Rohingya shadow over Myanmar Hindus
by Sandhya Jain on 29 May 2018 7 Comments

The current Rohingya crisis that has seized global eyeballs is a self-invited calamity in which Rohingya militants attacked 30 police posts and an army base in Myanmar in August 2017, and simultaneously unleashed a reign of terror on their mild mannered Hindu neighbours. Yet it has taken the otherwise in-your-face Amnesty International nine months to finally speak the truth, possibly because Hindus are heathens. It is alleged that ‘new evidence’ has surfaced; the truth is that survivors spoke up in September 2017 itself.


Bleeding heart liberals who wonder why Rohingyas would attack innocent Hindu villagers may recall the anti-British agitation in Kerala’s Malabar in 1921, when the Mappilas (Moplahs) turned on their Hindu neighbours for reasons that remain inexplicable to this day. Yet India is expected to uncomplainingly host at least 40,000 (unofficial estimates are higher) unwanted Rohingyas and roughly 20 million unwanted illegal migrants from Bangladesh.


In a statement released on May 22, 2018, Amnesty International admitted what the Myanmar government had stated in September 2017, viz., that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) slaughtered dozens of Hindus in in the western state of Rakhine (Arakan). The subsequent action by the military resulted in lakhs of Rohingyas fleeing the country. Amnesty International’s report is based on interviews with several Hindus, including survivors, who witnessed the killings, and other evidence, such as photos of mass graves.


The ARSA, formed around 2012 after previous bouts of violence, claims it targetted only Myanmar security personnel. While the Myanmar government did not allow human rights activists access to the conflict zone, David Mathieson, a Yangon-based security analyst who has seen Amnesty’s report, said, “What Amnesty have clearly shown is the group was involved in evident atrocities against Hindu civilians in the early stages of the ‘area clearance operation’”.


Around 500 Hindu refugees, who fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh and settled near two temples at Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar, consistently asserted that Rohingya militants had attacked them in Myanmar. The nearly 4.36 lakh Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh claim to be victims of army brutality, but the hostilities were initiated by the insurgents. Many Hindu refugees told that they were attacked by militants from the ‘Kala Party’, faces covered with black cloth, speaking Rohingya language. One victim explained, “The Burmese usually don’t know the Rohingya language. Though the attackers covered their face with dark clothes, they seemed to be Rohingyas.”


A Hindu who arrived in Bangladesh before the conflict was told that his parents, sister and a nephew had died when attacked by militants in Maungdaw’s Sabbazar. An elderly man from Chikanchharhi in Rakhine said a terrorist group entered their village and confined nearly 60 persons for six to seven days, without even water to drink. They wanted the government to recognise the Rohingyas, “I said we are Hindus and we cannot call ourselves Rohingyas. The villagers fled when the fighting began (with the army), “We saw from a hill that our houses were burnt”.


By September 2017 itself, Myanmar officials began to report the discovery of mass graves in villages of Maungdaw town, where some of the worst episodes of violence occurred. The bodies of around 45 slain Hindus were found in three mass graves in Yebawkya village; the authorities held the ARSA responsible. The dead included 17 males, 20 females and eight boys, six of whom were under 10-years-old. A Hindu survivor from the village, who fled to Bangladesh, said that ARSA insurgents took nearly 100 Hindus from the village and killed all barring eight women who were forced to convert to Islam and brought to Bangladesh.


These eight women (between the ages of 15 to 25 years) told the authorities that a 500-strong group led by a foreigner dressed in black and a local named Noru Lauk from Khamaungseik village entered their homes in the morning of Aug. 25, and seized their belongings, including jewellery and mobile phones. The militants announced, “This is not your village. It is our territory. We are the sole owners of this land. You are all the same as the Myanmar Armed Forces and police members. We will murder Buddhists and all of you who worship the statues made of bricks and stones.” They divided the villagers into two groups according to gender, tied their hands, and took them to Bawtala village, and slit the throats of the men, chopped up their bodies, and threw them in nearby pits. Myanmar security forces found the mass graves on Sept. 24 and 25; nearly 192 are still missing.


The converted women were taken across the border on August 28, and thereafter by car to Kutuparlaung refugee camp, made to live with Muslims and forced to wear burqas. When foreign media arrived at the camp, the women were forced to say that their families were killed by Myanmar soldiers and Rakhine ethnics, or their children’s throats would also be slit.


When a 15-year-old girl was forced to marry a Muslim named Barbu, the victims managed to convey to a Bangladesh-based Hindu leader, Shaw Phaw Nam Shaw Mar Raw Ni, that the abducted Hindus were being converted to Islam. He contacted the Bangladeshi border guards and went to the camp to rescue the eight Hindu women and their children; a Hindu priest took them to his home. But on August 30, Bangladesh officials took them back to Kutuparlaung Camp and said they take care of them; they were guarded by a Bangladeshi Hindu.


On Sept. 19, one woman managed to contact her brother-in-law in Maungdaw town and inform him about the place where the villagers, including her husband, were killed. A week later, she managed to contact Hindu religious leader Ni Mal in Sittwe; he suggested the group return home with help from Myanmar security forces. So the women left the camp on the pretext of attending a festival and returned.


In September 2017 itself, Israel Resource News Agency correspondent Rachel Avraham lambasted the international community for not treating all Myanmar refugees equally. While the situation in Rakhine State was defined as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, the Hindus of Myanmar were ignored. The plight of Hindus was nightmarish; armed militants entered Hindu areas and stabbed, shot and raped the residents. The aim was clearly ethnic cleansing of Rakhine State. Intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned that Rohingya militants have ties with groups like Islamic State, al-Qaida, Lashkar e-Toiba and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). On what basis do they deserve rehabilitation in India? 

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