(To be read in continuation of my article titled The Outsiders)
Mr Tomas Ojea Quintana, a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, completed on August 4, 2012, a six-day visit to Myanmar to study allegations of violations of the human rights of its ethnic minorities and Rohingya Muslims by the military regime that was in power for nearly five decades. He has called for the establishment of a Truth Commission to investigate these allegations.
The Myanmar government reportedly allowed him to visit the Rakhine state (previously called the Arakan state) on the Bangladesh border for a day. The Rakhine state was recently the scene of violent clashes between its local Buddhist population and the Rohingya Muslims, in which about 80 persons were killed. A large number of people belonging to both communities have been driven out of their homes and are living in refugee camps.
The Myanmar army and civilian political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, do not recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic group of Myanmar as claimed by the Rohingyas. They look upon them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who, in the past, had joined hands with indigenous Arakanese Muslims for the creation of an independent Arakan state. They are also concerned over their alleged links with the Bangladesh branch of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which had joined the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998. The HUJI of Bangladesh, identified as HUJI (B), has many Rohingya and Arakanese Muslim members some of whom were taken by it to Afghanistan via Pakistan for fighting along with the Taliban before 9/11.
The Myanmar Army and civilian leaders are not prepared to allow the Rohingyas to settle down in their territory adjoining Bangladesh. They have been saying they should either go back to Bangladesh or should be re-settled in the Muslim countries of South-East Asia. Neither Malaysia nor Indonesia nor Brunei is prepared to let them in. Bangladesh is not prepared to take them back lest they pose a threat to its national and economic security.
In recent weeks, helicopter gunships of the Bangladesh Armed Forces have been allegedly bombing boats carrying Rohingyas fleeing from refugee camps in the Rakhine state in order to prevent their re-entry into Bangladesh.
As a result, small numbers of Rohingyas are believed to have started sneaking into India. One does not know how they are coming--by boats or by the land route via Mizoram or Manipur. If this is not stopped immediately, the trickle might gather force and momentum adding to our internal security problems and aggravating communal tension.
Next to LET, HUJI (B) has been quite active in India in the past. If we do not act promptly and vigorously against the creeping infiltration of illegal Muslims of Bangladesh origin from Bangladesh and Myanmar into India, our internal security problems are likely to get worse.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.
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