others and in Myanmar, it has been the Rohingya ethnic people. While India has termed Kashmir as anything-other-than-what-it-is, Rohingyas have consistently suffered powerlessness and persecution of the worst sorts at the hands of the Buddhist military Junta. What has made the matters worse for them and many others around the world is the fact that most of the victims are Muslims. It is just what the world powers want, the reason being that from the end of the World war II up until the time the South Union broke down in 1991, the enemy was communism and after 1991, that convenient enemy is ‘Islam plus Muslims’. This in no sense means that there is a complete binary of Muslims versus non-Muslims. Humans are after all humans and sufferings can’t confined be to Muslims. As the world stands mute today amidst the crisis of Rohingyas there are many people who aren’t Muslims and yet they are some of the most concerned people about the Rohingyas. It is another thing that, in the brutal unequal world riven with hatred and neo-liberalism, only a small minority of the people in power matter. Even so, Islam-Muslims are that convenient crutch to the wars manufactured anywhere.
Over the last one month, the world has largely been a silent-spectator to what has unfolded in the strategic north-western province of Myanmar, itself a backward country which suffers the pangs of shambolic performance on every count from education to health to infrastructure development. Amongst some of the very few positive things about the country are that Myanmar is the largest producer of teak in the world and is the second largest producer of the pulses after India. Except these two things, there isn’t much to be talked about the country despite its location. But, what has put the country in the limelight today, for all the bad reasons, is the graded-genocide it has set in place in its Rakhine state , adjoining Bangladesh.
In the province have lived, as per accounts from the 12thcentury, Rohingyas, originally around 2 million in number, now reduced to around 1 million or so in the most persecuted state. Most of the Rohingyas are Muslims and a small percentage are Hindus. Pakistan is home to around 3 lakh Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh to around 100,000, West Asia to around 50,000, India to around 40,000, , Malaysia to around 10,000 and the rest are scattered in Australia, Canada and some west European Countries. After the British left Myanmar, in 1948, the Rohingyas have never been considered as the natives of the state but their plight was still better up until 1962. Since 1962, when the military came to power in Myanmar up until 1982, their state started getting degraded. But, in 1982 when The Burma Citizenship law was passed, which recognized around 135 ethnicities in that country, leaving out just the Rohingyas, it has been an ordeal of hell-fire for the Rohingyas.
The law enunciated citizenship in three categories: Normal citizenship, Associate citizenship and Naturalised citizenship based on who lived before or after 1823 and who spoke from amongst the native languages. In this law, Rohingya ( Ruaingga ) dialect wasn’t recognized on the basis that the dialect was closer to the Bengali language. On this churlish argument have the Rohingyas been classified as the Bengalis who migrated to the Rakhine state of Myanmar across the Naf river which separates the two countries. It needs to be mentioned that independent researchers have maintained that Rohingyas’ is quite separate a dialect from the Bengali language dialects, even though some say that the dialect is closer to the Chittagongese dialect of the Bengali language. In the last 20 years or so, as majoritarianism has entrenched itself as the new normal across the world, Rohingyas have been murdered, raped, mutilated, trafficked, immolated, discriminated, disappeared, ghettoized, drowned and what not. The sordid reality is that women and children have been the most disproportionate victims. As per reports, there have been increasing numbers of young Rohingya girls sold into prostitution in Bangladesh, Thailand, India and Myanmar.
As per the emerging geo-politics, there is a compounding of trouble every moment for stateless nations ( using Benedict Anderson’s coinage ). Stateless nations across the world, they be Rohingyas or Kashmiris or Baluchis or Tibetans or Kurds, first have suffered the pangs of powerlessness. The process is continuous. Then they are made to suffer ‘information asymmetry’ with the occupiers controlling almost every channel of information dissemination. Then the limitations the stateless people suffer in exercising their sympathy with each other. While people in Kashmir do use their voice for Palestine, Rohingyas and many others, the fact is that the people in Palestine and Rakhine state of Myanmar can’t do so for Kashmiris. Several years ago, I came across a conversation on Social media between a Kashmiri and a Palestinian in which the latter had expressed love for India, the former’s tormentor, and refused solidarity and support for the former, just because India, with its passive equidistance vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine, had maintained a semblance of support for Palestine ( thankfully that is gone now ). Rohingyas can’t speak against India because they don’t want themselves to be deported.
In India, Rohingyas are living illegally in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Chennai, Delhi and Jammu. ( India is not a signatory to the International Covenant on Refugees 1951 which bases itself on the three principles: ‘non-discrimination’, ‘non-penalization’ and ‘non-refoulement’. Non-refoulement remains the most important, that is, a refugee can’t be refouled or deported back to his country until the situation in his native country becomes compatible with his safety ). Similarly, Turkey has come out as a frontline voice on many an issue of Muslims, whether it be Rohingya or Kashmir but what about its own backyard where it is as ruthless as any expansionist power. Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds is a case in point. Therefore, all those starched liberals who, without understanding the varied nuances and predicaments experienced by the stateless people, directly or indirectly, question the ethics of the occupied people must understand that the stateless people suffer limitations at multiple levels.
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited Myanmar just a couple of days ago. In the meeting with India’s PM, the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi drew comparisons between the Kashmir issue and Rohingya issue-of course, from her own monochromatic view of the world. In the first place, she isn’t any wrong either. Both Kashmiris and Rohingyas are the imaginary communities. Both, in their respective places are ‘residential aliens’. Both are predominantly Muslims, that ‘other’ to manufacture war and terrorism. Both have been demonized and dehumanized. But, there are some cardinal differences as well. Kashmir remains even today a lost donkey in the Himalayas, well insulated from the waves of the world. Kashmiris are around 7.5 million in number, a kind of mental boost to them, a force multiplier if they get united, not necessarily monotonized. As against that, the Rakhine state is a starting point of India’s Act East policy. The trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand passes through it. Sittwe port which is part of the Kaladan River Multimodal Project is located in the Rakhine state. The BCIM ( Bangladesh-China-India and Myanmar ) corridor passes through it. The BRICS bank’s first investment of around $900 million went into the region. All these issues have presented Rohingyas as a disruption. In addition, the unofficial acceptance of the Muslims as the terrorists in the present regime in India and a benign regime in place in Bangladesh has made matters worse for the Rohingyas. China’s ambition to contain India makes them insensitive to the issue. The United Nations is hamstrung by the powers like USA and west European countries who have always seen the blue-eyed Aung San Suu Kyi as the epitome of democracy and liberation.
As for the demands to strip away the Nobel peace Prize from Aung San Suu Kyi ( she got it while incarcerated ) are concerned, when has Nobel Peace Prize been all that noble a prize? If scoundrels like Henry Kissinger ( former American Foreign Secretary ), Shimon Peres, Barack Obama, Yitzhak Rabin etc could get it, what is the big deal about Aung San Suu Kyi. In the times when mad-scale capitalism is a virtue and white-washing of crimes of the powerful is a necessity, what shall a Nobel Peace laureate or a no-Nobel Peace laureate do?
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