Wikipedia – Rohingya people


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Rohingya People1.pdf

Wikipedia – Rohingya people

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The Rohingya people (/roʊˈhɪndʒə, -ɪn-, -ɪŋjə/) are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group who predominantly follow Islam[21][22][23] and reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar (previously known as Burma). Before the displacement crisis in 2017, when over 740,000 fled to Bangladesh, an estimated 1,4 million Rohingya lived in Myanmar.[24][1][25][26] Described by journalists and news outlets as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world,[27][28][29] the Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law.[30][31][32] They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs.[32][33] The legal conditions faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar have been compared to apartheid[34][35][36][37] by some academics, analysts and political figures, including Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid activist.[38] The most recent mass displacement of Rohingya in 2017 led to an authorized investigation into alleged crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC including crimes against humanity and to an application of the Republic of The Gambia against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar at the ICJ concerning alleged violations of ”theConvention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”.[39]

The Rohingya maintain they are indigenous to western Myanmar with a heritage of over a millennium and influence from the Arabs, Mughals and Portuguese. The community claims it is descended from people in precolonial Arakan and colonial Arakan; historically, the region was an independent kingdom between Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.[40] The Myanmar government considers the Rohingya as colonial and postcolonial migrants from neighbouring Chittagong/East Bengal respectively Bangladesh. It argues that a distinct precolonial Muslim population is recognized as Kaman, and that the Rohingya conflate their history with the history of Arakan Muslims in general to advance a separatist agenda.[41][42][43][44][45] In addition, Myanmar’s government does not recognise the term ”Rohingya” and prefers to refer to the community as ”Bangali”.[46][47] Rohingya campaign groups, notably the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, demand the right to ”self-determination within Myanmar”.[48]

Various armed insurrections by the Rohingya have taken place since the 1940s and the population as a whole has faced military crackdowns in 1978, 1991–1992,[49] 2012, 2015, 2016–2017 and particularly in 2017–2018, when most of the Rohingya population of Myanmar was driven out of the country, into neighbouring Bangladesh.[50][51][52][53][54][55] By December 2017, an estimated 625,000 refugees from Rakhine, Myanmar, had crossed the border into Bangladesh since August 2017.[56][57][58][59][60] UN officials and Human Rights Watch have described Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.[61][62] The UN human rights envoy to Myanmar reported ”the long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community… could amount to crimes against humanity”,[63] and there have been warnings of an unfolding genocide.[64][65] Probes by the UN have found evidence of increasing incitement of hatred and religious intolerance by ”ultra-nationalist Buddhists” against Rohingyas while the Myanmar security forces have been conducting ”summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment, and forced labour” against the community.[66][67][68]

Before the 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis and the military crackdown in 2016 and 2017, the Rohingya population in Myanmar was close to 1.4 million,[69][25][70][71][1][72] chiefly in the northern Rakhine townships, which were 80–98% Rohingya.[73] Since 2015, over 900,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to south-eastern Bangladesh alone,[74] and more to other surrounding countries, and major Muslim nations.[75][76][77][6][78] More than 100,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are confined in camps for internally displaced persons.[79][80] Shortly before a Rohingya rebel attack that killed 12 security forces on 25 August 2017, the Myanmar military launched ”clearance operations” against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state[81][82] that, according to NGOs, the Bangladeshi government and international news media, left many dead, many more injured, tortured or raped, with villages burned. The government of Myanmar has denied the allegations.


The modern term Rohingya emerged from colonial and pre-colonial terms Rooinga and Rwangya.[83] The Rohingya refer to themselves as Ruáingga /ɾuájŋɡa/. In Burmese they are known as rui hang gya (following the MLC Transcription System) (Burmese: _ုိဟင်ဂျာ /ɹòhɪɴ̀ d͡ʑà/) while in Bengali they are called Rohingga (Bengali: _রািহ_া /ɹohiŋɡa/). The term ”Rohingya” may come from Rakhanga or Roshanga, the words for the state of Arakan. The word Rohingya would then mean ”inhabitant of Rohang”, which was the early Muslim name for Arakan.[84][85][86] The usage of the term Rohingya has been historically documented prior to the British Raj. In 1799, Francis Buchanan wrote an article called ”A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire”, which was found and republished by Michael Charney in the SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research in 2003.[87][88][89] Among the native groups of Arakan, he wrote are the: ”Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan.”[90][87] The Classical Journal of 1811 identified ”Rooinga” as one of the languages spoken in the ”Burmah Empire”. In 1815, Johann Severin Vater listed ”Ruinga” as an ethnic group with a distinct language in a compendium of languages published in German.[91]

