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THE ROHINGYA PROBLEM: WHY AND HOW TO MOVE FORWARD
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui – A Rohingya Expert and Thinker from USA.
As a conscientious global citizen of our planet, I have been writing for the past 32 years since my days as a university student on a plethora of issues, which include history, culture and civilization of the peoples of the South Asia and the Middle East. I have also studied and written on international politics, human rights and terrorism. In my decades of studies I have not found a people that are more persecuted than the Rohingyas of Myanmar, or what used to be called Burma.
I have come here not to debate but to discuss. I have come here not to talk as an expert on Arakan but to speak as a human being who cares deeply about our humanity. After all, what is more important than being an intelligent and rational person who can think, analyze and offer solutions that bind us all together on common themes that go beyond our identity as a race or an ethnicity?
What’s wrong with Burma Citizenship Law (1982)? — The Burma Citizenship Law (1982) states: Chapter II –Citizenship
- Nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D. are Burma citizens.
- The Council of State may decide whether any ethnic group is national or not.
The name Rohingya was deliberately expunged from the list of 135 national races (which includes 1 Burman major race plus 7 deputy races plus 127 sub-races) of Burma, thus, opening the door for all types of discrimination. [A comparison with the 1948 Union Citizenship Act, as shown below, would reveal that the 1982 Law altered the word Arakanese to Rakhine, thus effectively excluding the minority Rohingyas of Arakan from their shared national status. Similarly, the word ‘ethnic’ was put in place of ‘races.2] Because of their racial and religious ties with the people of Bangladesh – living on the other side of the Naaf River, they are treated as if they have migrated from there since the days of British annexation of Arakan in 1826 C.E., after the First Anglo-Burman War of 1824-26. Forgotten there is the historical evidence that the ancestors of today’s Rohingyas have lived in Arakan from time immemorial (see the history books written by experts like Professor Abdul Karim, Dr. Moshe Yegar and many others).
Interestingly, the author of this highly discriminatory law during the military dictator Ne Win era was (late) Dr. Aye Kyaw, a Rakhine academic who was a key figure in the formulation of racial policy of the ANC (Arakan National Congress). Through this ‘criminal’ law, Dr. Kyaw ensured virtual elimination of the Rohingya people from his native Arakan, where they comprised roughly half the population (i.e., 47.75% according to the estimate of Dr. Shwe Lu Maung in 2005).
As I have noted elsewhere ANC’s doctrine is Rakhine neo-Nazi Fascism, which espouses superiority of the Rakhine race over all other races in Arakan.5 [See the book – The Price of Silence: Muslim-Buddhist War of Bangladesh and Myanmar, A Social Darwinist’s Analysis by Shwe Lu Maung alias Shahnawaz Khan, DewDrop Arts & Technology, USA (2005), pp. 232-244.] Interestingly, Dr. Kyaw had no moral bite to deny the Rohingya of their due share in citizenship while he himself became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He and many of his Rakhine racist followers (including Aye Chan, Khin Maung Saw), of course, did not have to prove ancestral ties of more than 160 years for acquiring citizenship in their adopted countries, something that they demanded that the Rohingyas and many other minorities must now do to be eligible for such rights! What hypocrisy and what a grave crime to rob an entire people!
Note that according to the draft constitution for the Arakan state, formulated by the ANC, “The citizenship of the Republic of Arakan shall be determined and regulated by law. The citizen of Arakan shall be known as Arakanese. Buddhism shall be the state religion. Only the Arakan legal entities and citizens of Arakan nationality shall have the right to own land.” Since the Rohingyas are classified as Arakan Bengalis they will be subjected to a second class citizenship with no right to run for office or own land.6 It is an apartheid policy of exclusion, discrimination and marginalization of the Rohingya, who are derogatorily called the Kula (Kala) much like how the Afro-Americans were treated in the USA as the Black Niggers.
there for a total period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding either 1st January, 1942 or 1st January, 1947.”
Under Section 11 of the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947), as shown below, the Rohingya are citizens of the Union of Burma:
- (i) Every person, both of whose parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma; (ii) every person born in any of the territories included within the Union, at least one of whose grand-parents belong or belonged to any of the indigenous races of Burma; (iii) every person born in any of territories included within the Union, of parents both of whom are, or if they had been alive at the commencement of this Constitution would have been, citizens of the Union; (iv) every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently there in and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and within the time prescribed by law, shall be a citizen of the Union.