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They Who Belong To The Earth

The Rohingya crisis is the legacy of accursed history—going back to Partition-era politics—and the fog of violence clouds the possibility of real solutions

They Who Belong To The Earth
Swept By Hate | Photograph by Getty Images
They Who Belong To The Earth
outlookindia.com
2017-09-16T11:13:36+05:30

It has been over two weeks since the northern Maungdaw district of Myanmar’s Rakhine state has been convulsed by one of its worst-ever bouts of violence in decades over the so-called ‘Rohi­ngyas’ or ‘Bengalis’. Unlike in the past, when cycles of violence were sparked by communal incidents, this time it was triggered on August 25 by coordinated attacks on some 30 border posts and an army base by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), now designated by Myanmar as a “terrorist” organisation. This followed a similar attack on three border posts when ARSA first made its appearance as a still shadowy Harakah al Yaqin (HaY) in October 2016 and the killing of an army officer in November.

The human toll has been heart-rending and widely documented: hundreds, overwhelmingly Rohingyas, but also some border police, officials, Rakhine Buddhists and minorities, including Hindus, killed; perhaps up to three lakh Rohingyas displaced across the Naf river into Bangladesh and thousands of Buddhists and minorities within Rakhine; and widespread looting of villages. Charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide fill the air. Humanitarian access to the area is severely limited; the media, unwelcome.

The events represent a qualitative escalation of a long-festering issue that has seen periodic outbursts of violence since a Mujahideen rebellion in 1948, but most recently in June-October 2012, when over 160 were killed, lakhs displaced, and some 1,40,000, mos­tly Rohingyas, confined to IDP camps since then. Fre­quent cycles of violence, typically kindled by cri­minal incidents taking a communal turn, may have been prevented, but social relations have been aggravated by disproportionate force and the weight of the security forces acting on the side of the Rakhine. Besides, loss of livelihoods and...

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