Humanity in the age of Human Rights: A tale of Rohingiya’s Muslims
Echoing with ample credence, human of prevalent international politics, it would be an undeniable truth to say that we are living in an age of human rights. Statutes, convents, charters and manifestoes of almost every, national, regional and international organization seems to in incomplete without human rights. Humanitarian intervention, biopolitics and Responsibility to protect, (R to P or R2P) are the current norms that international community has coined in the name of Human Rights protection, in order to punish the ‘mass atrocities’ i.e. ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although tremendous efforts have been done internationally to check, prevent and punish abuses of human rights, but still in several regions humanity is suffering despite the human rights rhetoric. Recent genocide and forced displacement of Rohingiyan Muslims is one of such crimes and has raised many questions for the human rights protection, norm settlers, supporters and practitioners.
The contemporary position of this ethic minority of Myanmar is that of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees living in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Their plight has called abusers of human rights to exploit the situation, made them vulnerable The situation was further deteriorated when, after 2012 riots between Muslims and Buddhists, in 2014 the Myanmar Government’s policy asked them either to provide proof that their family has lived there for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation. Consequently the new wave of migration led these migrants to states refused to accept them as they were stranded at the sea. Myanmar shares its western border with India and Bangladesh, eastern, south eastern and north eastern borders with Laos, Thailand and China respectively. These immediate bordering states should bear the responsibility to protect Human Rights as the members of international community. But in the migration thousands of stateless people were compelled to move into the sea and no state was ready to accept and the responses of these states has been critical in aggravating the situation in the region. Bangladesh is bearing 200,000 migrants living in the refugee camps those who are enrolled by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are looked after but un-enrolled are facing deplorable plight. But the recent wave of migrants witnessed Bangladesh’s response with closed borders. India alleges these migrants to be involved in terrorism on Indian soil. Thailand, one of the state engaged in talks recently conducted in Malaysia on the issue, has been actively conducting crackdown against Malaysia being wealthy and short of unskilled labor urged to accept 7,000 Rohingyas as temporary migrants. Indonesia which has been also engaged in recent talks has agreed on the similar standard as that of Malaysia.
Rohingyas are one of the minority ethnic groups residing on the territory of Burma (Myanmar), the divergent views of their origin lies at the heart of that attracts international attentions towards the issue. The Burmese Government’s claim is founded on the migration that took place during British annexation of Burma in 19th century, while that of Rohingya’s is founded on the historical Muslim trading and residence in the area during 12th century. The Muslim saturation was
mostly in Arakan (Rakhine) region of Burma. In 1942 during WWII, Japanese invasion and British retreat resulted into communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Before invasion the British had promised to form a Muslim National Area_ that never came true_ in Northern Arakan region, resulted into Muslim population’s migration to Bangladesh, formulated Army and demanded the submission of Muslim Majority area into the-then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This created sense of insecurity among the Rangoon Govt. and after independence in 1948 they declared Rhongyan Muslims as illegal migrants and were denied any rights of citizenship or nationals of Burma. They didn’t have any right to be part of the civilian jobs rather were replaced by Budhhist Burmese. In 1950 the-then Prime Minister of Burma recognized their claim to be ethnic minority of Burma, but his approach lacked pragmatic efforts and proved nothing effective. Furthermore his efforts (political move) were rolled back by the next government which rose to power after coup’d’état. The 1974’s Emergency Immigration Act required all the Rohingyas to have Foreign Registration Card (FRC) instead of (NRC). 1975’s Nagamin (King of Dragons)-a census operation to check into the country illegally” resulted into human rights abuses in Arakan region and caused 200,000 Rohingya migrations to Bangladesh and Malaysia in 1978. As a result of political, social and national exclusion the minority group’s ethnic recognition turned into guerilla warfare in 1991. Since then the returning migrants are treated as rights.
Pakistan being the Muslim state offered grant of US $5 million in the form of food for the migrants living in the camps in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and decided to submit letters to the UN Secretary General, President UNSC and OIC to provide humanitarian assistance and address the root cause of the issue by increasing diplomatic pressure on the Myanmar Government to resolve the issue. Turkey played benevolent role to send ship to rescue the Rohingyan migrants stranded at sea. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emarates (UAE) also agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to the refugees. Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the cause and urged international community and civil organizations solution.The Organization of Islamic Cooperation appointed special envoy who recommended plan of action calling the Myanmar government to take action against people promoting hate speech and instigating violence, suggests for holding inter-community and interfaith dialogue, allow internally displaced people (IDPs) to return to their homes, invest in the socio-economic development of the Rakhine region, and open up for international humanitarian assistance to reach the community that was affected by the ethnic violence that broke out in 2012. The United Nations has been actively engaged in providing relief to the refugees through UNHCR it also urged regional nations to prioritize saving the lives of those who are refused to provide refuge and are stranded at sea, but no effective solution has been presented to address the root cause and identity of the Rohingyan Muslims.
Although there have been efforts by the states, civil society, regional and international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance but after intense international pressure, yet the inevitable. Not only have the religious, but socio-political and economic Rohingya community is facing identity crisis since 1948, denial of citizenship rights exposed them to be discriminated socially, politically and economically. They were politically excluded and had never been given right to vote prior to 1991, even when they were given this right the result of the elections was never accepted by the military rulers. They were socially considered as given citizenship rights, discriminated in civil services and are still stateless. Their social exclusion resulted into lack of educational opportunities and economic deplorable plight. Further the religious discrimination compelled them to be prone to be executed relentlessly.
Solution to the problem lies in addressing the root cause of the issue. Social inequality, inaccessible opportunities, religious discrimination, national and political exclusion credits the issue. They should be repatriated to their state after assuring the sociopolitical and economic inclusion of this minority in Myanmar by the United Nations Peace Operations. For that the unity of international community is required. To mitigate the religious cleavage interfaith dialogue and peaceful settlement is the dire need. All that needed is they should be treated as human beings, but if international community fails to address such issues it would leave a question for the value of humanity in the age of Human Rights.