In 1936, when Burma was still under British rule, the ”Rohingya Jam’iyyat al Ulama” was founded in Arakan.[92][45][note 1] According to Jacques Leider, the Rohingya were referred to as ”Chittagonians” during the British colonial period, and it was not controversial to refer to them as ”Bengalis” until the 1990s.[95] Leider also states that ”there is no international consensus” on the use of the term Rohingya, as they are often called ”Rohingya Muslims”, ”Muslim Arakanese” and ”Burmese Muslims”.[96][note 2] Others, such as anthropologist Christina Fink, use Rohingya not as an ethnic identifier but as a political one.[97] Leider believes the Rohingya is a political movement that started in the 1950s to create ”an autonomous Muslim zone” in Rakhine.[98]

The government of Prime Minister U Nu, when Burma was a democracy from 1948 to 1962, used the term ”Rohingya” in radio addresses as a part of peace-building effort in Mayu Frontier Region.[99] The term was broadcast on Burmese radio and was used in the speeches of Burmese rulers.[40] A UNHCR report on refugees caused by Operation King Dragon referred to the victims as ”Bengali Muslims (called Rohingyas)”.[100] Nevertheless, the term Rohingya wasn’t widely used until the 1990s.[99][100][101]

Today the use of the name ”Rohingya” is polarised. The government of Myanmar refuses to use the name.[99] In the 2014 census, the Myanmar government forced the Rohingya to identify themselves as ”Bengali”.[102] Many Rohingya see the denial of their name similar to denying their basic rights,[103] and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has agreed.[63] Jacques Leider writes that many Muslims in Rakhine simply prefer to call themselves ”Muslim Arakanese” or ”Muslims coming from Rakhine” instead of ”Rohingya”.[96][89][104] The United States embassy in Yangon continues to use the name ”Rohingya”.[102]

Early history  —  The Rohingya population is concentrated in the historical region of Arakan, an old coastal country in Southeast Asia. It is not clear who the original settlers of Arakan were. Arkanese chronicles claim that the Rakhine have inhabited Arakan since 3000 BCE. By the 4th century, Arakan became one of the earliest Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The first Arakanese state flourished in Dhanyawadi. Power then shifted to the city of Waithali. Sanskrit inscriptions in the region indicate that the founders of the first Arakanese states were Indian. Arakan was ruled by the Chandra dynasty.[105] The British historian Daniel George Edward Hall stated that ”The Burmese do not seem to have settled in Arakan until possibly as late as the tenth century CE. Hence earlier dynasties are thought to have been Indian, ruling over a population similar to that of Bengal. All the capitals known to history have been in the north near modern Akyab”.[106]

Arrival of Islam  —  Due to its coastline on the Bay of Bengal, Arakan was a key centre of maritime trade and cultural exchange between Burma and the outside world, since the time of the Indian Mauryan Empire.[107] According to Syed Islam, a political science scholar, Arab merchants had been in contact with Arakan since the third century, using the Bay of Bengal to reach Arakan.[108] A southern branch of the Silk Road connected India, Burma, and China since the neolithic period.[109][110] Arab traders are recorded in the coastal areas of southeast Bengal, bordering Arakan, since the 9th century.[111] The Rohingya population trace their history to this period.[112]

According to Syed Islam, the earliest Muslim settlements in the Arakan region began in the 7th-century. The Arab traders were also missionaries and they began converting the local Buddhist population to Islam by about 788 CE, states Syed Islam. Besides these locals converting to Islam, Arab merchants married local women and later settled in Arakan. As a result of intermarriage and conversion, the Muslim population in Arakan grew.[108] This claim by Sayed Islam saying that, by 788 CE, locals in Arakan were being converted into Muslims clearly contradicts historian Yegar’s findings which say, even in 1203, Bengal is the eastern most point of Islamic expansion, not to say further into Arakan. [113]

The alternate view contests that Islam arrived in the Arakan region in the 1st-millennium. According to this view, this Rohingya history is not based on any evidence, rather is based on ”fictitious stories, myths and legends”.[114] According to Southeast Asian Buddhism history scholar and an ordained Buddhist monk Ashon Nyanuttara, there is scant historical data and archaeological evidence about the early political and religious history of the Arakan people and the Rakhaing region. The limited evidence available suggests that Buddhism, possibly the Mahayana tradition, was well established by the 4th-century in the region under the Candra Buddhist dynasty.[115] Muslim community’s expansion and the growth of Islam into the region came much later with Bengali Muslims from the region that is now a part of Bangladesh. Further, the term ”Rohingya” does not appear in any regional text of this period and much later. That term was adopted by ”a few Bengali Muslim intellectuals who were direct descendants of immigrants from Chittagong district [Bengal]” in the 20th-century, states historian Aye Chan. [114][115]

