“The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants.”
~ Jorge Ramos
The Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic minority group from Myanmar known as the most persecuted minority in the world. Both religiously and ethnically different from the Buddhist majority of Myanmar, Rohingyas were never considered citizens and denied even basic rights. Having faced dreadful decades of discrimination and torment in their homeland, they risked everything and walked miles day and night, swum across ghastly rapid rivers, crossed the treacherous seas and fled to different parts of the world for respite but their plight only deteriorated further. After a brief period of attention, the Rohingyas seem to be evanesced from the mainstream media.
The Myanmar government refused to recognise them and grant them citizenship effectively turning them stateless entities and denying even basic rights. They were subjected to institutionalised discrimination, injudiciously denied equal education, free movement and choice of religion. They did not receive any legal protection from the government and were considered as illegal migrants from Bengal. Moreover, the tension between Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhists intensified by the religious differences, frequently led to violent conflicts. In august 2017, the military and the Buddhist mobs unleashed a brutal attack on the Rohingyas, setting their villages on fire, abusing women and large-scale homicide of the innocent civilians forcing them to flee from their own native land. Myanmar’s security forces allegedly fired on the fleeing migrants and even planted landmines near the borders. The UN described the inhuman act as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Although many consider it a genocide, authorities completely deny them. Being stateless in their home country, Rohingyas are unable to travel to any other country legally which made them “illegal migrants”.
Over 40,000 Rohingyas have migrated to India living in slums and camps scattered across different states. In spite of having the responsibility to accommodate the migrants as the immediate neighbour of Myanmar, we have failed them terribly. Anti- Rohingya sentiment that developed recently aims to expel the migrants permanently. India repeatedly claims that it isn’t a signatory of the UN refugee convention, and hence cannot consider Rohingyas as refugees, treating them as illegal migrants and labelling them as terrorists, threats to national security and as infiltrators. Crackdown on Rohingyas can be seen as part of the political interests of certain extremists’ groups. This exclusion from the government policies and citizenship rights severely backfired during the pandemic, as they weren’t covered under any relief measures. Unprecedented lockdown snatched away their livelihood and forced poverty and starvation. Living in the conditions of poor sanitation with limited access to health facilities made them quite vulnerable to the pathogen.
Last month Myanmar descended into a military dictatorship again. Peaceful protestors are being attacked and detained, political leaders are put under house arrest, severe restrictions including curfews are imposed. Coinciding with this, India is making preparations to deport Rohingyas back to Myanmar. How can we send them back to a place where their lives are in extreme danger? Many of them started fleeing off to Bangladesh in the fear of being ousted to their homeland. It is the time to act more responsibly and humanely above all its human life that matters. We know quite well Rohingyas are the most persecuted community in the world, throwing them to the jaws of military dictators is barbaric.
We need to think from a wider landscape and put forth a humanitarian approach at this point. Let’s stand up for human rights and treat the refugees more humanely, give them sufficient rights as well as security and ample life conditions. Real compassion is not restricted within the manmade boundaries. Consider them humans, accept their humanity.