No Country for ‘Outside’ Men

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 Politics

'Home' is a myth to many across the globe

Our planet has seen many human migrations throughout the globe. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade dates back to 15th centuries where almost 12 million African slaves were taken from their homelands and transported to America. After the Second World War in 1945, when the Potsdam agreement was signed among the Western Allies, a huge population had to migrate from Germany to Eastern Europe. Later in 1947, when India was gifted Independence, human migration was on religious grounds. The Muslims fled to Pakistan and the Hindus-Sikhs fled to the mainland India. This migration was disastrous causing outbreak of law and order, social upheaval and around 200000 were left homeless. Recently, the migration of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to other countries has captured the headlines of international newspapers.


The Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic minority community living in Myanmar’s western state Rakhine, bordering Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. Out of the 53.26 million Myanmar population, 1.1 million belong to the above group. Myanmar, also known as Burma, considers this population as illegal Bangladeshi migrants and denies citizenship. Rohingya are classified by Myanmar authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite many living there for generations. They face restrictions everywhere that have led the United Nations to consider them one of the world's most persecuted people. They are not allowed to have education, not to register their marriages and the worst of all, the Burmese have encouraged communal violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar was under Military rule for a long 49 years when the elections were conducted and a leader was elected democratically in 2011. The Military still has a major role in the governance though the state is officially democratic. The modern Burmese state is built upon the concept of Buddhist Burmese supremacy. This concept has been used by the military as a pretext for their rule and the same military started the spark between the Rohingya Muslims and the major Buddhist population. The Rakhine state of Myanmar had already been in news for the dual violent riots between the Rohingyas and the Buddhists in 2012. The unrest in the country claimed around 200 lives and left around 1.5 lakhs homeless. The religiously sensitive mindsets were said to be agitated purposefully by the Military. "The Burmese authorities, particularly the military, have a clear policy to push them out from Burma using persecution in almost every form possible," Sunai Phasuk, HRW's senior Thailand researcher. Human Rights Watch (HRW) even commented that the government policies and discrimination have left the Rohingyas homeless in their own land.


“The atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state is a crime against humanity and bordering on ethnic cleansing.” Rohingyas were forced to run for their lives. They gathered, set up some boats and started travelling through the waters to infinity. They hoped the Muslim-majority country Malaysia or any other countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh or Thailand would accept them to provide with food clothing and shelter. Luck turned back at the migrants when Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia drove off the boats that neared their shores. The Human Rights Activists and UN involved in the issue. There was sympathy towards the Rohingyas from every corner of the globe but no country was ready to welcome them. Some boats even reached Australia but the response was no different.

The Malaysian and Indonesian governments later changed their approach and agreed to accept the fleeing boats filled with starving Rohingyans. The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR pronounced their stern actions that played a vital role in changing the policies of two nations. Thailand was the last to join. Bangladesh made the statement “If they are Bangladeshi, there is no doubt that we will take them. It's a good gesture of Bangladesh and Myanmar, that we are coming to a consensus and we are taking over the Bangladeshis once they are verified." The host nation Myanmar faces some tough time now and their stand as said by Myanmar Democracy and Human Rights Party quoted, “These people, in my hope should be returned to their native place, and they should be resettled and they should have some opportunities there, so they are not in a circumstance that will compel them to flee their land."

The statistics calculated shows around ten thousand Rohingya Muslims set their plight to foreign lands in search of better living. Among them, 4500 have reached ashore. UN estimates around 2000 men are still stranded in the seas with no land nearby. Where could the rests be? Jailed abroad? In the deep seas? Kept their mouth shut? Taken back to Myanmar?


Burma had been a country under civil war attacks for the past six decades. The lives claimed are in thousands. Death and struggle is not leaving Myanmar. Who should help them?


written by
Ajay Peter