Kingdom of Mrauk U  —   The Rakhines were one of the tribes of the Burmese Pyu city-states. The Rakhines began migrating to Arakan through the Arakan Mountains in the 9th century. The Rakhines established numerous cities in the valley of the Lemro River. These included Sambawak I, Pyinsa, Parein, Hkrit, Sambawak II, Myohaung, Toungoo and Launggret. Burmese forces invaded the Rakhine cities in 1406.[105] The Burmese invasion forced Rakhine rulers to seek help and refuge from neighbouring Bengal in the north.[105]

Early evidence of Bengali Muslim settlements in Arakan date back to the time of Min Saw Mon (1430–34) of the Kingdom of Mrauk U. After 24 years of exile in Bengal, he regained control of the Arakanese throne in 1430 with military assistance from the Bengal Sultanate. The Bengalis who came with him formed their own settlements in the region.[116][117] The Santikan Mosque built in the 1430s,[116][118] features a court which ”measures 65 ft from north to south and 82 ft from east to west; the shrine is a rectangular structure measuring 33 ft by 47 ft.”[119]

King Min Saw Mon ceded some territory to the Sultan of Bengal and recognised his sovereignty over the areas. In recognition of his kingdom’s vassal status, the Buddhist kings of Arakan received Islamic titles and used the Bengali gold dinar within the kingdom. Min Saw Mon minted his own coins with the Burmese alphabet on one side and the Persian alphabet on the other.[117]

Arakan’s vassalage to Bengal was brief. After Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah’s death in 1433, Narameikhla’s successors invaded Bengal and occupied Ramu in 1437 and Chittagong in 1459. Arakan would hold Chittagong until 1666.[120][121] Even after independence from the Sultans of Bengal, the Arakanese kings continued the custom of maintaining Muslim titles.[122] The Buddhist kings compared themselves to Sultans and fashioned themselves after Mughal rulers. They also continued to employ Muslims in prestigious positions within the royal administration.[123] Some of them worked as Bengali, Persian and Arabic scribes in the Arakanese courts, which, despite remaining Buddhist, adopted Islamic fashions from the neighbouring Bengal Sultanate.[123][116]

The population increased in the 17th century, as slaves were brought in by Arakanese raiders and Portuguese settlers following raids into Bengal.[123][84][116] Slaves included members of the Mughal nobility. A notable royal slave was Alaol, a renowned poet in the Arakanese court. The slave population were employed in a variety of workforces, including in the king’s army, commerce and agriculture.[84][124][125]

In 1660, Prince Shah Shuja, the governor of Mughal Bengal and a claimant of the Peacock Throne, fled to Arakan with his family after being defeated by his brother Emperor Aurangzeb during the Battle of Khajwa. Shuja and his entourage arrived in Arakan on 26 August 1660.[126] He was granted asylum by King Sanda Thudhamma. In December 1660, the Arakanese king confiscated Shuja’s gold and jewellery, leading to an insurrection by the royal Mughal refugees. According to varying accounts, Shuja’s family was killed by the Arakanese, while Shuja himself may have fled to a kingdom in Manipur.

However, members of Shuja’s entourage remained in Arakan and were recruited by the royal army, including as archers and court guards. They were king makers in Arakan until the Burmese conquest.[127] The Arakanese continued their raids of Mughal Bengal. Dhaka was raided in 1625.[128]

Emperor Aurangzeb gave orders to his governor in Mughal Bengal, Shaista Khan, to end what the Mughals saw as Arakanese-Portuguese piracy.[129][130] In 1666, Shaista Khan led a 6000 man army and 288 warships to seize Chittagong from the Kingdom of Mrauk U.[131] The Mughal expedition continued up till the Kaladan River. The Mughals placed the northern part of Arakan under its administration and vassalage.[132] The Muslim population became concentrated in northern Arakan. In 1960, Burmese cabinet minister Sultan Mahmud cited the Kaladan River as the boundary between Rohingya and Rakhine areas.[133]

Burmese Conquest  —-   Following the Konbaung Dynasty’s conquest of Arakan in 1785, as many as 35,000 people of the Rakhine State fled to the neighbouring Chittagong region of British Bengal in 1799 to escape persecution by the Bamar and to seek protection under the British Raj.[134] The Bamar executed thousands of men and deported a considerable portion of people from Rakhine population to central Burma, leaving Arakan a scarcely populated area by the time the British occupied it.[135]

According to an article on the ”Burma Empire” published by the British Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1799, ”the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan”, ”call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan”.[87] However, according to Derek Tokin, Hamilton no longer used the term to refer to the Muslims in Arakan in his later publications.[104] Sir Henry Yule saw many Muslims serving as eunuchs in Konbaung while on a diplomatic mission to the Burmese capital,Ava.[136][137] ##


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