Rohingyas – the most persecuted community
The Arakan state in Myanmar shares its borders with Bangladesh and is inhabited by two ethnic communities – the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims. The former are in a majority while the latter form the minority. The Rohingyas, numbering approximately two million, have been enduring continued persecution triggered by the ethnic cleansing policy of the country’s military regime. About 1.5 million Rohingyas have been living in exile in many countries around the world.
Arakan was never a part of Burma or Bangladesh and was, in fact, a separate region until the Burmese King Bowdawpaya invaded it in 1784. Arakan’s last dynasty ruled from the 15th to 18th century and was influenced by Muslim culture to the extent that the basis of Muslim faith, the
kalima, was inscribed on its coins. Rohingya Muslims are natives of that region, as mentioned in the fifth volume of Asiatic Researches. The colonial British census records of 1825 A.D. show one Muslim for every two Buddhists in Arakan.
The constitution of Myanmar provides indigenous status to all people permanently residing in Arakan or in the Union of Burma before 1825. The Muslims, prior to 1825, were counted as one of the lawfully indigenous races of Burma. But today the Rohingyas are termed illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denied citizenship rights.